Fret Damage - please advise

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Benny, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. Benny

    Benny Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    863
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    My brother recently returned a guitar to me that he borrowed for a string of gigs. Unfortunately, there is some fret damage, and I'm not sure what to expect when I go to the repair shop.

    Here's the problem: On each of the 14 highest frets, in the area underneath the high E string, there are nicks in the fret. On the least nicked ones, it looks like heavy fret wear, while the more damaged ones look almost serrated, with several grooves deep enough to catch / scrape against the string during a bend. Our best guess is that he nicked up the frets with his slide (he uses a socket).

    Due to the extent of the damage (14 frets), my gut feeling is that I'll probably need a re-fret instead of polish/re-crown/leveling. I've never had a guitar fully re-fretted before, so I've got a few questions. The guitar is a custom shop les paul, circa 1998 / 1999, with a bound fretboard (my apologies for not having additional information about the guitar, as I am not the original owner)

    1) Is there a tone element to fret wire that I should be aware of?

    2) A lot of folks seem to enjoy the Dunlop 6100 fretwire. I do use moderately wide (whole step, sometimes 1.5 step) bends. Is there a decrease in playability with the taller wire, and/or is it generally a better idea to stick with wire that is closest as possible to the original?

    3) What's the word on stainless steel fretwire?

    4) Are there any notable luthiers/repair specialists in the Triad, NC area that I should take my business to?

    Thanks for your help folks, I really appreciate it
     
  2. bvmjethead

    bvmjethead Member

    Messages:
    140
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Location:
    Over the Hills & Far Away
    Moral of the story.......

    Don't loan any of your gear to anybody for any reason.
     
  3. Ayan

    Ayan Member

    Messages:
    793
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Benny, too bad you're forced into a refret, but all of my guitars have been refreted at least once, and in no case have I regreted it. The BEST thing you can do is to go try some guitars that have different kind of fret wire and see which one you favor. In my case, it's easy: the biggest and tallest one, please. :)

    There are tonal differences, but you will get a different answer depending upon who you ask. Also, depending on the particular fretwire dimensions, a refret may mean that your neck will become straighter than before. Not a problem, provided the person that does the the job tweaks the truss rod for you and he can compensate. If the neck become too straight and beyond "adjustment" via the truss rod, it's not the end of the world. Some heat can be applied to the fingerboard so that the glue that holds it to the neck can heat up such that the fretboard is allowed to slip a tad and get relief. Sounds more complicated than it really is.

    Dunlop 6100 is great, and if I were you, I wouldn't settle for the Stew Mac equivalent, for example. The Stew Mac wire is softer than the Dunlop one, so you will need to get the frets recrowned/dressed and even replaced more often. If, after the job is done, you can't get used to the high frets, you can have them dressed down a bit. In most cases, people adjust to large fretwire without problems and never look back. Bends become much easier, you just have to be more careful and avoid pressing down too hard on the strings, else you'll be sharp.

    Stainless steel is very good, the only problem is that not everyone has the right tools to work on it. So, if your repair person hasn't worked with SS wire before, he will be essentially learning with your guitar... not ideal.

    Sorry, I don't know of anyone in your area that I could recommedn to you. However, there have to be good people around.

    Good luck,

    Gil
     
  4. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

    Messages:
    13,080
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Location:
    Scotland
    I would take a small bet that it doesn't need a refret. Unless the damage is massive - which it doesn't sound like it from your description, if the nicks are only just deep enough to catch or scrape the string.

    Fret damage always looks far worse than it really is, for some reason. I would at least try a dress and re-crown before doing a refret. I think you'd be surprised how little reduction in height you need - probably not even detectable by feel.

    Yes, I know I haven't actually seen the damage - just experience from being a pro repairer. About 90% of "refrets" turn out to just need a dress, and in almost all cases the customer can't even tell the frets are any lower, unless the grooves looked like canyons in the first place.
     
  5. Benny

    Benny Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    863
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Thanks to everyone for your help. Now I think I'll be able to ask the appropriate questions to get accurate answers when I find a good person to take the guitar to.

    Thanks Again
     

Share This Page