Level and dress, partial or full refret?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Barnzy, Feb 6, 2012.

  1. Barnzy

    Barnzy Member

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    How do you know which procedure is needed for your guitar? I'm wondering because my PRS has some pitting in the first few frets. It's from '95 and has never had fretwork done. Unfortunately, PRS will not supply any proprietary fret wire, so I either have to level and dress the frets, or do a full refret with different wire. If I know how to decide then I'll be better informed about which way to go.
    Thanks,
    Barnzy
     
  2. doublee

    doublee Member

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    I am coming up on this with a Tele and am thinking its cheaper just to get a new neck from USACG for example, screw it on and sell that one at a loss...
     
  3. mikeylikesit

    mikeylikesit Member

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    Are you having issues with buzzing or fretting out? Are you planning to do the work yourself? If not, you really need to find a reputable repair person. They should be able to quickly tell you if it needs a refret or can be leveled and crowned. Unless the original frets were extremely low and the wear severe a level and recrown should put you right. My number one Les Paul Custom needed a refret after six years of play. But the factory frets were very, very low to begin with and there just wasn't anything to work with.
     
  4. Barnzy

    Barnzy Member

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    Not having any playing issues that I am aware of...but to be honest, I don't always notice playing issues unless my setup is really bad! (...years of playing bad setups makes you too flexible here). I can see the pitting in the first 7 frets. There seems to be plenty of height left under the deepest pits though. I do not do my own fretwork. I had one guy who did a bad job once and now I have found a guy who does a great job and he's who I'll use. I just want to know how one decides for my own general knowledge. In the end, my tech will be the deciding factor, but being an educated guitar owner always helps.
     
  5. blong

    blong Member

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    It takes a few things to decide if you need a level, partial, or total refret. Many times I find a guitar needs a level if it has plenty of fret left. I'm willing to bet, being the owner of 5 PRSi, and having done more fret jobs/levels than just a few, it probably needs a level. If you are not experiencing any fretting out on those pitted frets, then a level will be fine, if the tech is conservative and takes off only what needs to be removed.

    Bob
     
  6. Barnzy

    Barnzy Member

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    Thanks Bob,
    I was thinking that this is the way to go as well, but fretwork is not my forte. My tech will ultimately decide, but I hope for a levelling this time, and then a full refret down the road, since a partial refret is out of the question.
    Barnzy
     
  7. nrandall85

    nrandall85 Member

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    You don't have much to lose (other than a little fret height) by going for the level first.

    I've finally managed to teach myself how to do it fairly well, yet I'll still send 'em out if they're really pitted as you describe. It's pretty amazing how little fret material usually ends up getting taken off by a careful experienced hand.

    I usually like to play frets until they're practically painted on anyways. As long as they're leveled and crowned well, the height is something I can usually adjust to.
     
  8. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    whereas i hate low frets!

    sometimes i'll level for folks who are more concerned with avoiding any buzz than they are with fret size (like acoustic and bass players), but i usually recommend for electric players who like their frets tall to play the thing until they can't deal with the buzz or the setup required to get around the buzz, then re-fret it.

    this can be more economical, as a leveling ends up being only a temporary solution if the results are frets that are too low for the player. why pay for a level and then a re-fret soon after, when you could just pay for the re-fret?

    (i also recommend stainless frets, to avoid this problem in the future!)
     
  9. bunny

    bunny Member

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    a bluesman's tele - refret
    a cowboy's dread - partial refret
    a shreder's axe - level & dress
     
  10. GtrDr

    GtrDr Member

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    PRS has proprietary fretwire? I'ts available. I'm guessing a dress will suffice for now (unless you use a capo) If you ever do get a re fret, go stainless. I've got it down within an hour of nickle silver frets. They last forever.
     
  11. Rob Sharer

    Rob Sharer Muso-Luthier

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    ....Or do you?

    If it's only the first few frets that have significant damage, the most conservative thing to do is a partial refret. Just leveling the frets to remove the wear will necessarily involve grinding down frets further downstream. Innocent and undamaged, they don't deserve it!

    Unless you happen to want all of the frets to have a lower, flatter profile, go for the partial refret.



    Rob
     
  12. nrandall85

    nrandall85 Member

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    Leveling frets, unless you're a caveman and have no idea what you're doing, should only remove about the thickness of a sheet of paper from the tops of the frets.

    The profile, once properly crowned, also does not change.
     
  13. nateclark

    nateclark Member

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    Necks tend to have a little bit of a twist or rise at the body end of a neck (a bit of pivoting where the neck gets fat by the neck joint). If you' going to correct this (it is called leveling, after all!) as well as sand down below the divots, many guitars will end up with some pretty darn low frets somewhere.

    For many guitarists,in the long run, it often makes more financial (and quality of life) sense to do a complete refret with stainless steel. It's more money up front, but less in the long run.
     
  14. Rob Sharer

    Rob Sharer Muso-Luthier

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    Ooh, properly crowned. Must look into that.

    Look, man, if the divots in the first five are deep, what's your paper-thickness removal of material going to do? Nothing useful, that's what.

    Unless you grind out the wear, you've still got divots. And once you've removed every trace of the divots, you've got to match the higher frets to the new height or they'll be too high and cause buzzing.

    As for the profile, you can't keep it exactly the same if you've changed the height. Similar is possible with a light dressing, but take a set of Dunlop 6105's with significant wear, dress it out, crown it any way you like, then see what the resulting shape is. The profile will have changed.


    Speaking of dressing, I'm off to field-dress a woolly mammoth.


    Rob
     

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