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Fender Strat: Rosewood Neck Refret

9/17/13

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fender stevie ray vaughan strat headstock nickel silver fret ware
1. A “Rosewood” Fender Neck.  This SRV strat neck has a Pau Ferro fretboard.  Pau ferro is not technically a species of rosewood but my refret process for pau ferro is the same process I use for Indian and Brazillian rosewood. 2. Fret Wear and a twist in the neck have made it impossible to set this neck up with low action without fret buzz.  I’ll remove the frets, sand the twist out of the fretboard and refret.  The customer wants these stock 6105 nickel frets replaced with stainless steel frets of the same size.
fender srv strat remove nut fender srv strat sand pau ferro fretboard in erlewine neck jig
3. Removing the Nut. I score the finish around the nut then push the nut out sideways with a hammer and punch. 4. A Surrogate Body.  I attach the neck to a surrogate body, reattach the nut without glue, string up the guitar and adjust the truss rod so the neck is as straight as possible then bolt the body to the neck jig and adjust the dial indicators to zero.
fender srv strat remove 6105 frets without chipping fretboard Fender SRV Strat sand fretboard with 12" radius stew mac aluminum sanding beam
5. Pulling the Frets.  I remove the frets with a soldering gun with a modified tip and a pair of modified end nippers.  The nippers lift the fret out and push down on the fretboard to prevent the wood from chipping.  I do this step in the neck jig. 6. Sanding the Fretboard.  I sand the fretboard with the neck under simulated string tension in the Erlewine neck jig.  This ensures that the new frets will be level and of their maximum possible height when the job is done.
Fender SRV Strat neck twist and fretboard tongue lift Fender SRV Strat spot plane neck with lie-nielsen standard angle bronze block plane
7. A Twisted Neck.  The 80 grit PSA sanding marks from the long radiused sanding beam reveal that the neck has a significant twist and a bit of fretboard tongue lift.  F.B.T.L. is guitar-nerd jargon for a neck that has a ski-jump at the body end of the neck. 8. Spot Planing.  The block plane has a cutting angle of 55 degrees.  I alternate between sanding with the long radiused sanding beam and spot planing.  When the radiused sanding beam leaves 80 grit sanding marks on the surfaces of the fretboard where each fret will seat I switch to 180 grit PSA.
Fender SRV Strat sand fretboard Fender SRV Strat prepare jescar 6105 stainless steel fretwire
9. Hand Sanding with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding belt eraser cleans up any low spots between the fret-seats missed by the radiused sanding beam and gets rid of the 180 grit marks.  I sand with 400 grit PSA on the radiused beam then finish up with 600 grit wrapped around the eraser being careful not to change the radius of the fretboard.  I lightly bevel the top of the fret slot walls to prevent chipping. 10. Preparing the Frets.  I bend the fretwire to match the radius of the fretboard then cut each fret to rough length.  I use tang nippers to trim the sub-surface part of the fret about 3/64” back from the edges of the fretboard.
stew mac tang nippers dont work very well on stainless steel fretwire Fender SRV Strat LMI fret tang filing tool works well with stainless steel frets
11. Conventional Tang Nippers often leave a nub of tang on the bottom of stainless steel frets.  If I don’t clean up the bottom of the fret the nubs will look a little funny when the job is done. 12. The LMI Fret-Tang Filing Tool is the perfect tool for removing the nub of tang from the bottom of the fret ends.  A carrier holds the fret firmly in place as I file off the nub with the micro-adjustable file.
Fender SRV Strat fret tang filing tool LMI results Fender SRV Strat dead blow fretting hammer
13. Ready for Fretting. 14. A Dead Blow Mallet gets each fret started.
Fender SRV Strat press frets with arbor Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret glue frets with super glue
15. An Arbor Press with a radiused brass insert firmly seats each fret. 16. Super Glue keeps the frets firmly seated.  First I oil the fretboard with a coat of boiled linseed oil to prevent the glue from staining the rosewood.  I apply a bead of thin super glue along one side of the fret.
Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret clean up excess glue with acetone Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret super glue accelerator
17. Acetone cleans up the excess super glue.  I use a small square of paper towel lightly dampened with acetone. 18. Clamping the Fret in the arbor press as the glue cures ensures the fret is properly seated.  If there is glue squeeze out, a couple of passes with the acetone-charged paper towel cleans up the c.a..  While clamping the fret, I apply super glue accelerator to shorten the cure time.
Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret cut fret ends flush to side of fretboard with flush ground end nippers Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret clean up glue squeeze out with chisel
19. Trimming the Fret Ends flush with the side of the fretboard.  Flush ground end nippers with the opening held parallel with the surface of the fretboard prevents the fret ends from becoming mauled and distorted. 20. A Sharp Chisel cleans up the remaining squeeze-out.
Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret bevel fret ends Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret beveled fret end
21. Beveling the Fret Ends with a course file.  I dial in the fret ends with a single cut mill file then clean up the file marks with 400 grit PSA on a short sanding beam then 2000 grit wrapped around the short sanding beam. 22. Beveled Fret End.  I sand until I’ve just barely hit the finish on the original bevel in the rosewood from the factory.  If I burn through the finish on this small bevel I don’t worry, because it won’t be noticeable after the final buffing of the frets and fretboard.
adjust truss rod Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret level frets
23. Adjusting the Truss Rod so the neck is straight.  A ratcheting off-set driver with a flat head bit is handy for this step. 24. Leveling the Frets.  I level the frets with 400 grit PSA on a long sanding beam under simulated string tension in the Erlewine neck jig.  I then sand the frets with 2000 grit sandpaper wrapped around a short sanding beam.  I sand parallel with the fret crowns (across the grain of the fretboard).
Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret fret crowning file Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret dressed fret end
25. Crowning File.  I use a 300 grit crowning file to dress the fret ends and spot crown the frets if/where necessary. 26. A Dressed Fret End.  You can see the spot crowning marks near the end of the fret crown.
Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret sand fret ends Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret sand fret crowns
27. Sanding the Frets.  I sand the fret ends at approximately a 45 degree angle with 600 grit sandpaper wrapped around a small piece of stiff card stock.  I repeatedly sand all of the fret-ends in one long stroke. 28. Sanding the Frets Cont.  If I have to spot crown some of the frets with the crowning file, I sand the fret crowns starting with 600 grit then move to 1000 grit sandpaper at the same time as I sand the fret ends with each grit.  If there is no spot crowning required, I start with 1k grit on the fret crowns and skip the 2k, but still start with 600 grit on the fret ends.
Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret buff frets with menzerna compound Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret polished frets
29. Buffing the Frets with the buffing arbor.  I use red Menzerna compound on the playing surface of the fretboard and frets, clean the frets with naptha, then use white Menzerna compound to buff the frets, fretboard and side of the neck. 30. Stainless Steel Frets.
Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret round and smooth fret ends
31. Polished Fret Ends. 32. Rounded Fret Ends.
Fender SRV Strat Stainless Steel Refret refit cyclovac nut
33. Refitted Cyclovac Nut.