If I do a defret, do I have to epoxy? Alternatives?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Diesel Kilgore, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. Thinking of doing a defret on my own. Thanks to TB I have learned alot about what is involved.

    I am more concerned about the integrity of the fingerboard and fret inlays (thinking of doing white plastic per SurferJoe http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f18/economical-defret-job-912156/ )

    Would it be a must to epoxy this when finished? Are there any alternatives on finishing a fretless neck with slot inlays? I want them to stay intact and everything be sealed solid when done. But am actually more concerned on doing an epoxy job rather then the defretting. What else could I do?
  2. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    It's not a must. There are plenty of bare wood fretless necks out there. The epoxy coating adds durability and changes the sound. Some people seal the board with "super" glue.
  3. JLS

    JLS Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    It's not necessary to do *anything* to the fingerboard, finish-wise.
  4. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Buy a fretless bass. When you defret, you almost always end up with a bass that has side dots out of proper pitch position, and lines on the fingerboard. What you're essentially proposing is to double the number of decisions you need to make to play each note.

    My experience (20 years on double bass and 13 on fretless electric), is that a lined fretless is worthless because I cannot see the fingerboard from my normal playing position. So, I rely on side dots. In your case, the side dots on your currently fretted bass are likely in the middle of the frets, so if you de-fret, you end up with a bass with side dots that do nothing except to confuse you and fingerboard lines that you can't see without craning your neck to the point of injury. Therefore, you've doubled the number of decisions to make and you need to change posture for the privilege of this inconvenience.

    My $0.02. Your results may vary.
  5. Slightly out of topic: If you do it yourself for the first time, don't forget to release the trussrod before pulling the frets.
  6. Danno1985


    Aug 27, 2012
    Milwaukee, WI
    You don't have to coat it with anything, but if you play Rotosound rounds you'll notice the strings eating into the rosewood after a relatively short period of time.

    My brother plays bass as well; he started out with an MIM Standard fretless, tried a bunch of flatwounds and couldn't get the sound he wanted, so he did the whole Petit's Poly-poxy thing. I helped him out. It took quite a bit of trial and error, and a LOT of sanding to get a bubble-free, buzz free board.

    When I defretted my Squier Jazz, I filled the fret slots with putty and then sprayed it with polyurethane. It took a while for it to dry, but it came out very well and was exponentially easier than the epoxy.

    As for the side dots, whether or not that's an issue depends upon the player. I guess I have the good fortune of also playing classical guitar and violin, one of which doesn't have side dots or markers, and the other has neither side dots, markers or frets, so that has definitely helped. Anyways, regardless of whether or not you're playing a fretless instrument, the sooner you can get to the point where you can trust your muscle memory to hit the right intervals without looking, the better.
  7. VinKreepo


    Nov 13, 2009
    Before you decide to refret consider this:

    I defretted my first bass back in college when I was jamming with a lot of different people and playing in my own band as well as a Christian band on campus. I thought it would be nice to have more expressive freedom in slides and tone. I was only half right.

    I was able to make magnificent slides that rivaled the my guitarist friends fills and my tone had that distinctive "mwah" sound. But that is everything a bass should NOT be in your typical ROCK band. Sure, a fretless bass sounds good in a slow jazz setting where the bassist focuses less on bridging the gap between the drummer and the band, and focuses more on a basic rhythm (e.g. walking) with more MELODIC expression. In that setting you want the "mwah" voicing. However, in rock/punk/metal/etc. you often would rather here a bass that sounds more percussive and ties in with the drummer better rather than compete with the guitars for sound (fretted and ballsy).

    BTW, a double bass is another story. There's a lot behind the sound of a DB, but basically it boils down to how sound resonates in the hollow body and is amplified into a deep, boomy sound. You cannot get close to an organic sounding DB tone with a SOLID body bass; however, basses such as the Rob Allen basses are hollow with piezo pickups that also sense the body's vibrations (which absorbs some of the fretless tone's harshness) rather than the magnetic pickups in a solid body that focus predominantly on how the string is vibrating.

    So, if you are thinking about defretting your bass, do not do it to one you use regularly. And think about getting a semihollow or hollow bass and adding a piezo element to it. It will not be a DB sound for sure, but it will be worlds closer than a solid body with magnetic pickups will. and it'll sit better in the mix to boot.
  8. I know, I know....but, Jaco did petty good on a bass that he pulled frets.
    Play your bass. I play mainly fretless too. Can I borrow $0.02?
  9. Shakin-Slim


    Jul 23, 2009
    Tokyo, Japan
    My fingerboard is unfinished. I do use flats and tapes, but that's for the sound, not to protect my board. Yes, an unfinished board will get some markings with rounds after some time, but as with almost anything bass related, TB makes it seem much worse than it really is.
    El-Bob likes this.
  10. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    I'm working on a bass neck for a tech-phobic friend. He yanked the frets a few months back, and even with Elixer coated (condom) strings the wood was starting to show evidence of wear.

    One thing to consider, a set up bass has level frets, but who is to say the wood underneath is any good? It might have had work done on it to make it sorta level (close enough for show business!!!) but not level enough as the manufacturer would not assume you were going to run home and yank the frets.

    I'm giving this bass neck the blackout treatment. The side-dots and the inlays (and fret lines) are getting covered in black laquer prior to any final finishing. I find CA glue dries more consistently on laquer. Besides, for people moaning about side dots or fret lines; I used to play the violin and there is no cheat sheet for that. Muscle memory is the way to go. You cannot be much of a musician if you need to follow the dots to trust you are playing the right thing.
  11. toobalicious


    May 6, 2008
    triad, nc
    i subscribe to comment #9.

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