How difficult is it to defret a bass?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by TheArchitect, Dec 7, 2022.

  1. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    I have an SR300 that is getting used less and less. It is either going to get sold or converted into something more useful. Very light strings and tuned up is one option and converting to fretless is another. Pulling the frets is pretty straight forward. What would be involved in filling the slots and making it playable as a fretless?
  2. lyonaudio


    Apr 16, 2019
    Didn't Jaco Pastorius just rip the frets out of his bass and slather on a load of boat epoxy to make his fretless bass?
  3. Something like that. Butter knife at the kitchen table?
    But then it was Jaco. :bassist:

    OP... have you done a search anywhere for information and tips about removing frets?
    You want to be careful not to bugger up the fretboard.
  4. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    That's what I hear, but that does not mean its the correct way to do that.
    gebass6, Ostie and Flamingo21 like this.
  5. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    Yes, I have experience removing frets. Its the slot filling part that I am concerned about. What material? does the whole board need coated with something etc.
  6. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    Blue Moose and Old Garage-Bander like this.
  7. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    knumbskull likes this.
  8. I believe there are several threads in the hardware, setup and repair forum.

    Short version, I like to use heat, I have a soldering gun that has a notch for the fret ground into one tip, and a little water on the board when pulling the frets. I have some end cutter pliers ground flat on the front for pulling. Work it under the fret carefully and work down the length of the fret to pull it. I’ve used both wood veneer and plastic to fill the slots. They should be about 0.022” so whatever is close that you like. Wood glue works for veneer, CA will work for either. Trim the filler down then level the board with a leveling beam along the string paths then blend the facets by working across the board with the beam. Finish sand as desired.

    Finish is up to you. I’ve had bare and finished boards. If I was finishing one today I’d use CA glue. There’s some discussion and links to other threads here: CA and Truoil question(s)
  9. johnh89


    Jan 25, 2020
    Kent UK
    Easy to do . Hard to do well . I have done a couple by removing frets , planing off the entire fingerboard and making new boards , one from Richlite and one from mystery hardwood from an 8x2 board . Both turned out way better than I expected . Not a straightforward conversion but also not beyond the abilities of a monkey with power tools . (as I proved )
    deepestend and Flamingo21 like this.
  10. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Just set it up as a piccolo bass.
  11. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    And that is really the rub..

    I just finished up painting and assembling 2 guitars and I am not wanting another big project anytime soon. If its not done well it likely won't play well and it will never get used.

    It seems apparent that I should just sell it and get a fretless, if fretless is the path I am taking. With the current sales on CV Squires it would be a break even.. The tic tac idea is a much easier path.
    groovepump and Ron Berenato like this.
  12. Here ya go. And using the search function will likely bring up additional/alternate information.
    knumbskull likes this.
  13. No, but Jaco could yank the nails out of 2x4 and make it sound good. ;)
  14. Probably less of a headache to buy a new neck or Squier like you mentioned.
  15. Speaking from experience - sell it and buy a fretless.
  16. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    i bought fret pulling pliers. they work pretty good. no matter what I always got a slight bit of chipping where the fret barbs are. i use maple veneer to fill slots, glued in with standard tite-bond. sand and CA any gaps to fill tiny voids. I have coated with CA, WB Poly, and left raw (rosewood) and they all seem to work alright.

    This was the most labor intensive i've done, but I like the result.
  17. groovepump


    Aug 3, 2020
    I'm doing a de-fret of a 5 string Glarry just now. It's a lot of easy work, but it's a lot of work. Sell the bass you have and put the money toward a factory fretless, if you don't need a project. I worked hard to hide / reduce the stupid fret lines that are present when you de-fret. I HATE lined fretless basses, and the stupid dots on the fingerboard. Check out the Ibanez SRF700 / SRF705 Portamento. It has magnetic an piezo pickups as well ! Check their demonstration vids on the web.
  18. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL
    I would imaging removing the frets is easy. Filling in the slots and making the neck playable is a whole ‘nother story.

    If it were me, if your bass is in good condition, instead of converting it I’d sell it using the proceeds to get the type of bass you want. You could see if you could trade it as well with somebody that bought a fretless only to find out they’d rather have a fretted instrument. JMO.
  19. MynameisMe

    MynameisMe What will you be remembered for?

    Dec 31, 2018
    J'ville Florida
    Git yon Pliers and go ta town matey!
  20. So... wha' happens if ya just pull and don't fill? Other than looking weird, is there any downside?

    "Yeah, I was gonna re-fret it but ran out of time, money, interest." :D