Turning a Fretted Bass into a Fretless Bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Sayclean, Sep 28, 2020.

  1. Sayclean


    Jul 26, 2009
    Nashville, TN
    I have an extra Fender Jazz Fretted Bass that I would like to re-do the neck into a fretless Bass. Is this hard to do and has anyone here done it? Are there any videos that you would recommend to do this? I work on all my basses and not afraid to do it. I’m just wondering if anyone has perfected this since Jaco did his. Thanks for your input ...
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I think it's fair to say it's been done thousands of times. There are half ass ways to do it and there are full ass ways to do it. I say go for it if you have the neck to spare and aren't worried about ruining it and it may be worth it for the learning experience. Otherwise there are plenty of fretless necks out there you can buy.
    nbsipics and DJ Bebop like this.
  3. Skip Chucker

    Skip Chucker

    Dec 9, 2018
    So as long as you put your ass into it, you're good right? :D
    sonojono and Killing Floor like this.
  4. I defretted my L2K Trib. My previous luthierie experience was limited to gluing down a couple loose frets followed by a crown and polish job on a cheap Peavey.
    Do everything you can to avoid doing damage when pulling the frets out. After that, the rest was time consuming but far from rocket science.
    I didn't take any pics or video of the process but the short version is I cut some thin strips of maple on my table saw and glued them into the fret slots, making sure they sat slightly proud of the board. Then, went to town with a good straight edge, leveling beam and a radius block to get the board dead straight.
    ...aaaaaand gratuitous pic whoring of my work:
  5. nonohmic

    nonohmic Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    I'm been wondering about this with a warwick thumb. Is it easier to line an unlined board, or defret a fretted?
  6. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    This should get you started...
    Defretting ?

    I pulled the frets outta my 67P back in 79ish - I just went at it.
    Pulled the frets from my ABG too. Yep, just went at it.
    gebass6 likes this.
  7. MMiller28

    MMiller28 Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2003
    It's incredibly easy, I did it when I was 16 and I'm still not handy at all almost 30 years later.

    I used a clothing iron to heat the frets via conduction, which melted the glue. I used fingernail clippers to grip the frets and pull them out. I filled in the gaps with wood putty, sanded it, and did three coats of polyurethane with sanding in between. Took four days maybe.
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  8. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I guess you're not using rusty pliers. This is done all the time. If you don't want to do it yourself take it to a pro. Won't cost that much. Good luck. Fun project.
  9. Wambemando

    Wambemando Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2020
    Jaco, you say?
    My epoxy should be arriving tomorrow.
  10. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    I've done about 10. Sometimes I fill the slots with maple, and sometimes black epoxy. Both work well.
    gebass6, Williethump and nonohmic like this.
  11. 7dollarbologna


    Apr 22, 2014
    Downtown Albuquerque
    Desert Eccentric
    I got my HG Thor coated neck this past December- incredible work!
    Wambemando, blastoff and Gazman like this.
  12. sonojono

    sonojono Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2013
    Moral of the story. Be an ass man :thumbsup:
    JRA likes this.
  13. I have a mim fender jazz bass 5er I want to convert to fretless and have looked into this a lot lately. Have watched many videos on fretless conversions but I decided to wait until I can buy a nice neck from warmoth. There’s a couple reasons I came to that conclusion. For one I’d be able to go back to the factory fender fretted neck if down the road I wanted to wether to sell the bass in its factory form or maybe if I got another body down the road for the fretless neck. Two, my factory necks fingerboard is already on the thin side. A fretless conversions is doable but on mine would require more work like a neck shim because my b string saddle is already as low as it’ll go. Also there’s not a lot of fingerboard material on mine as it and if over the years I wanted to sand the neck to smooth out any bad spots I’d be making a thin fingerboard even thinner. But most of all I just want what I want and I think I’ll be happier long term with a roasted flamed maple neck with no gloss finish and an ebony board.
  14. Wambemando

    Wambemando Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2020
    The epoxy has arrived! 20200929_110947.jpg
  15. 7dollarbologna


    Apr 22, 2014
    Downtown Albuquerque
    Desert Eccentric
    Wambemando likes this.
  16. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    It wouldn't be hard to improve on Jaco's defret job, great bass player, lousy Luthier. He made a bit of a mess of it, not that it mattered tone wise. Curious to see how the epoxy works out, a lot of people on TB have tried the CA technique. I'd like to that myself, but I'm pretty violently sensitive to CA fumes.
  17. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    I've done several defangs (approx. 4?) and my conclusion is that it's like learning to play the bass: it's easy to do, but it's exponentially more difficult and costly to do correctly.

    Namely, if you want not only a truly buzz-free fingerboard but also a result that will stay that way indefinitely, you need the right tools, supplies and a lot of luck and elbow grease :).

    The main difficulty is the area around the slots. The frets apply a lot of pressure to the ends of the slots, so when they're suddenly removed and replaced, even with a tight fitting wood like Maple, the wood in the area of the slots is going to slowly move over time once the pressure is relieved.

    So even if it finally comes off the jig perfect, as short as 6 months down the road (in say a dry climate), there's a decent chance that, one day, you're going to discover a buzz at one of the slots where there wasn't any before. A year later, maybe there'll be 2 or 3, maybe more, and it'll be buzzy enough that you won't want to play the instrument anymore.

    Just something to be aware of if you defang a valued instrument.

    Sometimes you get away with it and don't have to level the board again, but there's an about equal chance that you might have to too.

    The probability that I'll do another is somewhere around 0% at this point in time, but I think that probability will stay there even after I get a good set of tools again....

  18. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    If that's 5 minute epoxy, DO NOT USE IT.

    5 minute cures way too fast and won't give the liquid enough time to really soak into the wood. It won't adhere properly and it will, 100% guaranteed I promise, start coming off the board at one point or another in the near future. It also becomes very brittle when cured and will eventually begin to yellow and crack even if it does manage to stay on the board that long.

    You want to use the slowest cure epoxy you can find - 2 hours cure time minimum, the longer the better - so it can really soak in and get good adhesion to the board. Also, slow cure formulas cure slightly softer, so they won't crack when bent after they're fully cured.

    5 minute is only good for temporary repairs or for really really porous woods like Balsa, etc.

    Last edited: Oct 2, 2020
    Wambemando likes this.
  19. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    True enough, I've relied on 5 minute before, and its failed me every time. It never gets harder than a kind of rubbery plastic, which is fine for gluing something that doesn't get much stress, but would be teriible for a fingerboard. The Boat Epoxy Jaco used didn't work too well either, he had to resurface it every few years. I have a Warmoth neck that I had "DiamondKote" finished by Pedulla many years ago, some kind of 2- part polyester. It's the same material they used on the Buzz fretless basses. Amazingly tough finish, but apparently nasty and toxic to apply. Honestly I can't see much advantage (except the relative toxicity applying it) of epoxy over CA glue. The new generation of GluBoost CA is supposedly less toxic, and not prone to clouding when using accelerator, which would limit the nasty fumes and cure time to an absolute minimum.
    GluBoost: CA Adhesives & Glue Accompaniments
    Wambemando likes this.
  20. Wambemando

    Wambemando Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2020
    Good advice. I WILL NOT use the 5 minute epoxy. Thank you!!!

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