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(unprofessionally) Defretting my old Peavey in the search for that "upright" tone...

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by nandinga, Mar 28, 2014.

  1. nandinga


    Nov 11, 2013
    Barcelona, Spain
    Hi there TBers!!!

    Well... it all started when I bought a new bass (now sold, looking for a J!). My old Peavey Millenium BXP5 didn't had any purpose existing but it was my 1st bass so I decided to transform it on Frankenbass, the fretless ;p

    The original idea was to try to get as near as possible to the tone of an upright. If U-Basses can... so I wanted to defret it, put a piezo-pickups bridge (GraphTech Ghost bridge with the Acoustiphonic pre) and some nylon-wound flats on it!! And given I was into the mess, also bought some Bartolini 57J1 pups ;p

    My first approach on defretting was a bit messy so I've decided to try and do it right. The tale goes as follows:

    I've removed the frets heating them with a soldering iron and pulling them with some pliers. Some chips raised upon pulling:


    I've also removed the nut and sanded the back of it a bit so it got lowered to compensate the fact there where no frets anymore.

    The following pic is actually from when I started with the pickup and piezo bridge process, but it also shows the messy fiberglass wood crack repair paste that I've tried, and how I started to remove it (popping some more chips out :meh:).


    There you can also see the canal I had to make with the Dremel for the piezo cables. Also drilled a couple of holes for the controls of the piezos, and (not in the pic) widened the pups holes to make the DiMarzios fit.

    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  2. nandinga


    Nov 11, 2013
    Barcelona, Spain
    This is a detail on the bridge. Since I bought only saddles, I had to make holes into the bridge base for the cables (which had plugs, so the holes are big :p). This was the less elegant of the fixes I think, because the rails for the two screws in each saddle where not at the same distance as the screws themselves, so one screw fitted and the other was half-in-half-out. Also the saddles are somehow separated. I fear this could be affecting the sustain and the tone :s


    Then I've installed all the electronics following the manual. Just a couple of soldering points. All the GraphTech stuff is pluggable.

    Then I cut some wood veneer pieces. The fretboard is curved, and the base of the fret gap is curved in the same way. I used the side of my rounded sanding block as a guide when cutting, so they sit well in the base and fill the fret gap completely. Afterwards it was just gluing that with (colored) white wood glue.


    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
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  4. nandinga


    Nov 11, 2013
    Barcelona, Spain
    I've used a lot of glue to make sure they filled all the holes left my the chips that fell when removing the frets and later the fiberglass paste. It shrinks considerably!! so even though I used a lot, some of the holes reapeared... only a couple or three so I left it like that. Left it dry for about a month (a friend recomended, so the glue was dry enough to sand it).

    This is the result after sanding with the block, first with a 50, then an 80, and lastly with a 320:


    Then I've rubbed and soaked it in the wax+oil finish for about 5h:


    And then wiped it with cloth.

    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  5. nandinga


    Nov 11, 2013
    Barcelona, Spain
    And the polished look was this:


    Not perfect but... see the glue filling the holes left by the chips?


    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  6. nandinga


    Nov 11, 2013
    Barcelona, Spain
    And finally, FRANKENBASS was BORN!!



    There are a couple of things not ready: Need to buy a cap for the piezo's potenciometer. Also in the near future want to buy some new pots for the magnetic pups... but hey, it's alive already!!

    It sounds nice, but not as close to an upright as the U-Bass (strings core is still metallic). But I've fell in love with the fretless sound through the mags!! and now I love this bass as a son!! :hyper:
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  7. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Try some T-I Jazz flats.
  8. nandinga


    Nov 11, 2013
    Barcelona, Spain
    Hmm interesting. I was thinking of trying some nikel flats also. Will do! Thx!
  9. Nice job! Try some tape wounds. I use them on my fretless jazz bass and they sound much more like an upright.
  10. tedsalt

    tedsalt Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2010
    Kansas City
    Your defret looks good! I have one in progress ...

    Are those tape wounds on there now? If so and they're not working for the sound you're going for, try the TI flats or DR Legend flats. Also, not sure how your electronics are configured, but if you have a tone potentiometer, try a .1 uF capacitor. This should help roll off more of the treble.

    Another thing you might consider down the road is coating the fingerboard with superglue (similar to epoxy). Here's Dan Erlewine's (StewMac.com) link -
  11. nandinga


    Nov 11, 2013
    Barcelona, Spain
    Yup, tape wounds there. They are nice but will try other options in the future to experiment. Will take your advice then!

    The capacitor, yes. I still want to change the "passive side" of the electronics I have there. The Acoustiphonic has an input for your original passive circuitry (tone pot and all) so it is easy to install. I now have the Bartolinis connected to the old pots, and those to the acoustiphonic, which blends and balances that signal with the piezos in the bridge.

    The superglue finish is a surprise for me!! it looks nice in that bass... looks like laquer a bit right?

    Thx for the info!!
  12. Remus_Redbone


    Dec 27, 2010
    Western AR
    Too late for this project, but scoring the wood with a razor blade or X-acto knife down each side of each fret does wonders for limiting the number and and size of the pull-out chips at the slots.
  13. Lizarddan


    Mar 28, 2014
    Good job! Looks fantastic!