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Fret Removal Pictorial the shortcut to the Village

#1 User is offline   transient 

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  Posted 11 December 2005 - 09:47 AM

Well, as a part of the Unfrettler's Guide to Defret movement, here's my contribution. Feel free to do suggestions/corrections, add information, criticize, whatever :) The pics were taken in July, but the text is fresh.



Episode I - removing the frets

This is our victim. If this will be your first defret, it's probably a good idea to work on a cheap guitar. This is my precious custom-made guitar, and my 3rd defret job:
Posted Image
Before we start, keep in mind that this is how i worked on this particular guitar. Some things can be done in different ways.


These are the tools we'll be using for the first episode:
Posted Image
A regular soldering iron and StewMac fret puller pliers (#1637). I strongly recommend this particular tool, because other similar tools don't have small enough jaw edges - they can't grab the frets. I know it's expensive, but the StewMac tool makes the process so much easier and faster, it's worth it. You might be able to get it from somewhere else though, the pliers are actually Channellock brand, #32, made in Germany.


Here we go.
Posted Image
I first heat the fret a few seconds (depends on how hot your iron is) using the soldering iron. The heat softens the glue which holds the fret in place. Even if there's no glue, heating helps as the fret expands and pushes itself out a little. Don't let the iron touch the wood, and don't heat the frets for too long - or your fingerboard will start to smoke ;)


When the fret is hot enough, grab the edge of the fret using the pliers, and pull it slowly.
Posted Image
You don't take the whole fret out at a single move, you start on the edge and walk it out of the slot. Be careful not to remove chips from the fingerboard. And if big chips get removed, just put them in their original place and try to keep them there until the slot filling process.


Removing your first fret might take some time but you'll get faster as you get the hang of it. Being experienced, the whole process took me less than half an hour. This is how the fingerboard looks with all the frets removed:
Posted Image
As you see, a rather large chip got removed, but like i said, no problem as long as you don't lose it. And if you look carefully, you'll also see that some of the inlay dots are buried within their slots. This happened slowly over the years, and i'll be fixing it once the defret is done - the fingerboard has to be flat and smooth for the fretless to be problem-free.


Does this look familiar?
Posted Image


Next, we'll be filling the slots.

...
emre
No guitars were harmed during the collection of the information presented in this post.
Can't say the same thing for frets though...
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#2 User is offline   jahloon 

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 10:31 AM

That guitar does remind me of someone; Timucin Sahin same Luthier (VIC).

Many thanks ofr these pics Emre, lots of people will benefit.

Jah
Play the blues guitar with your soul, but play the fretless guitar with your spirit.
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#3 User is offline   transient 

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 12:28 PM

Yeah it's the same luthier. I had this guitar custom-made about 7 years ago. I don't think he's building anymore guitars though. But not a problem, there's another luthier here who builds wonderful guitars. I plan on having a custom fretless built once i start earning money regularly.

.
e
No guitars were harmed during the collection of the information presented in this post.
Can't say the same thing for frets though...
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#4 User is offline   rob 

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 12:53 PM

transient, on Dec 11 2005, 09:47 AM, said:

Well, as a part of the Unfrettler's Guide to Defret movement, here's my contribution. Feel free to do suggestions/corrections, add information, criticize, whatever ;) The pics were taken in July, but the text is fresh.

Thanks Emre. This will be a great help to people.

Quote

...
These are the tools we'll be using for the first episode:

A regular soldering iron and StewMac fret puller pliers (#1637). I strongly recommend this particular tool, because other similar tools don't have small enough jaw edges - they can't grab the frets. I know it's expensive, but the StewMac tool makes the process so much easier and faster, it's worth it. You might be able to get it from somewhere else though, the pliers are actually Channellock brand, #32, made in Germany.

One note: Stewmac has the Channellock tool precision ground so that the face is flat. If you want to get the tool somewhere else, you will either need to get it ground or find someone else doing it. This tool is worth the money!

Quote

...
Does this look familiar?
Posted Image

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

My 5 year old looked up from playing when I was reading this and said

"Hey! That's the guitar CD!"

