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Filling in fret grooves (?)?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Chris Moon, Jan 6, 2020.

  1. I am very interested in obtaining a short scale fretless-- at this point regardless of quality (almost). I just found a Vintage SG knock-off where a guy pulled out the frets himself and has not filled in the grooves they came out of on the neck. Understand?

    My question is-- how can I fill these grooves in? Plastic wood? Specific products? And I guess the primary question is-- is this worth doing at all? Thanks!
  2. turcmic


    Jul 30, 2006
    Montreal, QC
    Do a search on the Luthier’s corner section of TB. It seems that most use thin maple strips as fillers because of the Color contrast with the fretboard (lined fretless).

    Let us know how it turns out. I am thinking about defretting a bass.
    DJ Bebop, shodan and Axstar like this.
  3. Axstar


    Jul 8, 2016
    Wood filler isn't the best material. It contracts under tension, so doesn't reinforce the empty fret slots as it ought to. It also tracks into any torn out section of the fretboard where the fret tangs came up through the wood. I always thinks this looks scrappy:


    You can use maple or other hardwood, but I get good results with 0.5 mm plastic sheeting. In the UK you can buy this branded as 'Plastikard' in a range of colours. I tend to use an ivory colour on rosewood necks.
    JRA, DJ Bebop and /\/\3phist0 like this.
  4. WillyWonka


    Dec 10, 2019
    I use .02” polystyrene plastic. (Kydex)

    cuts with scissors.
    Nev375, Axstar, DJ Bebop and 2 others like this.
  5. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    I bought a fretless Jazz clone (AXL player deluxe), about 10 years ago, where the fret slots are not filled and haven't had to adjust the truss rod since buying it.

    This makes me wonder how necessary filling the fret slots to reinforce the neck actually is.

    (I know from a neck cleaning point of view having them filled makes perfect sense.)
  6. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I used medical tongue depressors to fill the slots on my defretted neck. It looks pretty good. They are made of birch.
    DJ Bebop and delta7fred like this.
  7. vid1900


    Dec 12, 2019
    I use Maple veneer.

    You can dye it any color before installing it.
  8. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Redding CA
    FugaziBomb and shodan like this.
  9. tgrant


    Nov 7, 2005
    Middletown, VA
    I went to the hobby store and bought a thin sheet of basswood. I cut little strips to size with a knife to fill in the slots. I hammered them in with a rubber mallet and used a radiused block to sand them down even with the fretboard. I'm sure maple would be a much better to fill the slots. Hopefully the basswood isn't too soft. It's been fine so far. This was about 6 months ago. That's an Ibanez AG140. Some dropped it and snapped the neck. I repaired the neck and felt like this was a good time to try defretting a bass. 20190628_231153.jpg
    twocargar, JRA, DJ Bebop and 3 others like this.
  10. Eddie LeBlanc

    Eddie LeBlanc

    Oct 26, 2014
    Beaumont, Texas
    Had a Local Luthier de-fret and set up a Korean Spector NS2a for me. Charged $60 to do the whole thing.

    He used guitar binding material to fill the fret crack. Sanded everything smooth. Cleaned and oiled the fretboard. Installed a new set of Rotosound Tru Bass Nylon Tape Wound strings (I supplied strings). Set the bass back up properly, including proper slight neck relief, PUP height adjustment, action, and intonation. Plus sanded and smoothed the back of the neck. (Someone before me had refinished the bass with Polyurethane, - had to get that off)

    Remember best way to mess with that, is to release some neck tension to set it back to flat or a little beyond, as to try and open the fret crack slightly, frets come out easier, and filler goes in easier. And use a proper fret puller.

    She plays like greased lightening. Best $60 I ever spent. He did an excellent job.
    BTW this little bass is a killer neck thru, that has active EMG Pups, and an 18 volt EMG BTS preamp.


    Attached Files:

    Koog, JRA and Thundar like this.
  11. Felken


    Jun 28, 2016
    Ottawa, CAN
    I used wood filler for my fretless (the one in my profile picture). It worked great and looked great. Just be sure to be very careful when you pull off the frets to avoid tearing any wood, because it will end up filled when you're doing the fretboard. I also suggest doing two or three coats of wood filler, drying and sanding between each one.
    Splash7 and el jeffe bass like this.
  12. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    I pulled the frets on my '67P around 1979, and used regular old wood putty. It's been fine for the last 4 decades.
  13. AudioTaper


    Sep 23, 2018
    I plan on defretting one of my Squier jazz basses, and I recently saw these Luminlay inseets for fretless. I'm going to have to do it 20200106_211733.jpg

    If you want more traditional, the maple mentioned above would be my preferred method
  14. Bass Man Dan

    Bass Man Dan Endorsing Artist: Ned Flanders' Bass-a-Reeno Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2017
    While it is (I guess) less than ideal, on my one and only DIY de-fret I just used wood putty. It's been over a year and is still fine.
  15. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Your tech works cheap, but nice work.
    Eddie LeBlanc likes this.
  16. Eddie LeBlanc

    Eddie LeBlanc

    Oct 26, 2014
    Beaumont, Texas
    He's done stuff for me for many years. Always been great. And as long as it's not a rush, he gives some bargain prices.
    He builds guitars and basses. And even built basses for Joe Garza, of Los Lonely Boys. Check Jagneaux Custom Guitars.
  17. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Take good care of him - he's doing that for you.
  18. I've used porcelain repair epoxy (white) by masking off each side of slot, squeegee the stuff into slot and sand when finished. Worked well for me, but I've seen quite a few other good ideas here too. I had a vintage neck (rosewood board) that had been defretted and a local luthier fretted back up for me by filling slots with rosewood and recut/fretted. Couldn't even find where the slots were before he recut so if you want unlined look that might work for you.
  19. CatchaCuda

    CatchaCuda Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2018
    Transfer, PA
    Perfect timing!
    Any recommended sources for wood veneer for this purpose? I'm shocked because I can't find it at stewmac. Not that I want to pay stewmac prices...
    JRA likes this.
  20. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    i used pecan veneers on a rosewood board looked pretty cool..now...i just need to finish the project

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