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De-Fret Acoustic Bass


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Howdy! I have been absent a while.....busy working on my retirement goals so I can spend more time living and less time working. The main goal is to retire at 40.....we'll see, but I am darn close!

Anyhoo, I have another project.....I have an Olympia OD3CE in fine shape that is new but had a slight fretboard lift near the body. The repair is done and I have the action super freakin' LOW!! Just where I want it! I'd like to pull the frets now and convert it to fretless because (a) I want a fretless acoustic and (:D I have never seen an acoustic with this low of action that was still playable and I think it is ideal for this project.

What's the scoop on pulling frets? I have read some tutorials on it and I have the proper tools but I have never tackled this job before. Is it a simple task of "grab and pull" or are there any specific techniques you guys recommend that I should be following to make it easy and painless?

Any ideas and comments are welcom - Thanks!

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All i know is that you should probably stick the tip of a soldering iron on the fret for a few, to heat up the fret, and it will release oils in the wood of the fretboard, making it easier to pull. Other than that, i would guess, use some fret-pullers and start at one end of the fret and slowly rock back and forth until the fret is loose.

Im not sure about the second part, but im pretty sure about using an iron.

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some use an iron, but its not totally nessecery (reccomended tho) and some people put masking tape around the fret, so that if anychunks come out, you can glue them back in. Other than that its just going super slow and being super careful. I pulled frets with a knife and had no problem, with out using an iron even. but on a high end bass you should take all the precautions.

what are you going to fill it with? are you leaving lines as markers or just filling it over the same color as the fret board?

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Thanks for the info! I am also wondering what to fill the empty slots with. I'd like to contrast the rosewood board but I don't want to go with anything too light colored. Would a sawdust and epoxy mix work or would I be better off widening the slots and putting in a thin piece of wood. What I'd love to do is drop in some abalone! Is that feasible?

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yes, it is . but it would be a little hard i think. I just used wood filler with mine.

the abalone sounds nice, but remember not to make it too wide, with fretlesses its already kinnda hard to hit the notes on the upper part of the fret board right due to string tensions when you push the string down, so keep the line thin.

and also when you are sanding down if you put somthing like abalone in it, then be you should also think about your string height, if you go the perfect action you souldnt take much wood off.

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and also when you are sanding down if you put somthing like abalone in it, then be you should also think about your string height, if you go the perfect action you souldnt take much wood off.

Excellent point! Why do I want to screw with what is already perfect action???? I'll go with the wood filler as suggested.

Thanks!

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Maple veneer works very well, and that's what most builders use, if i recall.

If your action is already "perfect", removing the frets is going to change all that. In my experience with my fretless bass, the lower the action, the better. You want a tiny little bit of 'buzz' on the fretboard to give you that fretless growl. You may have to lower your bridge saddle and/or adjust your truss rod to get the right amount of neck relief. On a bolt-on bass, i also use shims to set the neck angle just right, but that's obviously a little more of an issue on an acoustic.

On a rosewood board, i would highly recommend going with either flatwound or tape-wound strings, as roundwound will chew up a rosewood board really quickly.

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Thanks DW. The nut is set pretty good and I expect a minor adjustment in the saddle, but I'm hoping I won't need it. I guess we'll see when the frets are gone.....I was going to start on it today but it looks like I just won a fretless Hohner (Bartell) semi-hollow bass on ebay!! :D Maybe I'll wait until that shows up and see what I want to do from there.

The collection grows again............ :D:DB)

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Pulling the frets is fairly painless. I use a soldering iron and fret pullers(go to sears and get a small pair of end cutters and grind them so the end is flat). They work great and you can go get new ones if you mess up the grinding process because they're craftsman.

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