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How To: Fretless Bass Conversion

Our Facebook friend Ryan Pusiak posted a question on our Facebook page, asking about the best way to go about converting a fretted bass into a fretless one.

So we decided it was a great opportunity to feature the series from Jason Holder, one of the guys at The Musician’s Den in Evansville, Indiana. Jason really breaks down the process in great detail.

This is a BIG series, but really worth watching if you’re looking to do a project like this.

Part 1:

Jason describes what to look for in the neck quality and intonation, and starts pulling the frets.

Part 2:

Jason preps the open fret slots so he can begin creating the maple veneer to act as filler.

Part 3:

Jason demonstrates how to radius and trim the maple veneer fret markers.

Part 4:

Jason glues the maple veneer fret markers and trims them to get them flush with the neck.

Part 5:

Jason cleans up the fingerboard, reattaches the neck to the body, and levels it.

Part 6:

Jason completes the fingerboard prep.

Part 7:

Jason finishes up the fingerboard finish, and discusses what’s left.

Part 8:

Jason files the string nut, put on the strings, tuned it up and reviews the action.

Part 9:

Jason wraps up the work on the nut and glues it in place.

Part 10:

Congrats… you made it. In this last installment, Jason wraps up the project and hands the bass over to its owner.

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Comments:

Bass Battle says:

Awesome tutorial!!!

Clifton says:

I would like to try this, if I had the tools to work with! I have a Fender bass that I would to go Fretless with. :^D

felipe says:

I did this about 2 months ago on a pos acoustic bass I had (Laminated top) sounds pretty good, lots of damage from the fret metals, I suggest hammering horizontally instead of prying them, leaves nasty scars on the fretboard

I have a Washburn t24 which is a neck through that I had defretted. It playe like it was ment to be fretlass and I don’t know why Washburn didn’t make them this way from the get go.
I do feel that not finishing the rosewood with a better surface is a mistake. mine is coated with super thin CA (super glue) and the finger board is so responsive due to the ultra hard surface. The gloss look is also stunning. Roundwounds on a fretless,no thanks. modern flatwounds with alloys sound fantastic and are very expressive. actually I just put flatwounds on my fretted bass.

Max Vockner says:

Great how to series on a making a fretless bass. Not sure if i missed something or not but can you do this to a neck thru bass? I have a homebuilt neck thru bass that i would love to make fretless. I also enjoy the DIY challange and sense of accomplishment.
Thanks for the videos?

I did this years ago with a Peavey T-20 bass with a maple neck. Not really having alot of guitar repair tools and such at the time,I resorted to a more primative approach..lol After pulling all the frets and cleaning up and leveling the fretboard,I put a piece of masking tape along the lenght of the neck,extending above the edges of the fretboard. I then very carefully filled the slots left from the frets with Elmers glue,with the tape keeping it from running out the sides. After letting the glues dry,pulled off the tape,trimmed the excess with a razor blade,alittle sanding and steelwool touch up…and bingo!!! Came out great!! The Elmers dries to a darker shade than the maple,so I had distinct fret lines,and it played awesome!! Fretless conversion on a budget…lol

Bernard Dowd says:

I suggest go buy a fretless bass like I did, instead of going thru all that!