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Fret pulling tips?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by StringThing, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. StringThing


    Dec 6, 2007
    San Diego
    Want a Fender V fretless. Think I need to do some pullin' Any tips? I heard of Marine varnishing? Any successes, failure?
  2. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    If you take my advice, you MUST first:
    1) Wear a good respirator (dust mask does not count)
    b) Do this outdoors!

    The frets need to be heated for easy removal. A little bit of solder on the fret from a hot soldering iron will do the trick. The reason I'm concerned about the respirator/outdoors is that many guitar frets are glued with with Cyanoacrylate glue, which contains cyanide. So don't mess around!

    While heating the frets, get in close with a fret nipper. Should pull out really easily once you've got the heat going. Any wood chips that pull up, you can push back down and hit with a drop or two of glue to hold them in.

    Styrene strips in .022 width will fill the slots nicely.
    Sand with a radiused block (or blocks if you're dealing with a compound radius) to touch it up.

    I don't like coatings myself, but probably a marine epoxy would do the job for you.

  3. [The usual 'do a search' comment]...
    But also, a question, re: styrene strip filler. I recently had a defretted bass refretted; the slots had been filled w/plastic, & the guy who did the job(not a full luthier but a tad bit more than a repair guy)said that when he sawed out the filler, the saw wanted to slide around rather than cut the material. This makes me wonder if plastic is maybe not the best slot filler, at least not if one might ever refret.
    Mind you, not a statement, but a question/suggestion...
  4. Jjango


    Nov 16, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Do not put solder on the frets – heat the fret by holding the tip of the soldering iron against it. No solder.
  5. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    Tighten the truss rod to backbow the neck and open the fret slots.
  6. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Solder is okay.
    Dan Erliwine says so!
    : )
  7. Jjango


    Nov 16, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    But what purpose would it serve (other than making a hard to clean-up mess, getting toxic material on your frets, and possibly staining or damaging the fingerboard)? The heat comes from the soldering iron, not the solder.

  8. tank4checo


    Feb 14, 2008
    new mexico
    make sure when you sand you use a radius block or that you are very familiar with the fretboards radius. i defretted one of my basses and it is awesome but it was the third one i did over all. if you can try practicing on an old cheapo intsrument that isnt used. when heating them up you should see the frets rise ever so slightly thats whe you know its time to pull the frets out.
  9. The solder is just to aid heat transfer - if there is a bit of solder between the tip of the iron and the fret, the heat will get into the fret more quickly. You don't have to use much, just a small blob.
  10. Fretlessboy


    Nov 29, 2007
    St Augustine Florida
    Endorsing artist GENZ BENZ/HERCULES STANDS/XSonics
    +1 open those slots
    is it rosewood or maple board? With a maple board you will have to refinish the fingerboard.

  11. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    Hey StringThing,

    Head on over to "Setup and Repair", there's a sticky at the top of the page with links and pics on the subject.

    Good luck.
  12. Masking tape on both sides of each fret - if there is any chipping, (more of a problem with rosewood than maple) then the chips are held in place by the masking tape and you can superglue them right back in!

  13. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    I think he is advocating tinting the tip of the iron, not actually spreading solder all over the frets... at least I hope so :)
  14. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Tinning definitely aids in heat transfer, though I thought frets could safely be tapped out (never done it). Also, the frets are slid into the kerf (slot) in a certain direction, and should come out the opposite way.

    Trouble is, I have no clue which way to tell you to go, as I am not a repairperson or luthier.

    Search on kerf and check stickies under setup and repair??? :D
  15. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Exactly, the solder helps heat the fret. Just a touch of course.
    You could just blob tons of it on the fingerboard if you wanted, I guess. . . Sounds like a good idea to me. . . : )

    The heat helps loosen any of the glue holding the frets in, and lessens damage to the wood as well.

  16. Aarix


    May 19, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    That's just crazy talk. ;) Here's Dan's defret article:


    I kept a soldering iron, cup of water, and cotton swabs nearby in case I needed to heat and moisten the frets so they’d pull out easily.

    I don't see anything about solder and I don't think I'd want molten metal anywhere near my fretboard thank you very much!
  17. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Okay, this is getting really tiring, and I'm not sure why I am posting.
    Buy Dan's "Don't Fret" video, and when you watch it, he mentions using a tiny blob of solder on the frets.

    Enough already!!!!:hyper:
  18. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    I did a US jazz bass with a soldering iron and a pair of needle-nosed pliers back in the mid-90s when I was an impatient oik. Only ended up with two little chips lifted out of a rosewood fingerboard. Didn't solder the iron, or use water, or anything else. Just started working the fret out from one side, worked to the other.

    The filling job was totally amateur - rosewood-coloured synthetic wood filler and a spatula, followed by a quick sanding by my hand. Fingerboard held up for a year (gigging it 3 or 4 nights a week in the summer) and played fine, probably would've run a lot longer but I don't know - the bass went to live with someone else.
  19. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Running a bead of solder on the fret reduces the amount of time the iron is on the fret. This reduces the amount of heat that transfers to the wood. This is a good thing.

    If rosin core electronics solder (the thin stuff) is used, it melts fast and will flow in a small bead across the fret. There is little danger of getting any solder on the fingerboard. If a small glob of solder does hit the fingerboard it will flatten out and harden almost immediately. It will not burn a rosewood or ebony fingerboard because the amount of time the molten metal spends above 450 degrees is very short. Even if it were to cause a small scorch, it will be so shallow that it will disappear during the "clean up" sanding that follows the removal. If you have a lacquered fingerboard, it could scorch the lacquer. But since there is so much more work to do it is still moot point.

    The point is, the quicker you can get the heat off the fret the better. Solder will greatly facilitate that goal. Once the fret is hot it is a simple thing to work the fret puller under the fret and walk it out.
  20. AFAIK that's ONLY the case with Fender models. I'm not sure if they still use that side-insertion process or not. (They were slid in from the G-string side.)

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