Question about defretting a bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Viscera_Eyes, Sep 29, 2010.

  1. Viscera_Eyes


    Oct 27, 2008
    I have two basses and I would like to defret one. The bass in subject is a Lakland 55-01. The thing is, I don't feel confident enough to try it myself. Do stores like Sam Ash offer this kind of service? If so, is it quality?

    I'm not in desperate need of a fretless, but I think it would be cool to have one of each. I don't really have any cash to spare at the moment. Do you think it would be wise to just save and buy a mid range fretless (like a MIM Fender, etc), or still try to do this?
  2. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    1. No way you should EVER let Sam Ash act as ANY type of luthier for one of your own instruments. That includes guitar center.

    2. Why is it that I see so many posts about turning a good bass into a fretless and I NEVER see anyone gigging or recording with one? I think I know the reason: its a bedroom novelty. Fun to tinker with for a little while, but that's it. (And don't give me the "Black Velvet tone was cool nonsense: it was a keyboard, not a bass).

    3. Just my opinion, feel free to feel differently!
  3. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    The big chain music stores like Sam Ash and Guitar Center, usually have service techs in their repair/adjustment departments... not full fledged luthiers. Service techs can do a set up, put on a new set of strings, swap out your pickups... that sort of thing. Pulling frets/re-fretting... that's something you would be well served to have a competent luthier do.

    It's up to you. By doing this you'll be reducing the re-sale value of your instrument to a fraction of what it's worth now. If you still think that's a "cool" thing to do... may the force be with you.
  4. Steveaux

    Steveaux Safe-Guardian of the Stoopid Supporting Member

    Jul 1, 2008
    The Wilds of NW Pa.
    Why not get a fretless neck from Lakland?
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    1) A Lakland is too nice to mess up.

    2) Replacement necks are the best way to go.

    3) Defretting is a 10+ hour process if you do it right. If you insist, buy Dan Erlewine's guide to guitar repair and study it.
  6. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's

    Been to that dance - Don't do it.

    Get a cheap fretless (Squier VM for example) and play with that and see if you like it. In addition, it is not a bad bass at all. I got mine used in excellent condition for $200.

    You may damage the neck removing the frets and ruin the value of your Lakland, and THEN have to spend a good amount of $$ to get it re-fretted to be able to use it at all.

    Sam Ash and GC guys are NOT luthiers - they should not be allowed to do anything more than change strings and I am not making a joke.
  7. Retrogamer64


    Sep 29, 2010
    i have to agree never allow someone at SA or GC do something like that your best bet is to find a custom shop that would make you a fretless neck that way you can just swap necks out and if you dont like the fretless you can always go back without losing to much $$
  8. I defretted my MIM jazz bass. I did it probably for the same reasons you want to. It seemed like a fun project (it was) and I wanted a fretless. It turned out well for me. It was VERY time consuming to level the neck properly and get the bass the way I wanted, but for about the last year of so (5 years after taking out the frets) it has become the instrument I use the most for gigging

    At the time It was my #3 bass and it is a MIM so I figured if I ruined it it wasn't so bad, and import Fender necks aren't too expensive to replace. I would not even entertain the thought of doing this to any of my other basses.

    I would say if you really want to do this project, do it on a cheap bass. If it turns out well you can always upgrade the other components and make it into a nice instrument.
  9. pnut166


    Jun 5, 2008
    defretting a Lakland seems like putting a Hyundai engine in a Ferrari. Why ? Buy a cheap bass and do it.
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Defretting a Lakland yourself seems a lot like painting a Ferrari camo color.
  11. Viscera_Eyes


    Oct 27, 2008
    Thanks for all the feedback. Good to know that GC/Sam Ash do not do this type of thing.

    I think I'll just buy a fretless bass eventually. If it will really hurt the resale value of the lakland that much, then I would probably be losing money trying this it versus just getting a new bass.
  12. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    A little searching and you can find very good fretlesses for under two bills.
  13. SGS


    Mar 21, 2010
    I've considered defretting my Squier Jazz but like was said about the novelty factor, I'm afraid I'll do it and then not touch it after about a week of use. I don't play it too much anyway, prefer to play my 5 string Dean as I like the string spacing better and I use the 5th string a lot (I hate tuning down so I learn to play things using the 5th string instead).

