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ChrisF

So how hard is it to defret a bass ?

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I'm toying with the idea of defretting my bass guitar. I've watched several YouTube videos and as with most things bass related you get some people saying that its rocket science combined with voodoo and shouldn't be attempted...and others saying that it's a piece of cake. I'm guessing that like most things its somewhere inbetween.

So has anyone done it ?

Any advice or tips ?

Any specialised tools I need or can I do it with tools I already have ?

Where do I get the wood to fill the fret grooves ?

Is superglue really the best method of fitting the wood replacement  ?

 

Cheers in advance ....Chris 

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I have done it several times.

  • Be firm but gentle.
  • Fret nippers/pliers are essential to grab into and under the fret.  Normal pliers risk issues. Rub a soldering iron over the fret to heat it before pulling. But obv don't heat it red hot. 
  • eBay.  You're looking for thin vineer offcuts from quality woodworkers.
  • Yes.

NB.  Defretting is the easy part.  You then have to rub down the fingerboard- to curvature. Not impossible but scarier.  Then you have to drop the nut slots. Ditto. It's all doable. And good fun. And you won't f it up so long as you apply caution, attention and common sense.

Edited by lownote12
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Unless you're really good at this, chances are your bass will be worth a LOT less afterwards. 

If you're messing around with a cheap Jap import from the 80s and you don't really care then fair enough.

If the bass has any real value, you might want to start by looking at installing an aftermarket fretless neck and keeping the original, fretted neck available to be put back later.

 

Edited by Happy Jack
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Cheers fellas. I did look to go down the  new neck route,  but they are crazy expensive. 

 

 

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Jaco allegedly did it with a butter knife, so how hard can it be?

I wouldn't recommend using a butter knife to do it though, even if Jaco did it.

Edited by Baloney Balderdash
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In my experience, it’s easy to do, but hard to do well!

I did an old Yamaha I had lying around and it worked well enough, in that it doesn’t have any frets any more,  but I think to get a decent finish I’d have had to have been a lot more careful and/or skilled.

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1 hour ago, Jakester said:

Here’s the evidence to back up my assertions:

 

I'd say your effort looks pretty damn good to me. I'm still in two minds whether to do this or not, but seeing your pictures shows me that its definitely possible. 

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Thanks! If I were doing it again I’d make sure to heat the frets to melt any glue (to hopefully prevent tear outs), and possibly use plastic rather than maple veneer in the slots. 

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4 hours ago, ChrisF said:

I'm toying with the idea of defretting my bass guitar. I've watched several YouTube videos and as with most things bass related you get some people saying that its rocket science combined with voodoo and shouldn't be attempted...and others saying that it's a piece of cake. I'm guessing that like most things its somewhere inbetween.

So has anyone done it ?

Any advice or tips ?

Any specialised tools I need or can I do it with tools I already have ?

Where do I get the wood to fill the fret grooves ?

Is superglue really the best method of fitting the wood replacement  ?

 

Cheers in advance ....Chris 

I did it and it was a huge mistake as I utterly messed up a lovely white white maple p bass copy 

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I defretted my first bass ... got the frets out with a kitchen knife (no heat required), filled the slots with plastic wood and sanded it all flat. 

Disaster really; it had badly aligned plastic "mother or pearl" inlaid blocks and it always buzzed on certain notes.  Got an ebony board fitted by a proper guitar maker and it was just fine - and not that expensive really.

On a neck without inlays it can be done OK, though the real way to fill the fret grooves is by hammering in little slips of wood ( not easy) ; some kind of epoxy filler (plastic wood or resin) will do the job ... sand flat and then put a coat of epoxy varnish over the top.  The BEST way to do it is to have a new board fitted.

Due to the bad taste of most of humanity, removing the frets does indeed reduce the value ... stupid, as fretless basses are so much better.

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Hmmm interesting.  I will look into the cost of having a new board fitted. If I can find anyone who does it near me. 

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3 minutes ago, ChrisF said:

Hmmm interesting.  I will look into the cost of having a new board fitted. If I can find anyone who does it near me. 

