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Have you defretted a cheap bass? Tips?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by russpurdy, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    So I have zero extra money for a new bass but I have a beater squier bass that I'm thinking of defretting after spending time with a rented fretless and really liking it. Any hints/tips/tricks on defretting?
  2. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    I found it easier to simply buy a fretless neck and bolt it on the old bass.
  3. bolophonic

    bolophonic SUSPENDED

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I had a rosewood Squier Affinity neck that I defretted. I used a saw to carefully expand and clean up the grooves. The kerf of the saw blade was just wide enough to fit a tongue depressor into the slot. The birch was a nice contrast to the rosewood and the whole project cost me about $40 and an hour or two.
  4. Rodger Bryan

    Rodger Bryan Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    Use the search and you will get countless threads. People have shared their experiences with mistakes, potential pitfalls, techniques, etc.

    Suggested tools & materials for getting great results:
    small end nippers, radius sanding block, chisel (optional), small-kerf Zona saw or fret saw, exacto knife, truss rod adjustment tool, 24" & 12" straight edges (recommended), variety of sandpapers from 150-400, ultra thin CA glue, wood glue, wood veneers of contrasting color with fretboard (or matching if you want it to be less visible) The veneer thickness should match the slot/saw blade kerf. Shop-vac...

    If you don't have all of these tools, you can get away with less if you are a skilled woodworker, but I don't recommend ripping the frets out and gooping it up with epoxy. The most common mistake I've seen is when the fret slots are not appropriately filled, making the fretboard lose its compression strength. The key is to repair the inevitable chipping of the surrounding wood, re-sawing a clean slot and gluing in a tight-fitting veneer. The leveling... so much to say. Take off as little as possible and use straight edges to monitor flatness parallel to the center line of the board.
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Defretting a cheap bass is no different from defretting a $2000 bass. The result can look good or like crap. Your time and care make the difference.

    Search TB for numerous threads on how to defret. If any poster advocates using standard pliers or a screwdriver, ignore that poster and anything else they say. Neither tool can be used to do a quality defret.
  6. ltownbass


    Feb 16, 2014
    I've done it, it's a fantastic idea.
    It takes quite a lot of effort and I don't think I can remember everything that I had to do but you only need a block of wood, some sandpaper, nail clippers and wood filler.

    Another important thing, you can't do what I did with a maple fingerboard
  7. Done it twice- 1 came out playable but ugly, the next was decent-looking and also played fine. It's not difficult- I'd suggest searching out threads on it, there are dozens
  8. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I'll be trying it myself for the first time this week. Will report when we see if it works!
  9. dukeandrews


    Jan 24, 2014
    Wood filler is okay, but veneer is much nicer looking. It is more work though.

    This is a really good walk through.

  10. G00D+~VIBES


    Nov 21, 2008
    Kansas City
    If you don't plan to resaw the slots, plan on working each piece of veneer. And Save the dust from sanding. It will help you repair the jagged edges created from the tear out.

    And, you're gonna have to refit the nut to get good low action.
  11. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    OK, there's your first clue. Wood filler has NO PART in a properly done defret job. It is not an adequate or solid enough filler for the fret slots, and it should never be used. Use only wood veneers or solid plastic in the fret slots.
  12. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    Some years ago Dan Erlewine had a monthly project in Bass Player. One of them was defretting a neck, but he didn't pull the frets, he leveled them down to the wood and put a cyanoacrylate finish on the neck.

    I followed his every step and made my old Sigma acoustic bass into a fretless. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, it eliminated the step of filling the slots (the fret tang stays in the slot), & it eliminates any risk of chipping out the slots from pulling frets. The only reason to pull the frets and fill the slots is if you want a different material in the slots other than the alloy of which your frets are made. The remaining tangs leave the same width line as any other slot filling material you would use to fill the slots if you pull frets.

    A note about pulling frets; it can do some serious fingerboard damage. It was the primary reason Dan Erlewine suggested the fret leveling down to the wood; to avoid pulling frets. It's not impossible to pull them with minimal damage, but you take 20 (or 21,22,24) chances of pulling chunks out of the FB that have to be repaired when you pull frets.

    The cyanoacrylate finish wasn't too difficult, and made a hard glossy surface that wears like iron so far.

    I haven't even looked, but I'm sure that whole process can probably be found somewhere on the web. It's worth a look.