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Unorthodox defret?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tom Crofts, Dec 24, 2001.

  1. Tom Crofts

    Tom Crofts

    Mar 15, 2001
    A mate of mine wants to get his Squier Jazz defretted and our local music shop said that they would, for £40, file all the frets down leaving only the tangs in there instead of removing the frets and filling the holes with wood or whatever. I've never heard of this before, is it safe? Does it make any difference to neck longevity/tone? Anything else about it?
  2. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I know a guy who did that to his '69 Precision. It played and sounded great. Basically, he filed the frets down, using very fine sandpaper in the end so he wouldn't damage the wood. I can't comment on the advantage of doing it that way.
  3. KeithPas

    KeithPas Supporting Member

    May 16, 2000
    This is an acceptable method although not a common method for defretting. It also takes alot of time and elbow grease to file down all of the frets.
    The only disadvantage I can think of is if someday your freind wants to have the bass converted back to fretted. It would be very time consuming and expensive to have this done.
  4. ESP-LTD


    Sep 9, 2001
    It seems to me you will have different wear rates on the fingerboard and the fretwire.

    Overall, I'd say the labor will about even out either way.
  5. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    It's a LOT more work than simply removing the frets, and it's not necessarily a good idea, because when you try to true up the fretboard after its gotten worn, it's a lot more difficult, and should you want to refret the bass or remove the tangs, it will be both extremely expensive and extremely difficult. Not to mention it'll be harder to get the fretboard to be completely flat, because the wood will sand a lot quicker than the tangs. It's a lot better of an idea just to remove the frets and fill the slots. Much safer.
  6. Not so.....I disagree completely, mainly because I have done this myself. It took me 2 1/2 hours, and I prefer it to pulling frets, because pulling frets almost always damages the timber when the tangs come out, it takes a very good luthier to get them out clean. Also the lines left (the tangs) are dead straight and clean, and look very professional. That is bollox about the wood wearing faster than the brass, because when you fret a note you are pressing the string into the tang, not into the wood. Mine lasted for years with negligible wear on the wood using roundwounds. I used a file to rough them down, with masking tape protecting the wood. When I got to the level of the tape, I pulled it off, and finished the job with a new un-oiled flat stone used for sharpening chisels and planes. These are dead flat, cost peanuts, and have a coarse side and a fine side for finishing off. A final rub with emery paper on a sanding block, restring, re-intonate, and yer done. On some basses you may have to move the bridge back (away from the neck) about 1 cm in order to re-intonate, it just depends on the bass.
    I have done three basses, two by the conventional method, and one by this method, and this is way better IMO.
  7. I'd have to disagree with Marty on some of those points, having defretted 3 basses of my own. I've done 3 basses, and I've never damaged the fingerboard, and I don't really go all that slow. I wouldn't consider myself a "lutier" by anyones standards. I also know that you can do some very bad things to your fingerboard if you screw up grinding down the frets, resulting in an uneven (in a scalloped fasion) fretboard. I would also agree that the fretboard wood is going to be more suceptable to wear then the metal of the frets, since the string will always be making contact at the wood, and when it comes time to resurface the neck, welcome back to regrinding the frets. If you didn't, then you'd be getting string off of the fret sound, which defeats the purpose of a bass being fretless. As far as time involved, I started this process on one of my jazz bass necks. The time it took me to do one fret down perfectly was the time it took me to get 4-5 frets out by running a razor blade around them and chisiling them out with a very fine screwdriver. I'd hardly say its worth it. But to each his own.
  8. I used a Jazz bass with filed down frets and roundwound strings for two years of 2-3 gigs a week with absolutely no need for any board dressing, and lots of great comments about my fretless sound, so I rest my case.

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