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turning a fretted bass into a fretless bass ?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Terrorstorm, Mar 23, 2005.

  1. hello,
    somewhere I've read it's possible to remove the frets of a fretted bass and turning it into a fretless one!
    Have you tried?
    I'm very interested in it because I'm already searching for a fretless bass, but I am not sure if the sound will be typically "fretless bass - like" when doing this.

    another question is who would do this ...
  2. 1) Do a search on fretless - its been covered several times.
    2) Taking your frets out is a one way process by the time you have glued up the fret slots. If you have a particular sound in mind, you could end up with a bass you don't like, and low resale value on it.
    3) If you take the frets out, and fill the grooves with say maple, it will require more skill to play it, but it will still look fretted. An unlined fretless lets people know that you are good, or why you can't play in tune!
    4) Many guitar repairers will do this for you.

  3. Look Here

    and Here
  4. thanks!!
  5. Hey, Ive done this once already and am doing it again right now for a friend! Ill post some pic of them both so you can see. If theres anyone who can do it for you for a reasonable price, then have them do it for you. If not, read up and go slow. the site that reiver1 posted was too complicated when i first did it and the hardwood it difficult to get a perfect fit with. I used Elmers white wood filler from Home Depot. Good Luck!
  6. Why not take this over to the nifty "luthier forum"?

    or try a search. It's totally possible, and dare I say incredibly common.
  7. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Don't do it!

    I hate it when people defret. No matter how "professionally" done it is, unless you're talking about replacing the fingerboard, it always amounts to a butcher hack job.

    Reasons not to defret:
    (1) Completely destroy any monetary value of the instrument. You may say "I don't care" but someday you'll want the thing out of your closet and nobody will want to buy it.
    (2) Side dots are in the wrong place. On a proper fretless bass, the side dots are at the note locations. Whether lined or unlined, this always makes it easy to see where you are unless the stage is absolutely dark. These dots are much brighter than fretlines. Some basses have the dots between the note locations, but that is the exception, not the norm. Once you get used to playing a "defretted" fretless, you'll have a difficult time adjusting to a "intended" fretless should you want to upgrade or change basses in the future.
    (3) Large front dots on a fretless neck look awful. We can argue the aesthetics of lined or unlined 'till the cows come home but no-one, even the biggest lined fretless advocate on this board is going to stand up and say big dots on a converted fretboard look anything but HIDEOUS. I know they were good enough for Jaco....
    (4) You compromise the integrity of the neck. Minor concern, the frets only stick in 1/8" or less of an inch, but still, Who would buy a fretless with 1/8" deep grooves in the neck????

    There is absolutely no reason to defret any bass when Rondo and others offer so many choices for such reasonable prices.
  8. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Ill give you a reason to de-fret a fretted bass, in fact Ill give you two reasons.

    1) You have an old, $200 or less bass sitting around that never gets played as a fretted because you have much better.

    2) You only have about $50 to spend, instead of $150-$300 on a new fretless.

    I de-fretted my Ibanez GSR200. Do a search on posts by me, it was pretty recent. The bass never got played as a fretted with the Dingwall around. Its a $200 bass, and so was pretty much worthless, even to re-sell it. I could get maybe $100 for it, but why bother with the hassle of shipping it, posting it someplace to sell ect. Plus it was my first bass and so was kinda sentimental about letting it go anyhow. So I figured, well, I wouldnt mind a fretless in the stable, cant afford one right now, and gee, have this cheapo bass sitting around getting dusty. At least now that its de-fretted, it gets played, and it actually sounds better fretless than fretted.

    Just my counter argument for why you might do this :)
  9. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Sell the old bass for $75 here or donate it to a school for a tax deduction then buy an Essex for $120 from www.rondomusic.net. You'll be better off. Unless of course you have sentimental reasons for keeping the $200 bass around.... (which would be 3).
  10. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I do have sentimental reasons, as I mentioned, plus the bass gets played instead of sitting in a gig bag in the closet too. So for me personally, I think I made the right decision, and really had nothing to lose if it didnt turn out great. As it happens, it did turn out very well, plays and sounds great, its like a whole new bass to me. This bass is also going to become my signature pad, I will be taking it to shows and stuff to try and get autographs of my heroes on it :)
  11. Philbiker, im not trying to be mean, but the last time i checked the rondo lined fretless basses have side dots in between frets, and a lot of them have front position markers too. i dont like either of those either and it completely detered me from buying one from them when i was looking at them

    if you want a to convert an old fretted into a real fretless, it would be cheap and easier to buy a fingerboard blank, take off the old fingerboard and replace it with a new one. if you leave the frets in on the old one when taking it off, it wont curl that much and will be suitable to be glued back on if you really want to sell it. :bassist:. all you would have to do it cut it to the shape of your neck, glue it on, and then sand it to thinkness with a radius block

    that is, if you wish to venture into the world of amatuer luthery
  12. Aerolithe


    Jan 23, 2005
    Columbia, MO

    Have you got any good tutorials on this, specifically removing the original fretboard? I'll search google and post if I find anything good, but I'm interested in doing things this way. Specifically, I'm going to buy an Essex fretless as soon as I have the money but don't want a lined fretboard, so if I can do it for around $100 I'd like to put a nice blank one on.

    Edit: http://www.projectguitar.com/tut/removal.htm seems to be a very good tutorial on fretboard removal.
  13. mattmcnewf


    May 27, 2004
  14. I dunno, for me the whole between the fretlines/on the fretlines thing is kind of a nonissue. I don't think having the position dots on the lines is necessarily the "proper" way to go. I play a lot of both fretted and fretless, and frankly, I don't *want* the dots to change their location depending on what bass I'm playing--I want them to mean one thing and one thing only (namely, position), and I want them to have one placement and one placement only. Otherwise it's needlessly confusing. Of course, I use a lined fretless, so take that for what it's worth. YMMV and all that.
  15. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    There are tons of threads about this in Setup. Moved.
  16. Yup, yer right! There's nothing worse than a hack job like this... :rolleyes: unless it's a patently silly statement like those above.
  17. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
  18. for me, i like the side dots over the frets because even though its not the exact same place as a regular board, you press on about where the side dots are when you do have frets, so its natural to press in the same place again without them which would put you way out of tune unless they were moved onto the fret line

    aerolithe, that website is the best tuturial your going to find on removing a fretboard(or that ive found at least) if you have trouble with attaching the new one try this


    and the project guitar forum is also evry good about helping people who are trying to do stuff a lot like what your doing


    most of those guys over there are metalheads though lol. they are still good about helpin newbies (in the world of guitar modifying, luthery) out
  19. Oh my GOD! Whatta hack job! ;) No one wants THAT! :smug:
  20. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Well said, Hambone.

    Though I wouldn't recommend that most people defret their instrument, there is nothing inherently wrong with doing it. As can be seen from Hambone's example, it can be done very nicely if you do it with care. Take the time to do correctly if you do it.