Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Convert To Fretless: Q&A

Discussion in 'The BASS Place' started by PumpJockey, Jun 22, 2018.

  1. PumpJockey

    PumpJockey Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Oct 12, 2010
    New Joisey
    Anyone ever taken a less expensive bass in their collection, removed the frets and played it as a fretless?

    Did you fill in the fret slots? Did you gloss up the fretboard (that I have seen in some conversions)?

    Was the existing fretboard even enough or did you have to sand/polish it to remove bumps?

    Ever done it to a short scale?

    I'm considering it, even though there are inexpensive fretless basses out there nowadays, which prompts a final question: anyone own either a Squier VM fretless or an Ibanez fretless. I am constantly astonished at the quality of these.

  2. Matt G

    Matt G Tele-Holic

    Dec 6, 2012
    Given how inexpensive the Squier fretless basses are -- and how good -- I wouldn't dream of wrecking a serviceable standard neck by pulling the frets. I'd buy a second (fretless) neck before I did that. Although that's probably more expensive than a Squier. . . .
    Jhengsman likes this.
  3. Chanan

    Chanan Tele-Meister

    Mar 20, 2015
    New York

    Was this the impetus for your question or just serendipitous?
  4. PumpJockey

    PumpJockey Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Oct 12, 2010
    New Joisey
    Yep. That's the inspiration. But I now think that Matt G. above has a better idea.
  5. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    I took a Fender Squier P-Bass Special (made in China, P-Bass body with split P-style pickup and Jazz bridge pickup) and carefully pulled the frets, then filled in slots with superglue. When it was all dry, I used a single-edge razor blade to scrape the fingerboard level. It was a HECK of lot of work...I wasn't doing it out of financial need, just as an interesting project. I put flatwounds on, of course, and it played and sounded very good. I quit playing much bass soon after, and like someone said, fretless Squiers and replacement necks are much cheaper now and a whole lot less work. Oh, and since I don't like messin' with the Jazz bass dual volume knobs, I wired it with one volume, one tone, and a toggle to switch between pickups. The guy I eventually sold it to seemed to really dig it!
  6. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Lubbock, TX
    For a dark wood board, I would use maple strips to fill the slots. I like the idea of in-board markers. For maple, maybe I would use ebony or rosewood.
    It is a job that serves to be done well, imho.
  7. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    You could use some binding to fill the slots.
    I've seen one guitar converted to slide that used zip ties to fill the slots.
  8. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

    May 9, 2008
    Back in High School, a friend who played Bass and Piano very well pulled all the frets out of his Japanese copy of an EB-3. No sanding, no filling, just yanked the frets. It sounded very good. I rather like a normal fretless neck with no markers, but that '70s Japanese bass sounded excellent.
  9. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Dec 29, 2010
    I've done it many times. I've never done a short scale bass, but there's no reason you couldn't.

    I usually pull the frets, and glue strips of brass in the slots with epoxy. I've also just ground the tops off the frets and blended the remaining tangs into the fretboard. That method works, but it's a pain. I've also seen one that had the fret slots filled with JB Weld, it actually looked pretty darned good. Just about anything that fits can be used to fill the slots.

    The fingerboard doesn't have to be glass smooth. It's going to get dinged up anyway. You're also going to find that you'll need to shorten the nut a bit.
    Mr Green Genes likes this.
  10. es335dg

    es335dg TDPRI Member

    Apr 25, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I've made a number of fretless guitars. For the slots, I've used white plastic strips I buy at the model store, or I use rosewood or bone dust and superglue.

    I sand the neck in increasingly fine grades as high as 2000. The fretboard ends up super smooth and glassy. Throw some flatwounds on there, dial in a little gain, and get your microtone on!
    Mr Green Genes and Zepfan like this.
  11. Mr Green Genes

    Mr Green Genes Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 23, 2016

    Yup. Nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be.

    Fretless MiKro 1 scaled.jpg MiKro Bone Nut 01 scaled.jpg MiKro Headstock Bone Nut 1 scaled.jpg
    emisilly, Bassman8 and Grant Austin like this.
  12. Mr Green Genes

    Mr Green Genes Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 23, 2016

    Since I removed the dot markers, I was thinking about using a different color inlay for the "dotted" frets- e.g. maple on the rosewood board, with purple heart in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th slots.

