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Defret or Buy Fretless Neck!!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Hevy T, Mar 28, 2014.

  1. Hevy T

    Hevy T Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2011
    Lethbridge, AB Canada
    What approach would you take?

    The bass in question is my MIM P Bass. I want a fretless (again) but don't really want to buy yet another bass. I have a L2000 that can aproximate the P bass sound for fretted...so I am covered there, but unsure if I want to defret or not, for resale reasons, not skill reasons, for I have removed frets before!!
  2. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    Personally I wouldn't re-fret as I am not that good with tools, but if you have the ability, the means and access to the tools-then go for it if you feel like it.
  3. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Neither one. I would - and I have - simply gotten a fretless bass to go with my fretted bass.

    I don't see the point of switching necks back and forth. Just not worth the hassle. And it's definitely not worth ripping the frets out of a perfectly good fretted bass. :rollno:

  4. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Always, always, always, a replacement neck. Defretting is an abomination and I'll explain why (I've done this several times here, but rarely is it noticed, as far as I can tell):

    1. Defretting and reconstituting a fingerboard costs a fair bit of coin. Probably in the vicinity of buying a new neck.

    2. Defretting results in side dots that are off-pitch. That is, the side dots are where they are on a fretted neck, so now you need to spend more time thinking and less time playing.

    3. Per my point #2, you have fret lines. Fret lines are not uncool, they are simply worthless, yet cost money. In typical standing position, I cannot see 90% of my fingerboard. Why would I pay money for fret-fillers? They are of no use to me. Plus, to see them, I need to crane my neck into an uncomfortable position that could result in injury when used over a prolonged period of time.

    4. Defretting is not necessarily without risk to the fingerboard.

    So, if you'd like to pay money to end up with a neck and fingerboard that requires twice as much thought (which is always a pain in the ass, but moreso when you are trying to learn a new instrument) and has features that are potentially worthless to you, by all means, knock yourself out.

    Ooorrrrrr, as Ron White says, would you like to pay for features that actually expedite your learning and physical well-being? Buy a FL neck and replace. Then you have two basses instead of one crap bass, IMO.

    You asked.
  5. Rich McCoy

    Rich McCoy

    Apr 8, 2013
    De-fretting is not too hard if you know what you are doing.
    It is cheaper than buying a new neck.
    It is not perfectly easy though, so don't think it will be a cake-walk.
    A quality neck from Warmoth will be about $300, a used Fender fretless neck on eBay about $200.
    If you are going to go that much on a new or used neck you could almost just buy a used Fender fretless for a little more.

    What you need is:
    A radiused sanding block;
    Sand paper (100, 300, 400, however small you want to go, 400 worked for me.);
    A veneer of your choice to fill the slots;
    Super-glue to glue the veneer into place.
    All in all much cheaper than a new neck.

    The hardest part is getting the frets out clean. I would suggest you tighten the truss so you have a bit of back-bow.

    In your situation you have a Precision style neck. Precision style fretless necks are hard to find, so if you want those dimensions good luck finding one. Not that they are impossible to find, I'm just saying.
    There are tutorials online here.

    You can look at the last post of this thread and see my de-fretted Precision neck.

    Some folks say put some form of coating on the fingerboard, but a natural finish is the easiest to deal with. I tried the CA glue option and I almost ruined my project.
  6. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I would say de-fret. First of all, it's cheaper - I did mine for probably $50 in supplies, and that includes $12-15 for a fret nipper that I would re-use on any future defrets and plenty of leftover polyurethane I will use for other projects. A new neck will typically run you $200.

    As far as resale value goes, a homemade defret probably would mean the bass loses some value, but probably not the $200 you would spend getting a new neck. Since we're talking about an MIM Fender here - let's suppose at current street value of $600 new. Selling it used you might get $400 for it, a $200 loss from the new price. Let's suppose you buy a fretless neck to put on it for $200, and later decide to sell it (with the new neck, or putting the original back on) and get that same $400 - now you've lost $400 total on the deal. Defret the neck yourself for $50 and maybe the resale price winds up getting knocked down to $300. So you've lost $350 total, a bit less than you would have buying the new neck. Not a huge difference in the end, really.

    To FretlessMainly's objections:

    1) no, it doesn't.
    2 & 3) do what cellists, violinist, upright bassists do and learn where the notes are by muscle memory and training your ear, not the dots or the lines.
    4) true, but depends on how careful you are and if you know what you're doing.
  7. swamp2


    Feb 27, 2008
    When i got the fretless itch, I went the DIY route - because I love to tinker with stuff and work with my hands. Bought a tired US Peavey Forum for like $75 which had pretty worn out frets so I didn't have to feel guilty about ripping 'em out. Did it pretty much as Rich describes above - found a sheet of veneer at a hobby shop and cut pieces to fit & super glued 'em in rather than use wood filler. Came out great although if I didn't enjoy the process of doing it and put some value on my discretionary time - it probably wouldn't have been worth it.

    While at it, I put in series/parallel and phase switching. Fun project, and has completely satisfied my need/desire for a fretless. Really nice quality fretless for peanuts.

    Not hard but to do a good job takes a bit of time...
  8. Eric66


    Sep 23, 2013
    The Netherlands
    Buy or trade a fretless neck.
    Dont do it yourself, it is harder than you imagine.

    There must be folks that want to exchange their fretless neck.
    I once sold a mim fretless jazz because I wanted to stop playing fretless. I was looking for a fretted neck. I wish I met you back then.......
  9. +1 Buy a factory fretless you can try before spendig time or money.

    Many years ago I had a Peavey Foundation defretted by a local luthier. BIG mistake! The conversion was flawless, but the bass never sounded "right" as a fretless. I ended up selling it to fund the purchase of a fretless Jazz that I really liked the tone of. Then missing the sound of the fretted Foundation, I started the search to purchase another one. Lots of wasted time and money. Should have bought the purpose built frestless I could audition before spending money on a expensive to reverse process.