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Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by olps, Dec 30, 2001.
How would you defret (take out the frets) a bass?
There's many different ways to do this, and you shouldn't do this operation unless it's a backup/cheap bass.
This is how I did it:
I simply just chisled out the frets with a flathead screwdriver and a hammer. No chips for me. But I've heard it's a lot easier if you heat them up with a hair dryer or a soldering iron before you do that.
Let me know if you're gonna do it.
It's only an Ibanez soundgear 4 string, so it's not too expensive. What does rosewood look like? because I've heard it's bad as a neck for a fretless. Also, would you just fill the holes up with plastic wood, after pulling out the frets? Thanks alot.
Another, perhaps more fingerboard friendly way would be to go to the hardware store and buy yourself a set of 'End Nippers'... Get the cheaper ones since you'll want to grind the end a wee bit to get a bite under the fretwire. It's kind of hard to explain this modification, but take a look at these from Stewart MacDonald, and perhaps you'll be able to see what I mean...
Start at one end of the fret and get a bite between the wire and wood and gently pry up. After starting, it's fairly easy to walk the nippers across the fingerboard drawing the fret out at the same time. This will leave a kind of toothy looking slot due to the tangs in the fretwire.
Heating the fret prior to removing isn't necessary, but it does make removal easier by loosening any glue that may have been used to hold the frets in. In any case, it doesn't hurt and I'd recommend doing it just to be safe. A soldering iron applied to the fret works fine. If glue was used, heating the fret will help reduce fingerboard damage, (of which there's bound to be some, regardless of how careful you are...)
Rosewood is a dark grained wood, sorta coffee brown. You'll be able to see the grain, and chances are that's what your Ibanez has. It's great for fretless... no problems. It isn't as wear resistant as some other woods, say Ebony, but it's certainly not completely unfortunate. You'll get some string wear no matter what wood you use, so no use 'fretting' about it ... Man I love it when a joke works out like that!
Filling with plastic wood will work, or you can slightly, (and very carefully!), widen the slots and use a contrasting wood verneer. This will give you a lined fretless, which may be easier when you're getting started. The fret slots will be about .022" wide after fret removal. A coping saw can be used to widen this to .032", (1/32"), which is a fairly common width for some verneers...
Just go slow and you can pull off a pretty respectable job with a little care. One fret at a time... heat it, pull it, move on to the next one.
Hope this helps, and let us know how it turns out!
The rosewood (yep, thats what it is) shouldn't take too much damage, because I'm thinking about using flat wounds. What would slapping and popping sound like with flat wounds on a fretless? And I'm still not sure if I am going to go fretless. Thanks alot for the info.
I wish I had that much info before de-fretting my bass. Go for it. It is so much fun doing it and then playing it. As for slapping and popping on flats. I tried it on a MIM jazz fretless and it sounded terrible IMO. Like fingerstyle but with your thumb. Maybe the strings were really dead becuase I've never played flats out of a box. I definitly recommend de-fretting.
Right after I defretted my bass, I put flatwounds on it, and I'm not a slapper, but the slap and pop using flats on a fretless just sounds dull and muddy. I switched back to rounds because I just like the feel better.
I've also heard you can leave the two or three highest frets (24-22 on a 24 fret bass, 21-19 on a 21 etc...) and that will still allow you to slap, since when you slap a string, the sound it makes comes from the string hitting the fret.
Another thing, if you want to add more durability, put some coats of a good polyurethane on the neck after you've filled the holes with whatever you're using and sanded it down nicely.
Let us know how it goes, and good luck.
De-Fretting is alot of fun. I would surely do it again. I just got done defreting and finishing a cheapy bass i acquired. I have yet to put strings on it though.