Rob
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#5 User is offline   transient 

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 01:02 PM

Thanks for the note Rob, didn't know that.

rob, on Dec 11 2005, 03:53 PM, said:

My 5 year old...
<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Amazing ;)

.
e
No guitars were harmed during the collection of the information presented in this post.
Can't say the same thing for frets though...
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#6 User is offline   Vassilis 

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 03:58 PM

Well done Emre! ;) Thank you for the defretting tutorial! :)
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#7 User is offline   transient 

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 10:49 PM

You're welcome Vassilis :D



Episode II - filling the slots

The tools we'll be using for this part are: epoxy, a needle and toothpicks. You'll also need small disposable containers to mix the epoxy. I use big plastic bottle-lids for this purpose.

I'll be using clear/transparent epoxy since i want the fret lines to be hardly visible. I only could find 5-min epoxy, it would be better if you can get a 15-30min one.
Posted Image



Before i start filling the slots, i clean them using a needle.
Posted Image



Now we'll get the epoxy ready. Pour equal amounts of the two parts into a small disposable container, and mix thoroughly. If you don't mix well, it won't become hard enough. Since my epoxy is 5-min, i'll prepare a small mixture and quickly fill a few slots within 5 minutes, then prepare another mixture and so on. I prepare each mixture in a new container, since i don't want the drying epoxy in an old container to mess with the fresh epoxy. I use toothpicks to mix and apply the epoxy. I don't plan to cover the whole fingerboard surface, just the slots, so toothpicks work fine.
Posted Image



Since epoxy is a hi-density liquid, it takes some time for it to flow into the slots. Here you see the fingerboard in about 20-30 minutes (may vary for various kinds of epoxy) after the filling.
Posted Image
The epoxy has flown into the slots, and as you see, it requires some more epoxy to fill some of the slots completely. I apply additional epoxy to these slots - till all the slots look "full".


After this is done, leave the epoxy to dry for 2 days or so. The guitar should be laid horizontally for at least the first few hours.


Next, we'll sand the fingerboard.


...
emre
No guitars were harmed during the collection of the information presented in this post.
Can't say the same thing for frets though...
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#8 User is offline   transient 

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 12:35 PM

Episode III - the return of the sanding block


This is how blurry the fingerboard looks once the epoxy has dried :P
Posted Image
Note that the nut is removed from the guitar before the sanding. In order to remove it, i use a screwdriver and a hammer to "tap" it.


These are the tools i'll be using:
Posted Image
Wooden sanding block, various grits of sandpaper (from 80 to 300) and double-sided tape. If you want a radiused fingerboard, it's best to have the right tool - a StewMac radiused sanding block that is. I'll be using one with a 20" radius. However, if you're fine with a flat fingerboard, you can use some other block, but make sure the surface is perfectly flat.


In order to attach the sandpaper to the sanding block, i first stick double-sided tape to the block, as seen in this pic:
Posted Image
Then i cut the sandpaper to appropriate size and stick it to the block.


Here the sandpaper is attached to the block. And as you see, i have masked the guitar body around the neck, using masking tape. Otherwise you may scratch the guitar body while sanding.
Posted Image
Start sanding with the lowest grit, and use increasing grits as you progress. I used 80, 100, 150, 180, 220, 300 - or something like that. When wooddust builds up on the sandpaper, you can hit it lightly using a round object to clean it. But if there's too much wooddust, it's best to replace it with a new one before continuing.


This is my sanding technique. I support the neck with my left hand while sanding with the right.
Posted Image
It might be harmful to the neck if not supported, as a lot of pressure is applied while sanding.


Here you see the fingerboard after some more sanding. It started to look smooth.
Posted Image
But i have to fix the "inlay-dots-buried-in-the-fingerboard" issue before progressing any further. There are 4 dots with this problem, and you can (not) see all of them in this pic.


Here's a close-up showing 2 of the buried dots.
Posted Image
And as you see, a little piece of epoxy filling got removed during the sanding.


To fix the dots, i'll glue new ones over them.
Posted Image
I ordered inlay dots of the same size from StewMac.


I didn't take pics during the process as it's not a defret-related issue, but this is what i did:
I glued new dots over the 4 buried ones using epoxy - i now had 4 "bumpy" dots. After the epoxy dried, i filed them till they were lowered to fingerboard level, making them ready for sanding. This is how one of them looked after the filing:
Posted Image


The forum does not allow me to post more than 10 pics, so the episode continues below...

...
emre
No guitars were harmed during the collection of the information presented in this post.
Can't say the same thing for frets though...
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#9 User is offline   transient 

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 12:41 PM

...continued...

