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Making a Custom Fret

6/4/13

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Norlin Era Gibson Deluxe Les Paul Headstock and Logo Low Spot in twisted guitar neck
1. A Gibson.  I’m part way into refretting this Norlin era Les Paul.  It has a fairly pronounced twist in the fretboard that I’ve mostly sanded away. 2. The First Fret on the treble side of the neck is one of the two low spots in the fretboard that remain.  This low spot must be addressed if the new frets are to be their full height without fret buzz.
Low spot in twisted gibson neck after sanding fretboard straight .007" Low spot in fretboard
3. The Last Few Frets on the bass side of the neck is where the other low spot is located.  This end of the neck doesn’t pose a problem as the drop off won’t cause fret buzz and slightly higher action here won’t be all that noticeable since these notes are rarely played. 4. The Low Spot at the first fret is .007″ lower than the rest of the fretboard.  At this point, I could instal the new frets then sand all of the frets down until they are level with this low spot but that would make the frets feel low and take away from the lifespan of the new nickel silver frets.
almost sanding through mother of toilet seat pearloid gibson inlay modifying fret crown width
5. Thin Inlays.  This M.O.T.S. inlay is starting to disappear.  I could sand the rest of the twist out of the fretboard then replace any inlays that disappear, but I would rather not because cutting and installing inlays would add a lot of time to the job.  Also, sanding the fretboard too thin might make the neck unstable which could lead to further twisting in the future. 6. Making a Custom Fret is the option I prefer in this situation.  I am filing a much larger fret to the same width as the other frets I’ll be using to fret this neck.  The custom fret started out with a crown width of .110″ and crown height of .057″.
custom jumbo fret filed to width chamfer bottom of fret crown
7. The Crown Width of my custom fret is now .104″, the same as the rest of the frets. 8. Chamfering the Bottom Corner of the custom fret with a small mill file.
sand file marks from sides of custom fret custom jumbo fret
9. Sanding the custom fret gets rid of the file marks.  Next I’ll polish the fret with the shop’s buffing wheel to bring it to a high-shine. 10. The Custom Fret is .010″ taller than the stock fret but the same width.  The profile of the custom fret is noticeably different from the stock frets.  Next I’ll install, glue and level all of the frets.
recrowning custom jumbo fret with triangle file stew mack fret eraser is a labor intensive way to polish frets
11. Recrowning the custom fret to match the profile of the stock-frets is pretty quick with a triangle file that has its corners ground smooth. 12. Sanding the Crowning Marks from the sides of the custom fret with stew mac’s “fret erasers” is a laborious task.  Next I will hand sand all of the frets with 600, 1k and 2k grit sandpaper in my usual fashion followed by a polishing with the buffing wheels.
norlin era gibson les paul refretted with a custom made fret
13. A Custom Fret looks just like the other frets on this neck but is .007″ taller on the treble side than the other frets.  Making a custom fret saved me lots of time and allowed me to leave the rest of the frets at their full height.