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Fender Strat Maple Fretboard Refret

8/23/2013

 

***Click on Images to Enlarge

Fender Strat Maple Neck Headstock Fender Strat Maple Neck Remove Original Cyclovac Nut
1. A Fender Strat. This one has a maple neck with a satin urethane finish.  It’s time for some new frets.  This neck is fairly straight so I’ll refret over the existing finish. 2. Removing the Nut.  I cut through the finish around the nut with a razor blade then use a punch to knock it out of the neck sideways.
Fender Strat Maple Neck Pull Frets Fender Strat Maple Neck Bevel Fret Slots
3. Removing the Frets.  I use a pair of flush ground end nippers and a soldering gun.  The heat from the gun prevents the fretboard from chipping.  When I remove original frets from a vintage Fender neck, I knock them out sideways. 4. Beveling the Fret Slots prevents chipping when the new frets are installed or if they are removed in the future.
Fender Strat Maple Neck Prepare Jescar EVO Gold Fretwire with Tang Nippers Fender Strat Maple Neck Press Frets with Arbor Press
5. Preparing the Frets.  I bend the fretwire to match the radius of the fretboard, 9.5” in this case.  I cut each fret to rough length then remove the tang at the fret ends with tang nippers. 6. Pressing Frets.  I get the frets started with a dead-blow mallet, then use an arbor press with a radiused brass insert to fully seat them.
Fender Strat Maple Neck Trim Frets Flush to Side of Neck Fender Strat Maple Neck Cut Fret Ends Flush to side of neck
7. Trimming the Fret Ends.  I use large, flush ground end-nippers to trim the frets flush to the side of the neck.  Keeping the opening of the jaws parallel to the fretboard is a good way to avoid deforming the fret end. 8. Gluing Frets.  I use thin super glue with a whip tip on the bottle to apply a generous bead of c.a. to one side of the fret.  If it’s a vintage maple neck with a lacquer finish, it’s best to use wood glue as you press the frets in.
Fender Strat Maple Neck clean up excess super glue Fender Strat Maple Neck pressed frets are seated better than hammered in frets
9. Removing Excess Glue.  A small square of paper towel dampened with acetone removes the excess glue.  The acetone dulls the urethane finish but doesn’t cause streaking.  A quick hand-polishing restores the fretboard’s original appearance. 10. Fully Seated Frets.  Before the super glue begins to cure, I press the fret down with the arbor press, remove any squeeze out and hit the side of the fret with c.a. accelerator.  About 30 seconds after I hit the fret with the accelerator, I move on to the next fret.
Fender Strat Maple Neck bevel fret ends with file Fender Strat Maple Neck mask fretboard tape off fretboard
11. Filing the Bevel in the Fret Ends.  I start with a course file, then move to a single cut mill file followed by 400 grit PSA on a short flat sanding beam.  2k grit sandpaper wrapped around the short, flat sanding beam completes this step.  If the neck is a little warped from side to side I will use a long sanding beam in the neck jig to knock down any high spots. 12. Masking the Fretboard.  I use masking tape to protect the fretboard during the fret leveling, recrowning and polishing process.  I lint long lengths of tape on my shirt, then cut it into narrow strips that will fit between two frets.  I use 2 pieces of tape to cover the maple between two frets, butting each piece against its own fret.
Fender Strat Maple Neck adjust truss rod prior to fret leveling Fender Strat Maple Neck check neck with notched straightedge prior to fret leveling
13. Adjust Truss Rod.  I adjust the truss rod so the neck is as straight as possible.  This means I will remove the least amount of height from the new frets as necessary to get them level. 14. Notched Straight Edge. Since I did not sand straight and refinish the fretboard, I match the two lowest spots to each other.  Meaning, the two lowest spots have the same amount of space between them and the bottom of the notched straight-edge.
Fender Strat Maple Neck level evo gold frets in erlewine neck jig with radiused sanding beam Fender Strat Maple Neck recrown evo gold colored frets with diamond crowning file
15. Leveling the Frets.  A long, radiused sanding beam quickly levels the frets with 180 grit PSA sandpaper.  I follow this up with 400 grit PSA. 16. Recrowning the Frets.  I use a course, then fine diamond crowning files to remove the plateaus on the top of the frets caused by the leveling process.  If I had been able to sand the fretboard, I would have to do very little, if any, recrowning.
Fender Strat Maple Neck round over and dress fret ends with diamond offset crowning file Fender Strat Maple Neck sand top of fret crown with 2ooo grit sandpaper
17. Dressing the Fret Ends.  The 300 grit file rounds over the sharp edges of the frets. 18. Polishing the Fret Tops.  2,000 grit sandpaper wrapped around the short sanding beam gets rid of the 400 grit sanding marks.  I sand the frets across their length (from one side of the fretboard to the opposite).
Fender Strat Maple Neck sand frets Fender Strat Maple Neck polish frets with buffing arbor and menzerna compound
19. Sanding the Frets.  I use 600 and 1000 grit sandpaper to sand the frets.  First, I sand the fret ends with the paper wrapped around a piece of heavy card-stock sanding the length of the neck with each stroke.  Then I sand the rest of the frets in the same fashion.  Lastly, I wrap the sandpaper around my finger and sand the frets going the full length of the fretboard with each sanding stroke. 20. Buffing the Frets.  The buffing wheel with red Menzerna compound gets rid of the sanding marks in the frets.  White Menzerna buffing compound on the 2nd wheel brings the frets to a mirror shine.  I complete the refret by filling the small voids in the maple at each fret end with a little bit of wood filler.  I could also use super glue or lacquer burn in sticks but the wood filler looks fine and won’t damage the finish like c.a. or burn in sticks would.
Fender Strat Maple Neck refit original cyclovac nut Fender Strat Maple Neck new evo frets
21. The Nut.  I refit, polish and reglue the original nut if possible.  If the nut didn’t survive extraction, is badly worn or not tall enough to work with the new frets, I have no problem replacing the nut with the material of the customer’s choice.  This nut is the original cyclovac nut that came with the guitar. 22. New Frets.  These frets are Jescar’s EVO gold-colored fretwire.  They are harder than the factory’s nickel silver frets but not quite as hard as stainless steel frets.
Fender Strat Maple Neck gold frets Fender Strat Maple Neck smooth rounded fret ends
23. Original Finish.  It’s not always possible or advisable to keep the original finish.  In this case, I was able to keep the original finish with no serious loss in fret height or compromises to the original look of the finish. 24. Rounded and Smooth Fret Ends.