It was the time to refill the little spots where the epoxy got removed while sanding. And while i was about to start working on that, i discovered that the epoxy on some spots had not hardened at all, probably because i didn't mix it well enough :P

I identified those spots using a needle. If you can easily push the needle in a slot, you've found a "soft spot". I used the needle on every single slot to find them all. A tip: if the epoxy filling looks white-ish, that's where it's soft. Here's a blurry pic after the needle process:
Posted Image


After refilling those spots, i left the epoxy to dry for another two days, then the final sanding was done. Here's how it looks:
Posted Image



Before we call it finished, we have to do a few more things, starting with lowering the nut. I place a sandpaper on a flat surface and rub the bottom of the nut on the sandpaper:
Posted Image
Try the nut on the guitar (with the strings on) after sanding for a while to make sure that you don't over-sand it.

Ideally, strings should be very close to the fingerboard at the nut, even less than 1mm (~0.04 inches). But you have to be careful, a little too low and there will be buzzing. After the nut height is OK, glue it in place. I try not to use a strong glue (like epoxy or superglue) for this purpose, as it might make things difficult in case you need to remove it again in the future.


Once it's done, install strings on the guitar and tune to pitch. It's a common practice to use heavy strings (like 011-012) on a fretless, so you may want to tune the guitar down to D (or whatever). I prefer flatwound strings on a fretless, but they sound darker than roundwounds, so it's a personal preference.


Now is the time to check the straightness of the neck. With the strings tuned to pitch, if the neck isn't straight (if it bends under the string pressure), loosen the strings and tighten the truss-rod a little. Do not rotate the truss rod more than a quarter-turn at once, and wait for at least 5-10 minutes for the wood to get used to the new setting. Then re-tune the strings and check the straightness again. Repeat the whole process till the neck is completely straight.


Next we adjust the action (bridge height). The action can be set very low on a fretless, and you should set it low as it improves sustain and tone. There should be slight but good-sounding buzzing that's spread evenly across the fingerboard. If set too low, there might be a disturbing kind of buzzing at some spots (if your fingerboard isn't perfectly smooth, you may have this problem even with a high-action).

As a guide, the current action on my guitar is about 2mm (0.08 inches) high at the 12th fret. But it's not uncommon to have it around 5mm (0.2 inches) high or so. This too is personal, adjust as you like.


Lastly, check if the intonation is set properly. It's quite possible that you may need to re-adjust it. I assume that you know how to do it.


And that's about it, enjoy your new instrument.


Here are the final shots of the guitar:
Posted Image
Posted Image




So guys, as i said, feel free to correct any mistakes, add information or let me know if i missed something.


...
emre
No guitars were harmed during the collection of the information presented in this post.
Can't say the same thing for frets though...
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#10 User is offline   jahloon 

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Posted 28 December 2005 - 08:15 AM

Emre's above article is now being migrated to the main Unfretted website, find it under the new "Fretless Projects" page or look for the link in the Whispers section at the bottom of every page.

J
Play the blues guitar with your soul, but play the fretless guitar with your spirit.
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Posted 29 December 2005 - 12:31 AM

Very nice..............I will look over it later tonight in full, Thanks...........MV
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#12 User is offline   transient 

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 09:44 AM

Nice :whistling:

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e
No guitars were harmed during the collection of the information presented in this post.
Can't say the same thing for frets though...
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#13 User is offline   jahloon 

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 06:50 PM

transient, on Dec 29 2005, 09:44 AM, said:


BTW it is now in four episodes!

Jah
Play the blues guitar with your soul, but play the fretless guitar with your spirit.
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#14 User is offline   transient 

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 11:24 AM

The first three must have sold very well that you're adding a sequel :angry:

But seriously, the third one was a bit long, you divided it didn't ya?

.
e
No guitars were harmed during the collection of the information presented in this post.
Can't say the same thing for frets though...
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#15 User is offline   jahloon 

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 12:30 PM

transient, on Dec 30 2005, 11:24 AM, said:

The first three must have sold very well that you're adding a sequel :angry:

But seriously, the third one was a bit long, you divided it didn't ya?

.
e
<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Ah, you spotted the logic.

Anyway it is now posted in four glorious episodes on Unfretted.

Many Thanks,

Jeff
Play the blues guitar with your soul, but play the fretless guitar with your spirit.
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