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Re: fretless, gratitude- recommended loop box?

Stewart Macdonald Guitar Shop Supply (www.stewmac.com) sells special fret pulling pliers.  If you check out the site, it's clear that you could grind a pair out of nippers fairly easily.  Stew Mac also has books on fretting techniques, which may be helpful.  Most of those will deal with the task of installing, leveling, and dressing frets, but they will also tell how to remove them without damaging anything.  One trick I've heard is to heat the fret with a soldering iron before you try to pull it out.

On our lined fretless basses, we slot them as if they would be fretted, and then fill the slots with thin strips of binding material.  You could use binding material, wood strips, or a shell material such as mother of pearl or abalone (difficult, but nice) to fill the slots.  Filling the slots with epoxy or wood dust would work, but it tends to look sloppy, especially on a maple neck.

I filed the frets off of my second bass.  It came out fine and is probably the easiest and safest way to make a fretless, but is doesn't seem that way while you're filing for hours on end.  If you do it this way, stop filing as soon as the fret is gone and then use a fingerboard leveling tool to finish.

The fret tang has little teeth that grab the sides of the slot, so when you pull a fret out it may make the slot jagged.  That's if you're careful.  If not, you'll pull up splinters of wood from around the top of the slot.  The key is to take your time and be gentle.  If you do get splintering, use cyanoacrylate to put the pieces back where they belong.

At any rate, if you're going to use a strip of material to fill the slot, you may want to use a gauged-width saw to even out the edges of the slot and to make the bottom of the slot flat instead of curved.  This will also give you a slot of a known width, so you can buy (or make) the appropriately sized filler strip.  You don't want to have to force the filler strip into the slots.  If you do, you may create a backbow in the neck.  After a filler strip is in, water-thin cyanoacrylate (super-glue) will wick into the slot when it is applied.

After the filler material is installed and the excess is sanded off, you will want to level the fingerboard.  To do this, first use the truss rod to dial a relief into the neck, and then use a long, flat sanding tool like those sold in Stew-Mac to sand the fingerboard level.  A radius sanding tool will help to put a nice, even radius on the neck.

I know I'm starting to sound like an advertisement for Stewart Macdonald, but sometimes having the right tools makes all the difference.  After you're done, you can sell the tools to another list member who wants to perform the operation.  Or maybe you could organize a group buy. :^)

Good luck,


Hans Lindauer
Engineer, Music Man R&D
Ernie Ball, Inc.

well, i must say i couldnt be happier with the responses to my question....
(how the &$&%$&%  do you remove frets correctly?)   if any of you have any
additional tidbit--  ANYTHING at all to contribute to this thread, please
feel free (off list if you so desire) --  most of you seem to think it
wouldnt be a huge deal, albiet risky --so, after stewing on it for a few
days, i think i'll attack the project.  i have a plan, and i'll let you
guys know when i get the frets off.  the only point of serious contention i
am at odds with is the technique for filing the the newly "formed" gaps in
the neck.   if you guys are split down the middle on this issue,
(glue/sawdust mixture or solid wood 'slivers'),  then i'll have to use my
own judgement....but i'll decide after i how the fret removal went.
thanks again, and also thanks to all of you who sent me your music.  you
sure know how to make a fellow looper feel welcome!