    Pilgrim - is it really that long of a process? I figured it wasn't just as simple as pulling the frets out and putting flat wound strings on, but what else has to be done?


    Dec 29, 2009
    Sam Ash did quality work for me, but not worth the $400 I was charged, nor the bassless month I spent with withdrawal symptoms because I missed my Precision.

    Not worth it. Find an actual luthier.
  15. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    FWIW, my fretless gets gigged plenty. And recorded nearly as often as any of my fretted basses.
  16. This ^
  17. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Hey, do as I SAY not as I DO! Yes, I'm in the process right now of generating a pair of SX 6 string basses where one is fretted (as they come) and the other is fretless (to be defretted by me). I haven't actually done the defretting yet, but I've been on line looking at videos enough to know this is a pretty scary job. You not only have to pull the frets without splintering the fingerboard, but you also have to saw and fill the fret grooves with wood strips to maintain the stability of the neck wood. It's not an impossible task but clearly requires some tools and some skill and some patience.

    DO NOT have Sam Ash or GC do the job unless you actually know the guy who works there and trust his work at this level. The job will be expensive from a real luthier! For this reason I, along with everyone else here URGE you to consider just buying a fretless neck for you Lakland. Hey my SX is a $150 loss if I really screw up bad. A Lakland is a whole 'nother ballgame! Plus, the thing with my SX is that I simply CAN'T buy a fretless neck for it.

    On the other hand, Rondo was selling freless 5 string necks so I bought one and bought the 5 string SX Ursa to go with it! Nasty defret problem solved! That project is underway too! In the past to get a fretless bass I just went out and bought a fretless bass. Simple, relatively inexpensive, and effective. Another great alternative would be to scan the aftermarket places that deal in replacement necks. It's some cash but not as bad as a luthier. Trust me.

    Bottom line: Try to get out of a defretting job anyway you can, unless for some reason the bass you want to convert is unique and you don't have any choice. And if you do decide to do it, I'd fer sure, not try to start with a Lakland as the first bass you try it on! Pickup up a cheapo "test bass" and have it done and then live with the neck for a while until you get some confidence that the whole procedure is going to work.
  18. Adamski5


    Feb 3, 2012
    I've got a Shine 5 string bass, cost me under £200 (about $300 I guess), and I have been seriously entertaining the idea of defretting it. To all intents and purposes it is going to be a project bass, I also have a Musicman style humbucker to replace a single coil J-pickup to put on there if and when the job is complete. I would have no problem if I screwed it up, because I can just get another one, although I wouldn't be so reckless if I had a Rickenbacker or a Warwick Infinity though lol! I have seen the Youtube videos of the luthier defretting with a soldering iron and pincer/jewellery pliers, and think with painstaking control and patience, I could pull that off. On to my questions, would it be absolutely paramount to fill in the gaps with wood veneer, or would I get away with not having to? Am guessing that I would need to replace or file down the nut? If I am tightening the truss rod, do I tighten it to the point where it stops turning, or is there a special point where I have to know where to stop?
  19. Adamski5


    Feb 3, 2012
    Also, Black Velvet did have a nice sound - albeit synthesized lol... I just want a nice smooth jazz sound without having to lug a massive frickin double bass around. :p
  20. Fretless projects can be fun, but start with something cheap. My first conversion was a pawn shop special Aria Pro 2. Even though the frets were not in good shape, I still felt weird ripping them out. I couldn't even imagine removing perfectly good frets from a more expensive instrument. With some help from my guitar tech, the bass turned into a good player.

    A few months ago, someone on Ebay listed a 90s-era Japanese Ibanez SR885 for $62 BIN (shipping included). It was completely stripped of hardware, electronics, and frets; was missing some big chips of paint; and had a lot of scratches. Since I'm a big fan of the SR series and had been wanting a fretless 5-string for some time, I jumped on it.

    I had my tech fill the fret slots, replane the finger board, patch up the dings, and buff out some of the scratches. I ransacked my parts boxes and found I was only short an output jack, knobs, preamp circuit assembly with control pots, and a single B to go with my 4-string set of GHS Brite Flats. The grand total for bass, parts, and labor came to about $140, and even though it's not the prettiest bass in my collection, it plays great.
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