There’s always the postal option ... 

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1 hour ago, Jakester said:

Thanks! If I were doing it again I’d make sure to heat the frets to melt any glue (to hopefully prevent tear outs), and possibly use plastic rather than maple veneer in the slots. 

This is what I did. I used hard white plastic to fill the slots, so I have a visual guide for intonation. It also helps in that the plastic won't compress as much as thin wood veneers (which helps to lessen the amount the neck will bow - the frets help keep it straight under tension and you don't want to run out of truss rod adjustment). It's very important to sand/smooth an accurate, even profile onto the fingerboard. You'll also need to file the nut slots as the action will be too high once the frets are removed.

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Every time I look at a for-sale ad of a de-fretted bass, my heart drops.

I've got a Jazz with a Mighty Mite fretless neck which is really good and cost me less than £100.

Cheaper than stuffing up a decent neck...

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You end up with the side dots in what, to me, are the wrong places. Plus unlined necks look nicer 🙂

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3 hours ago, Stub Mandrel said:

You end up with the side dots in what, to me, are the wrong places. Plus unlined necks look nicer 🙂

+10.  And you get far more of a buzz from playing unlined, increasingly learning to trust your ear rather than looking at the board.  Plus girls (and boys) look at you admiringly because you're not using L plates. 

Edited by lownote12
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2 hours ago, prowla said:

Every time I look at a for-sale ad of a de-fretted bass, my heart drops.

I've got a Jazz with a Mighty Mite fretless neck which is really good and cost me less than £100.

Cheaper than stuffing up a decent neck...

Wow..that's a great price...dont suppose you remember where you got it from  ?

 

Just looked them up..nice price, but I want the same head layout as I have now...as per pic below...although that isnt my bass in the pic.

Screenshot-20201017-124753-Chrome.jpg

Edited by ChrisF
Added picture

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3 hours ago, ChrisF said:

Wow..that's a great price...dont suppose you remember where you got it from  ?

 

Just looked them up..nice price, but I want the same head layout as I have now...as per pic below...although that isnt my bass in the pic.

Screenshot-20201017-124753-Chrome.jpg

I got it from someone at work (actually, it was £50 and included the tuners).

It lived on a Precision body for a while and then I swapped it to a Jazz; it's also got a Badass bridge, Geddy pickups and control panel, and a Hipshot eXtender/D-tuner.

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I de-fretted a USA vintage re-issue P bass in about 1991. I bought it from soho soundhouse, complete with an emg pickup and expander tone circuit.

Pulled the frets out at work, with pliers and filled the slots with a tube of plastic wood.

No sanding, it was just perfect. Used to use it on one song.

So I had it refretted and sold it. Utter madness, I was young and stupid, now I'm just stupid

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I bought a Westfield bass via eBay for less than £30, with the express intention of removing the frets.

I’ve always been happy using hand tools, I just used a small bradawl as a ‘drift’ to tap the end of each fret, then carefully eased them out of their slots.  If I was to do it again, I would definitely heat the frets to soften the glue, as I did have one wood flake.

Not being confident enough in my playing, I didn’t try to remove all traces of the fret lines, but filled them with plastic wood, and sanding down carefully.  I didn’t worry about the marker dots on the face, as the bass also had side markers.

To finish it off, I masked it up well, and sprayed the face with primer and then two coats of satin black from a rattle can.

Sorry I don’t have a better pic - I didn’t really get on with having no frets, so I sold it, again on eBay, for more than twice what I’d paid.......

1747FBF5-ADAA-4717-9334-9A444CDD31EF.png

Edited by Baxlin
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I've done it a couple of times - once quite  badly and once pretty well.

I heated the fret with a soldering iron and gently eased it up with a Stanley knife blade, before carefully removing it with regular pliers, once I had the fret clear enough from the neck. I then filled the slot with epoxy and sanded the board smooth. The second attempt was better as I went slower and put a little water on the fret and the board just either side of it. The fret came out easier and with no tang marks or tearouts. That was on an OLP MusicMan - it sounded great, but it finally convinced me that I'm no Mick Karn!

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