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Gibson Archtop Refret

7/2/13

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Gibson Johnny Smith Headstock 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Low and Worn Frets
1. A Gibson Johnny Smith.  This one was built in 1969.  I’m going to refret this guitar with Jescar brand .104” x .047” nickel silver fretwire. 2. Low Frets and a slight twist in the neck make this guitar uncomfortable to play.    While the frets are removed, I will also sand the fretboard straight and to a consistent radius.  This will get rid of the twist so the new frets will all be as close to their full height as possible and the action can be lowered without fret buzz.
1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Adjust Truss Rod 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Notched Straightedge
3. Adjusting the Truss Rod prior to sanding the fretboard allows me to control the amount of relief that the fretboard has; when the refret is complete, I want the neck to exhibit some relief when the truss rod is completely loose. 4. A Notched Straightedge.  I’ve adjusted the truss rod so that the two lowest spots on the fretboard are the same distance from the notched straightedge.  The truss rod is barely engaged so I’ll tighten the truss rod just a little bit more which will make the neck convex.  I will then sand the fretboard straight which will give the neck more relief just in case the new frets compress the neck a little.
1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Remove Frets with Soldering Gun 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Resurface Fretboard with Radiused Sanding Beam
5. Removing the Frets with my flush ground end-nippers and a modified soldering gun allows me to quickly and safely remove the frets without chipping the brittle ebony fretboard.  I’ve removed the pickup for the refret.  When a pickup is present for a refret, I will shield it with mu-metal to prevent demagnification by the soldering gun. 6. Shaping the Fretboard under simulated string tension in the Erlewine neck jig allows me to quickly and accurately prepare the new fretboard for the new frets.  I’ll do most of the work with 80 grit PSA sandpaper attached to a long radiused sanding beam, then switch to 120 grit PSA.
 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Sand Fretboard with 600 Grit 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Bevel Fret Slots
7. Fine Tuning the Fretboard with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding belt-cleaner gets rid of the courser grit marks.  Next, I’ll sand the fretboard with 400 PSA on the radiused sanding beam followed up with 600 grit wrapped around the belt-cleaner. 8. Chamfering the Fret Slots will prevent the new frets from chipping the fretboard during both installation and potential future extraction.
 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Resaw Fretslots 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Hammer Frets with Deadblow Mallet
9. Resawing the Fret Slots with a small saw with a .018” kerf gets rid of the majority of the old glue or gunk that’s accumulated in the fret slots. I’ll follow up with a .022” kerfed saw. 10. Fretting starts with a mallet.  I’m only getting the first 9 or so frets started, then I’ll completely seat the remaining frets as best I can with the mallet.
 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Press Frets with Arbor Press 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Trim Fret Ends Flush
11. Pressing Frets with the arbor press ensures that the first 9 frets are completely seated.  While I’m at it, I’ll apply a coat of boiled linseed oil to the fretboard, then I’ll glue the first 9 frets one at a time with water-thin super glue.  I will use the press to clamp each fret as the glue cures. 12. Trimming the Fret Ends nearly flush to the side of the fretboard.  I’m using a thin metal shield as a spacer.
 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Press Frets with Drill Press  1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Neck Jig Neck Support for Press Frets
13. More Pressing.  I’ll glue and clamp the last 11 frets using the drill press while the guitar is strapped into the neck jig. 14. Neck Support is provided by a caul and the neck jig’s support rods.  The c-clamps are there to prevent the support rods from moving under the pressure of the drill press.
 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Neck Block Support for Press Frets with Drill Press in Neck Jig  1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Clean up Super Glue Squeeze Out with Lie Nielsen Bevel Edge Socket Chisel
15. Neck Block Support is provided by a spare height adjustable swivel top leveler screwed into a round nut.  Veritas sells a similar round nut for use with their bed bolts. 16. A Sharp Chisel makes quick work of any glue squeeze from the frets over the guitar’s body.
 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Bevel Fret Ends  1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Round Fret Ends with 300 Grit offset Diamond Crowning File
17. Beveling the Fret Ends with a course file, a regular mill file and 400 grit PSA on a short sanding beam.  I’m only focusing on a clean and flush transition from fret end to binding.  Next, I will level the frets under simulated string tension then sand the top of the fret ends flush with one another using a long sanding beam with 400 grit PSA. 18. Rounding the Fret Ends with a 300 grit crowning file is quick.  This is the same file I use for spot re-crowning the new frets if necessary.  Next I’ll sand the frets with 600 girt, 1000 grit and 2000 grit sandpaper.
 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Buff Frets with Menzerna Compound and Shop Fox Arbor  1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop refret
19. Polishing the Frets with the buffing wheels makes the frets smooth and shiny. 20. New Frets.
 1969 Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Refret Round and Smooth Fret Ends
21. All Done.