Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
The Strange World of Dr Fretlove: Don't Fret.
Okay, so you’ve had your frets levelled and re-profiled a couple of times and now they’re worn again. It’s time for a re-fret.
If you’re primarily a rhythm player or old-school jazzer, you possibly don’t indulge in string-bending and can probably get away with quite low frets – Andy Summers had an entirely fretless guitar made for him by Hamer, back in the 80’s. However, most players prefer sufficient height to enable their digits to get alongside the strings, in order to push them up a couple of semi-tones.
The first job is to get the old frets out cleanly and then prepare the fingerboard for the new frets. Most necks will need ‘truing-up’. Creating a level playing field, prior to installing new frets, is absolutely essential, otherwise any inconsistency in height levels will have to be ironed out, post re-fret, at the expense of the frets themselves. Likewise, long fingernails will have caused gouge marks in the fingerboard’s surface so, whenever possible, this also should be sorted and an umblemished fingerboard surface restored.
These days there’s a wide choice of different fret profiles available, to suit many different tastes. Apart from vintage restorations, I usually select a ‘working wire’ – one that is tall enough to allow several level/re-profile jobs in its lifetime. It’s a bit like fitting tyres to a car; their wear is dependent on the amount of use they receive. The installation of special frets is sometimes used as a means of correcting problem necks. The technique of compression fretting makes use of extra wide fret tangs, which act as a sort of wedge to straighten and stabilise a bowed neck.
Some Fender instruments, with non-fingerboard maple necks, must have their lacquer removed, prior to new frets being fitted. Failure to do this results in frets that aren’t properly seated but merely resting on top of the original layer of lacquer. The frets must be part of the neck and not one step removed from it.
Whatever the re-fret you choose, the job should also include a thorough set-up because, with the change of frets, the relevant playing parameters will all have changed.
Dr Fretlove is available in-store at Red Dog Music if you need your guitar fixed up and looking sharp. Even if you just want to ask him a question, that’s cool too.