Thursday, January 27, 2011

Refretting a Maple Neck

My new client Ward came by the other day to see if i'd be willing to refret his 70's strat.
Normally, I'm more than enthusiastic about fret work... It's a Zen thing for me... just focus and work, one fret at a time and then you level and crown... (sigh) But when he pulled out the maple... yikes, it's a dipper... This is what I call the Fender necks that were finished AFTER the frets were applied. Effectively sealing them to the wood really well.. and making repairs and refrets a nightmare.

You can't really tell from the pics, but the wear is so low that just a level and crown is out of the question. Were gonna have to replace all the frets.

I start by removing the least damaged fret, in this case the last fret on the neck.
After scoring the finish against the fret with a razor blade, I used a soldering gun to heat up the fret just enough to get it to flex in the groove. Then with the fret pullers I gently removed the fret. in the pics you can see the build up of finish that's left behind. I'll need to gently scrape this off and build up the finish to match the surrounding areas before I even begin replacing frets. The new frets will need a stable surface to sit on. There must be even contact with the wood from end to end of the fret or you wind up with goop/sweat working it's way under the fret, or worse, buzzing down the road.

After removing the first fret I take measurements using my dial caliper to make sure I order matching fret material. A little larger (maybe one hundredth of an inch or so) is better than a little smaller. Now I'll go to my computer and order about four feet of fretwire. Four feet is exactly what you need for one guitar. You should be able to get about 26 frets if you cut right. I only need 22. That leaves room to screw up... Hah!

Now that i've ordered the fretwire, I can start the slow and careful process of removing the remainder of the frets.

Next I'll be repairing the fret grooves and prepping for installation.


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