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Defretting a bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by iCONICA, May 29, 2012.

  1. iCONICA


    May 14, 2012

    There's a similar thread, I know, but my situation is far too different, so a new thread is needed.

    I have just bought a nice new Tobias bass, so my old cheap crappy "Encore" p-bass copy is completely redundant.

    I thought, as I've never played a fret-less bass, could I just pry out the frets, fill in the space with hard wood filler, smooth over with fine car bodywork finishing sand paper (800, 1200, 1500 grit) and play away? Surely that'd work? To at least give me something to play with to see what fret-less is like...

    My only question, raised by that other thread, is would the strings damage the fretboard wood?

    I read this page http://www.woodwiz.com/epoxy/ , and the result in that page looks lovely! It's got the old fret grooves to mark the notes for a beginner too, but that seems far to advanced to get a that kind of finish for me, so I was hoping to just fill in the frets and leave it bare wood.

    Thanks, :D
  2. The strings would probably do some damage to the fretboard, unless you coated it with something...

    My suggestion would be to switch to flats for that bass.
  3. Mojo-Man


    Feb 11, 2003

    I had HG Thor do one of my basses.
    His work is second to none.
    Amazing results, transformed my bass.
    Only down side he has a two year wait.
    But is worth it.
  4. tabdog


    Feb 9, 2011
    They may not like it, but the answer to
    your first question is yes you can.

    The answer to your second question is
    yes also, but you can use flat wound
    strings or compression wound or nylon
    wound strings. You can use Tru-Oil
    gun stock finish. It will slow the ware
    some. You can use regular strings and
    repair the damage after it's done.

    Defretting a bass is easy. I can defret
    a bass and fill the grooves with wood
    filler and finish with Tru-Oil in 3 hours,
    no problem.

    I even reduce the width, thickness and
    radius of the neck quite easily with the
    frets off.

    Don't be scared to do it on a cheap bass.

    Here's three I've done and my total
    investment, including buying the basses
    was less that $200.


    I made a defretting tool by grinding the
    face of this fencing tool,


    There are a lot here who think I'm full
    of it and you have to have a pro, or you
    have to use epoxy and use wood inserts.

    I say, why over do on a cheap bass?


  5. SteC


    Mar 20, 2012
    New York
    Have an Encore P bass copy too! Thinking of doing it at some stage.

    There would be some fretboard wear if you were playing on roundwounds but I don't think it'd be significant enough to be worrying about, not on an Encore anyway haha. Flatwounds suit fretless better anyway, IMO.

    Have you made any other modifications? I'm going to use mine as a project bass of sorts and want to know your plans :D

    Do you think there'd be any interest in an Encore thread? :p
  6. iCONICA


    May 14, 2012
    Thanks guys.

    Tabdog. Thanks for the tips, i'mma do that.

    SteC, after getting my new bass I've realised just how crap the Encore one is, it's value is zero to me, I'd get £20 for it or bin it. So I might as well do something with it. I'm going to do exactly what Tabdog suggested, I'd suggest you do the same.

    I've always been interested in fret-less, but not enough to risk the expense of buying one, and never had the courage to pick one up in a guitar shop and play it for the first time with people about. Plus I like a Sunday afternoon project.

    My plan is to remove the frets, fill the groove, sand smooth, then put flat wounds on it and have a play with it for a bit, then I want to give it another quick sand and lacquer it (I've got plenty of car clear-coat lacquer), I think 5 to 10 very thin coats will set hard enough to last a while, if not, I've lost nothing and still played it for a bit before lacquering it so the goal has still been achieved... :)
  7. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    So you've never played one? Put your balls back on and play it in the guitar shop. You might hate it and you might love it, but you'll know before you take the time to defret a bass
  8. EricssonB


    Apr 5, 2011
    Egad, you're making me nervous with that. Try a small screwdriver-like tool to tap them out gently -- maybe even heat up the glue with a blowdryer or something.

