Neck replacement or fret crown?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Guitarplayerdan, Dec 19, 2009.

  1. Guitarplayerdan

    Guitarplayerdan Member

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    I have a 2001 mim strat EXTREMELY played. Believe it or not is still my go to guitar (even after spending thousands guitar equpiment, it is still my favorite). I want to know if i should get my frets crowed or replace the neck?

    i guess my biggest question is, When do you know you need new frets?

    Because if they are so worn i will just get a new neck because why would i pay 250 for a refret on a mim strat, when i could just get a new neck.

    I herd a guitar tech say sometimes guitars become a fretless wonder. Anyone ever herd of someone actually likeing worn frets on a guitar?

    new to guitar setups and all that jazz so bare with me on what could be stupid questions.
     
  2. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Because if you want the same results in the end, a refret is generally cheaper.

    You may be able to get a new neck for as little as $100 for a cheap one, or maybe the $200-$300 range for a well finished neck from a reputable maker designed to meet your custom needs, but the work isn't over there.

    All new necks will still need a fret dress, higher quality ones perhaps only a slight truing, while cheaper ones may often need loose frets secured and a more significant leveling. Of course on most cheaper necks I find the fret ends over-beveled which narrows the effective surface. It's also common to find less than ideally leveled boards, which will require more truing out of the frets themselves. These issues combined often leave me of the opinion that many replacement necks should have a refret right out of the box if you want to them to be perfect.

    Then after all that is taken care of, you still need a nut made (pre-installed nuts may be of good intention, but really don't save any work when it comes to final truing and setup), then the setup work, and of course a small pile of little details like switching the tuners and such. Then you're left with a new neck which has not yet proven to be settled in and stable over time, and one which may not have an ideally leveled board beneath the frets, and often times fit with whatever fret size was stock rather than your choice.

    So you can end up with almost as good of an end result with a new neck, but you should count on at least another $200 in fret dressing, nut, setup, assembly, etc, if you want it professionally done to standards comparable to a professional refret.

    A full refret by a skilled technician, even if it comes to $300-$350 range after a new nut, will often end up cheaper if you want everything right. Plus in this case everything from the leveling of the board, to the beveling and shaping of the ends, to setting radius, choosing wire size, string spacing, etc., will be under the control of the technician, and they won't have to work around pre-existing limitations in a pre-made neck.

    I hear it said all the time that replacing a neck is cheaper, but this only applies if you're willing to accept less than ideal end setup. Penny-wise, pound-foolish in my opinion.

    If your frets are worn to a point where it would have to be dressed lower than you find comfortable, get it refretted. How low that is is rather subjective, and is something for you to discuss with your tech.
     
  3. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    +1 to all that, and i've seen a lot of anecdotal stuff referring to guitars not sounding the same after new necks are put on.

    bottom line, if you like the guitar, a lot of what you like is the neck, and changing that may change the things you like about it.
     
  4. Soapbarstrat

    Soapbarstrat Senior Member

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    Yeah, hard pill to swallow : Discount guitar made with cheap labor in another country ends up needing skilled labor at home. But, there's a point when a player's skill level gets to the point where it's unavoidable.
     
  5. khromo231

    khromo231 Guest

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    As Mr. Collins pointed out above, the "new neck" and the old neck with a pro fret job are not even close to equal. In my opinion, replacement necks may be nice and shiny, but they always need significant leveling/crowning/polishing.

    My vote is for a pro refret (meaning don't settle for Mr. Low Bid, get a good one!). You will never regret that decision.

    I recently picked up a beautiful '69 ES-340TDN with what appear to be the original frets, worn and milled down to tiny nubs, but leveled and crowned well enough to play in tune. It really feels weird! The frets are hardly there. I'm getting used to it, because the guitar sounds elegant. I'm not sure I won't break down and get new frets, but yes, sometimes guys just learn to live with the low frets. This usually doesn't hold true for heavy benders.

    As my teacher used to say, "A good player can compensate!"
     
  6. RvChevron

    RvChevron Member

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    If it's your "go to" guitar and even you describe her as "extremely played", it's time for a check up.

    Change the neck, it's very likely that it won't be the same guitar anymore, better or worse, can't tell until you have it installed.

