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From Fretted to Fretless

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by OrionManMatt, Feb 18, 2004.


  1. OrionManMatt

    OrionManMatt

    Feb 17, 2004
    Houston
    Okay, I am new here and yes I know what the search button is but it has yielded little results. Perhaps I've searched incorrectly. Hopefully this is where you come in.

    I have an Ibanez GTR 70 laying around that I would like to turn into a fretless. It is bone stock and the lowest of the low end on the Ibanez line I'm sure so if it gets screwed up in the process all will not be lost. If this works I may end up turning my other Ibanez into a fretless but that would be down the road.

    That being said...are there any instructionals or links to turning this bass into a Jazz machine? I'm going to gut the pickups and install replacement P & J's (Bart's?) unless optic would be better. Any ideas? Doesn't need to be super modded just better than what it is.

    Thanks.
     
  2. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    Are you looking for info on how to do the defretting job?

    If so, here's what I did...

    I defretted my Squier P Special 5. I used a (clean) pair of toenail cutters to carefully loosen the frets. I would start at one end of the fret and gently try to pinch under it with the clippers. Once I got under it a bit, I would gently wiggle the clippers to carefully work the fret up out of the slot. Once it moves a little, I'd work across the width of the fret being careful not to dent the fingerboard or pull out chips at the fret slot.

    The most important thing that you can do is to go slow and take your time. Haste creates dents and chips. I think it only really took about 15 to 20 minutes to remove all of the frets. I had only a couple little chips and a few shallow dents...

    Next, I cleaned the slots out with a sharp Xacto knife. I had to remove the filler at the ends of the fret slots so that I had a slot across the entire width of the fingerboard.

    Next, I made a template out of a thin piece of cardboard/thick piece of paper.

    I cut out pieces of polystyrene from a sheet that I bought from a hobby shop. Some people use wood filler (which can crumble) or small strips of wood... I didn't want to deal with end grain vs. face grain so I followed luthier Jack Read's advice and used polystyrene.

    The plastic strips were glued in with cyanoacrylate aka superglue. I gently tapped the strip in the groove once the glue was applied to make sure that they were as far down as they could go. Any extra glue was allowed to dry as-is and then sanded or trimmed later.

    Once the glue was dry, I trimmed as much of the excess plastic with a brand new and very sharp (be careful!!!) Xacto knife. Then I took a small flat piece of wood and made a sanding block.

    I don't recall what grit I used at first...probably 150 to quickly trim the strips down to fingerboard height. Then I switched to 220, then finer until the board was smooth and even.

    I chose not to coat the fingerboard with epoxy as Jaco did, but I did change to Elixir strings that are coated and easier on the fingerboard wood.

    I found it necessary to slightly shim the neck in the pocket. 1/32 in. was enough (I used a small Walnut strip, but business card stock, sand paper (that's what Squier used at the factory) or just about anything would work).

    I set the neck's relief so that it is almost flat...that really helps bring out the mwah. I didn't need to adjust the nut, but you may.

    I found the setup section on Gary Willis' site to be quite helpful.

    After the bass is finished and you're plugging in, remember that a mid boost in the 800 - 1000 Hz range can help the mwah come out.

    Have fun!!!!
     
  3. OrionManMatt

    OrionManMatt

    Feb 17, 2004
    Houston
    Cool man. Thank you for the how-to. Do you know of anyone, yourself included, that took pictures of the process?

    I have a 7-band graphic EQ on my Peavey 210TX. Once I've turned it into a fretless, what settings have you found work the best to bring out the most, or what settings have you found it to sound alot like a double bass? That is sort of the effect I'm hoping to achieve. Would a new neck just be in order? A headstock like that of a double bass would look pretty sweet IMO.
     
  4. OrionManMatt

    OrionManMatt

    Feb 17, 2004
    Houston
    pic link didn't work...


    any comments to the rest of the thread?
     
  5. Figjam

    Figjam

    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Its a link to another thread.. go to the setup forum and its at the top , called "defretting my bass (photos included)" or something.
     
  6. OrionManMatt

    OrionManMatt

    Feb 17, 2004
    Houston
    Yes I know. I've read it, but the pictures at the bottom bring up an error.

    :)
     
  7. Figjam

    Figjam

    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    O..
     
  8. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    That thread is for wood filler filled slots...I prefer the look of plastic filled slots...

    Here are some pictures...

    BTW, I believe that the plastic is 0.02 in. thick and the fret slots were 0.022 so it was a perfect fit once the superglue got involved...
     
  9. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    And when the fingerboard had been sanded and given a coat or two of lemon oil...
     
  10. OrionManMatt

    OrionManMatt

    Feb 17, 2004
    Houston
    Most excellent pics good sir. ;) Am I making this process out to be much harder than it really is?

    I have a soldering iron around here somewhere. So are most frets secured into the wood by teeth or glue? I'm under the assumption that I'm going to need some needlenose pliers to pry the frets out once they're heated up enough.
     
  11. Figjam

    Figjam

    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I figure on that bass since it is low end the frets will just be kinda, stuck in, with no glue.
     
  12. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    The frets are probably held in with just the barbs on the fret tang. You don't need (or want) to use a lot of force because that leads to chipping and denting the fingerboard.

    Fretwire isn't really that hard either so it bends and lets you take it out. The toenail clippers worked really well probably because the blades are thin at the end making it easy to get under the end of the fret and also the face is really flat (fingernail clippers are rounded, toenail clippers are flat) so they help keep the wood down on the fingerboard.

    I was braced for quite a difficult project, but it really turned out to be easy and fun. Worthwhile too!
     
  13. OrionManMatt

    OrionManMatt

    Feb 17, 2004
    Houston
    I have a 7-band graphic EQ on my Peavey 210TX. Once I've turned it into a fretless, what settings have you found work the best to bring out the most, or what settings have you found it to sound alot like a double bass? That is sort of the effect I'm hoping to achieve. Would a new neck just be in order? A headstock like that of a double bass would look pretty sweet IMO.
     
  14. OrionManMatt

    OrionManMatt

    Feb 17, 2004
    Houston
    bumpity bump
     
  15. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    That's weird, I thought I posted something about getting a DB tone. There was an article in BP a while back about using the heel of your hand to mute the strings and get a nice string bass effect. I've seen a guy do it and it sounded great.

    Boosting in the 800 -1 kHz range brings out mwah...and a bridge pickup helps too, but not to get a DB tone.
     
  16. OrionManMatt

    OrionManMatt

    Feb 17, 2004
    Houston
    mwah...i see it now, in your first post...thanks man
     
  17. Figjam

    Figjam

    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    On my fretless P if i play around the end of the fretboard and slightly mute the strings i can get a nice DB tone.