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Fretless conversion help please

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by fourstringbliss, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    I have an SX J that has a maple fretboard. I want to make it a fretless and have a few questions.

    1) If I'm planning on using flatwounds do I need more of a fretboard coating than it already there on the maple fretboard?

    2) What should I use to fill the fret slots? I think I want to go with a lined fretless fretboard, but I don't think I want black lines.

  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I have good news for you - there are pretty extensive discussions of the defretting process in these forums...and good answers to both your questions. Searching will reveal a good bit of discussion that you will find helpful.

    The short answers to your questions are:

    1) No.
    2) It depends. Use something solid, no putty.

    You might also consider buying a fretless neck if available - it will cost less than the value of your time invested in doing a really good job of defretting.
  3. Pokerdweebz


    Oct 26, 2012
    Lititz, PA
    1) I defretted a rosewood and put coating on, but I don't think you would have to.
    2) I used maple veneer - make sure it is the perfect size
  4. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    Thanks for the info! I could have done a search and found the answers but I was feeling a bit lazy - sorry!

    I have the body and the neck, so I think I'd rather defret than try to find a fretless neck that would work. The whole bass as is only cost me about $110, so it's worth more to make it fretless than I would spend to buy a suitable fretless neck. I also really like the fretboard radius on this one.

    Good to know about the coating 'cause I'd like to defret, insert, sand and be done. I've got to adjust the nut as well.
  5. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    Just be aware that because the fretboard is maple, there most likely is some sort of coating on it already. Maple fretboards don't come un-coated.

    That said... when you defret, insert and sand... you'll probably have to repair or restore the coating you just sanded off. Maybe not, but probably.
  6. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Nothing wrong with doing it yourself, as you will gain skills and confidence. I do recommend getting Dan Erlewine's book on guitar repair as a valuable reference. There's also plenty of "how-to" here and elsewhere online.

    Just don't be sloppy and brutal about it, because that's a good way to damage the fretboard. Get the right tools, use them carefully and be patient. Expect to invest 10+ hours (the first time) to do a quality job.

    And Slowgypsy is right - there's going to be some kind of poly or lacquer on the neck that you will need to sand off after removing the frets, and then probably re-coat. Rosewood doesn't need much after defretting, but maple could use a protective layer.
  7. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    You used styrene plastic for fret line inserts, right? Assuming that I'm able to get the frets out without chipping would I need to sand all the poly off the fretboard after the inserts? I'm planning on using flatwounds and they shouldn't damage the fretboard, I wouldn't think. I'm planning on using your styrene plastic method - would it be possible to trim the styrene inserts with a razor blade without damaging the poly finish?

    I have a soldering iron with an adjustable temperature control. How hot should the soldering iron be to loosen the frets while not damaging the wood or poly finish around the frets?
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Yes, I did - and the neck has been nice and stable for 10 years with no further truss rod adjustments needed.

    Pulling the frets carefully does take time - and you'll have some chips. I recommend saving the wood chips and doing your best to glue them back in when you insert the filler material. It takes time and it's pretty small-scale work. Don't forget that you're likely to have chips in the poly finish, too.

    I think I would sand very lightly using something like 600-grit sandpaper to get the surface even - otherwise you probably will have bumps from both the frets and from the poly coat chipping. I'm thinking that a light poly finish coat would help smooth it out. At each step, take your time and evaluate. No rush.

    I haven't defretted a maple board, so I'm giving you best guesses on that aspect of it.
  9. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    You know, I'll bet if I followed up the defretting and slot filling process with a self-leveling epoxy coating it would fill any chips in the poly.

    How hot should I make the soldering iron?