    OP, see if you can dig anything out of my posts on yesterday's thread, or PM me on how I did it and I'll get right back to you.
  9. iCONICA


    May 14, 2012
    Nope, no chance. Besides, I don't have any balls. I didn't even play my current Tobias bass before I bought it. I'm not an outgoing character and everyone I hear playing in there plays better than me, I'd feel like I'm showing myself up. So I bought it based on looks and was very pleasantly surprised when I plugged it in at home. :)
  10. RaniBrandt

    RaniBrandt Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2011
    Suffolk County, NY
    I did this with a Jay Turser neck for one of my projects. I did about ten layers of spray poly, and it's like glass now. I'd definitely recommend coating it with something.

    And don't mind the wankers at the shops. They're usually too concerned with showing off to notice someone modestly trying out an instrument they might actually purchase.
  11. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Wankers indeed. Who cares what they think. You dont have to go in there and immediately play portrait of Tracy.
  12. tabdog


    Feb 9, 2011
    hay Ericsson,,,

    There's no glue.

    A sharpened screw driver is one of
    the worst tools to use because it is
    so prone to chip the wood.

    I like to use a fret cutter to pull frets.
    They cost about $30 at a guitar tool
    place on the internet,


    I hope you ain't afraid of that.


    Most luthires probably use a fret puller,


    It's also about $30. You can spend a
    ton on tools, iffin ya want.

    The idea is to heat up the neck some.
    Not smokin hot.

    Take the tool and gently rock it in different
    places along the fret. The tool holds the
    wood down while doing this so the wood
    is less likely to chip.

    With a little patients, it practically falls out
    by itself.

    I used a sharp tool on my first de-fret and
    re-fret in the early 1970's. That was the last
    time I tried that do do.

  13. tabdog


    Feb 9, 2011

    hay Ericsson,,

    Looks like you did good and learned a lot.

    As mentioned above, a different tool plus
    some heat and some patients and you
    could do it with less chips of wood missing.

    I have not tried anything except Tru-Oil
    because Tru-Oil is faster.

    I plan on trying a maple neck and using
    epoxy..... mañana

    Who knows,, one day I might go through
    all the recommended steps and do it right
    on a real nice bass.

    Gotta find a real nice cheap bass first,, BigEyedDog2.jpg

  14. tabdog


    Feb 9, 2011
    When I try out a bass or guitar,
    I don't care if anyone listens.
    It's not gonna be pretty, it is
    more designed to push the thang
    and see how it cry's when I
    miss treat it,

  15. polyrhythmia


    Feb 10, 2010
    I just bought a defretted Steinberger Spirit: 5-string, fretless, and headless. Once you start playing fretless, you might not want to go back. Been thinking about defretting the other bass, but still scared to try it. Still need to figure out what, if anything, to put on the rosewood fingerboard. There is some small damage from the roundwound strings it came with. Epoxy is supposed to be good, but something you don't have to mix would be easier to deal with.
  16. EricssonB


    Apr 5, 2011
    I used that stuff that comes in the two-tube syringe. About six of them for my electric guitar (linked in my above comment) so a bass will take a lot more. Wasn't much trouble.
  17. 1SHOT1HIT


    Feb 17, 2012
    I did it to a cheap Squire and actually liked how it turned out better than it was.

    I used a flat head soldering iron on each fret for about 30 seconds and slowly pried them right out. It was SIMPLE.

    Tool I used was a pair of dykes, or wire cutters to the electrically challenged.
    Just a little goes a long way once they're heated it really doesn't take any force at all. Take your time.

    I haven't coated the fret board in anything but will sooner or later. I'm using rounds on it and yes it does show lines on the board but not the end of the world.
    A tiny bit of sanding very very little actually and I'll coat it soon enough.

    Total cost, $0.00
  18. 1SHOT1HIT


    Feb 17, 2012

    A pic before wood filler was added
  19. Heres a pic of my little Encore P-Bass that I de-fretted.It was a sorta rush job,and I definitely didn't take nearly enough care in refinishing the neck.I used yacht varnish which refused to dry completely for some reason,so that had to be sanded off and the whole thing started over.Still,it's entirely playable,and I've used it on a couple of gigs.D'ya like it?

    Attached Files:

  20. iCONICA


    May 14, 2012
    Hi, guys.

    I did it. Here's my result.

    Chap in last post, yours is almost the same as mine! I painted the head and back of neck black too though.


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