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De-fretting a bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MTBassMania, Mar 12, 2013.

  1. MTBassMania


    Mar 5, 2013
    So I'm thinking about getting a nice new bass and having my old bass de-fretted by my local luthier.

    The bass is a Warwick Rockbass Corvette $$ 5-string. I've had him do some work for me in the past, so I know he does good work.

    Anyone who has had this done (on any bass) have any input? How does the fretboard hold up? It's not ebony. It's rosewood, I believe. Does a once fretted bass play well after it has been defretted?
  2. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    If he's great at defretting then it should turn out great. Otherwise there may be problems.
  3. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    My personal advice would be to install a whole new (ebony) fingerboard rather than to defret a rosewood one. The reasons are that a whole new fretless fingerboard can be installed with about as much hassle as defretting an existing one. You (the luthier) can buy a raw radiused fingerboard quite economically. I much prefer Ebony for fretless because of the better tone and it holds up better to string chews. I've done several basses myself and they came out excellent! I also have some rosewood fretless basses and they are OK but I prefer the way ebony sounds and plays.

    The deal with defretting is that the slots where the frets were will weaken the neck and cause problems if you don't fill them right. Some wood filler won't do. You need to clean the slots and really glue some nice light hardwood veneer in there so the wood is back to one piece. Obviously that is a lot of detail work. That's why I say removing the old fingerboard and installing a new fretless one is about the same amount of work.

    If you really want rosewood and a lined neck that's OK but be sure the slots are correctly filled. Also another problem with defretting a fretted neck is the markers are all in the wrong places. It's not too bad if the slot fillers are decently visible from the side, but it makes the dots mostly useless and if you have other fretless basses with side dots in the fretless places the fretted dots will tend to drive you nuts and you'll have to deal with that somehow (LEDs, stick-on markers etc.).
  4. esa372


    Aug 7, 2010
    I had a Jazz with a rosewood fingerboard de-fretted; the empty fret slots were filled in with maple strips, then the neck was coated with epoxy.

    12 years later, it continues to sound and feel great. I'm glad I did it.

  5. MTBassMania


    Mar 5, 2013
    Thanks bassbenj and essa372! I'll ask him about getting an ebony board, as well as filling in the slots with wood and having it epoxied. I kinda want it to have lines in it, to give me a visual for learning. But maybe that'd be less detail work. Something he can just paint or draw on, or something to that effect. Not really sure what would need to be done. But I never thought about a new fingerboard, or the wood fillings. I would've just told him to put some wood filler in!

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