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Fretless Bass Conversion… Part II – Post Thumbnail

Fretless Bass Conversion… Part II

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As promised, here's an update on my progress with the fretless bass conversion:

First, the process of ripping out the frets went well. I used two soldering pencils to heat the fret wire and made sure they were really hot before pulling them out to reduce the amount of splintering/chipping. The fret lines near the headstock are perfect – nice and straight and no visible splintering, but farther down the neck, around the 18th fret onwards looks a little ugly, but still decent enough I suppose. It won't affect the playability of it since it will be filled with wood filler – it's only an esthetic flaw. I'm confident that next time it will be flawless for sure though. It took about a day to pull the frets out – all it takes is a lot of patience and very delicate sanding in the spaces afterwards. Oh, and did I mention a lot of patience? ;-)

Filling the spaces with wood filler was a slow process – I wanted to make sure they were filled in all the way, compacted, tight and with no air pockets anywhere, so I filled each fret space individually, little by little as I pushed down the filler into the spaces. There are definitely no air pockets anywhere, for sure. I took my time doing that too – about a whole day. Afterwards, I generously covered the fret lines with wood filler…

Chocolate-colored Wood Filler on the Rosewood Fretboard
Chocolate-colored Wood Filler on the Rosewood Fretboard

Here's a couple photos of the filled fretboard.


And here's the fretboard with the excess wood filler removed, sanded down, cleaned and lightly oiled:

Filled Fretless Rosewood Fingerboard – Undyed
Filled Fretless Rosewood Fingerboard – Undyed
Filled Fretless Rosewood Fingerboard – Undyed

Next, I shaved/sanded down the back of the neck and reshaped it. It's much thinner and faster-feeling now. :-) At this point, I re-assembled the bass and played it for a while to make sure there were no high spots on the fingerboard and to see if I needed to tweak anything else on the neck/fingerboard. The bass sounded great as a fretless, just as I thought it would, and it played exceptionally well too! It was actually really hard to put it down, but at the same time, I was excited about getting it finished too… (Of course, I recorded the bass before any modifications, and also at this point. Next time I record it, it will be with the thick body finish & paint removed, and the bass fully complete…)

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In Part III of this article (coming soon), I'll cover the process of sanding the body, dying the parts, decisions about the hardware and electronics, etc. I have a lot more photos to share too.

Update –

My mother and younger brother just looked at the fretboard (after dying) and they could hardly notice the chipped fret lines. "You have to look really close to see it." I suppose it's a combination of me being too much of a perfectionist, and the dye covering the "flaws" really well…

Yes indeed, with the fretboard dyed black now, you really have to be looking for it to notice it :-) Nice! Plus, once the epoxy is on, and the strings in the way, you probably won't even see it at all.