    I'd send the guitar to top notch guy like Mike Tuttle or Phil Jacoby and see what they advise. Their fretwork is also as good as can be.

    If it's a guitar you;d like to keep playing, worth keeping her in great shape imho.
     
  7. curtis

    curtis Member

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    One of the major benefits to having it refretted over a cheap replacement is that you have a choice of fret wire. Perhaps even go for stainless steel, it'll last longer.

    You can have the neck re-radius'd to flatten out a shade at the higher registers while youre there...essentially, once finished it should be better than it ever was.

    You may still need a new nut, but when you consider how much time you spend playing it - plus enjoyment - its pennies per day.

    I'd suggest seeing an example of previous work though, hate to say it but I see a lot of poor re-frets.

    cheers
    steve
     
  8. Stadler Guitars

    Stadler Guitars Member

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    Your neck is the second most tonal contribution (after the pickups) on your guitar. If you've got a good one, keep it. Have the frets dressed when needed and do a refret when they're toast. They become very difficult to dress when less than .025" tall and won't hold accurate intonation at that height.

    Low frets can be a shock to most modern players, but if you have the frets dressed a couple of times the progression is gradual enough to be comfortable.
     
  9. HoboMan

    HoboMan Silver Supporting Member

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    I agree with everyone else here. If it's your "go to" guitar why would you change the neck?
    I used to have a MIM Strat and the neck is the main reason I liked it so much. It could have been any Strat body but the neck played VERY nicely.

    Get it refretted.
     
  10. Guitarplayerdan

    Guitarplayerdan Member

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    yeah I realy dont want to mess with anything major on the guitar. I will probally take it to a great tech in town by the name of John brown (i herd he did alot of work on kieth urbans guitars....who knows) but none the less Im just going to take it to him and ask him what he think is best for the neck. I def wont get a new neck for that guitar though.

    The frets dont bother me at all they just look really worn. And i have very slight intonation problems. But im thinking about installing an rs kit and seeing what it does.
     
  11. pennylink

    pennylink Member

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    All good advice :aok I would only change the neck if you were unhappy with some aspect of it that a tech could not address, i.e its tonality, back contour too thin or wrong shape for your preference, neck too narrow at the nut, etc. It's also worth remembering that the tonality of a new neck cannot be evaluated until it's matched up with the guitar body.
     
  12. rooster

    rooster Member

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    Another vote for a refret. It shouldn't be surprising that a MIM strat plays so well; as a guy from the SW, I can tell you that there are some mighty fine woodworkers in that country, and a great work ethic. Add to this that Fender pays very well considering the standard labor rates there, and a country where familiarity with the guitar is commonplace. This adds up to a great cost/performance ration.

    Fender, in the last decade, has made some of their best instruments, IMO, and I'm a die-hard Heritage guy saying that. Some of those MIM guitars are mind-blowingly good. I still prefer USA due to: first, my political leanings, and second, I don't buy a lot of guitars, and after being in the workforce for a LOT of years, I can afford it (not easily, lotsa pasta/ramen).

    If you like that neck, and if you've not found another you like as much, then it's worth whatever it costs to keep it playing for you. Just don't skimp on the cost; get the right person to do it for you.

    rooster.
     
  13. Bob V

    Bob V Member

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    The right tech can offer you options in terms of level-and-crown, partial refret, or the full monty. It all depends on the condition of the guitar and your playing style and preferences. I agree that a new neck would be a pig in a poke, but pro work on your number one should be worthwhile.
     
  14. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    The issue is, there are some top flite guys here that can do a significantly better job than most and production job, but are you gonna hire them - are they local and available? If you don't get the top end guys, you're better off with a new neck, IMO.

    Also, you haven't disclosed if the neck is one piece maple or if it is rosewood board. I'd be a little more reluctant if it is a poly finished board; hard to get that finish back the way it was. :stir

    The other consideration is; a newly ordered USACG neck, if it does nothing for you, can be flipped. You might even revert to that existing neck (maybe massaged a little by a pro) and decide you don't need no stinking frets anyway. Once you stick larger frets on your favorite neck it is too late to go back. You've stated you have "better" guitars and this one is "the one". Oftentimes the reason one guitar is "the one" is the neck and the existing frets are IMO a crucial component in this most crucial part of your Fender.
     

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