    I ended up just using maple on all of them, and repositioning the side dots so they line up with the fret lines instead of being positioned between them.

    If I were doing it again, I would probably use maple on a rosewood or ebony board, or rosewood or ebony on a maple board, and just use a different color (purple heart or mahogany) for the octave fret line.

    I like the look of a plain, un-lined board, but having the fret lines does make it easier (for me) to play.

    Wally likes this.
  13. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 2, 2010
    Not a popular opinion but I love fretless bass and hate filled fret slots.

    Lines where the frets would be is like a kids fiddle with tape where their fingers are supposed to go.

    Heavy use puts a good deal of wear on the fingerboard, and I'd prefer to not have double end grain right where every note is fretted, making the wood more prone to wear and chipping.
    A RW board will wear pretty quickly even if the grain is not cut at every critical pressure point.

    Again, not a popular opinion!
    Mr Green Genes likes this.
  14. schmee

    schmee Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2003
    Fill the slots or youre gonna have a warped neck
    emisilly, Bassman8 and Mr Green Genes like this.
  15. ebb soul

    ebb soul Poster Extraordinaire

    Jun 7, 2016
    Smyrna georgia
    I've had a SR400 fretless Ibby for longer than what seems to be my age.
  16. grandstick

    grandstick Tele-Holic

    Oct 10, 2010
    Virginia, US
    I have had a Squier Jazz bass that I picked up really cheap a couple of years ago. I've had a Peavey Foundation fretless for over 20 years. This has the lined fingerboard, but I have been wanting an unlined bass. So I ordered a Mighty Mite fretless neck, stained and finished it with TruOil, then transfered the hardware from the original Squier neck to this new one.
    emisilly and telemnemonics like this.
  17. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

    I was given an electric/acoustic guitar that had no frets.... I thought about digging the filler out and refretting it for a kid.... or just use it for slide guitar.

    then I found whatever they used to fill the slots was pretty permanent.... and it's bound, I'd have to cut new slots through the edge binding...

    I thought a fretless acoustic bass might be a good project,, a 3 stringer maybe?....beef up under the back end for a longer scale at the new bridge point...

    Acoustic No Frets.JPG
  18. Mr Green Genes

    Mr Green Genes Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 23, 2016
    I think an ebony fingerboard (unlined) is the best look for a fretless, and I may very well end up replacing the lined rosewood 'board on mine eventually. If it's fretless, it should look fretless.

    Mine was converted- I removed the frets from the existing board. I thought about using rosewood for the inlays, but I decided that the inlays should either match, or they should contrast. Since the inlay strips run perpendicular to the grain, there's really no way to match the grain, so I decided that they should contrast.

    Having never played a fretless bass, I was also nervous about my fingering being less than precise, and believed that I'd have to practice for weeks with a chromatic tuner to re-learn the proper fingering. Turns out it wasn't an issue at all.

    I used epoxy resins to inlay the maple, which are harder than the rosewood, and I only use Chromes or tapes. I've always used vibrato parallel to the strings, rather than perpendicular, and since there's no need to bend on a fretless instrument, I'm not too concerned about board wear. Of course, if the finger board does wear out, it gives me an excuse to replace it with an unlined ebony board, which I think would look really good with the mahogany body. I'm good either way.
    telemnemonics likes this.
  19. adamsappel

    adamsappel Tele-Meister

    Jun 8, 2008
    I had been planning to do this to my Squier Vintage Modified Short-Scale Jaguar, but then I stopped into a local music store while on vacation and they gave me a too-good-to-pass-up trade-in towards a fretless Ibanez SR370. I had to step up to long-scale, but I don't have the hassle or expense of conversion, and it's a better-sounding bass. I like fretless a lot more than I anticipated, so I'm open to do it if I get another SVMSSJ.
  20. adamsappel

    adamsappel Tele-Meister

    Jun 8, 2008
    double post
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
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