When is it time for a refret?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by mike80, Jun 17, 2008.

  1. mike80

    mike80 Member

    Messages:
    2,665
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Near Lima, Ohio
    I haven't really played one guitar long enough to know when I should refret.

    But, I have the very first guitar I got...the one that I played for 6 hours everyday for about 7 years. I put it away for a few years after the bridge pickup went dead, and a few years later I bought some EMGs to put in it. A year later I ran into some financial problems, sold the EMGs, and put the guitar away again.

    I just got it out last night and was looking at it, and the first few frets have divots in them where the strings are, and the higher frets (12-17)are flat from playing leads. The really high frets are still round. The last I knew it still played fine.

    When does refretting become a neccesity?
     
  2. teletran1175

    teletran1175 Member

    Messages:
    1,622
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2007
    If it still plays decent, you can probably hold off on the refret.
    A level, crown and polish job would be just fine.
     
  3. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Messages:
    7,026
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Refretting is something you really want to only do as a last resort, it destroys more guitars than it fixes, if you have a bolt on neck you would be better off replacing the neck than having it refretted, much much cheaper and safer.

    The problem is the frets don't always go back in as well, it is hard to remove the old frets, and the new ones can lift up, making the guitar unplayable or that is what happened to my LP when it was refretted by a tech. Had several techs try to fix it with no luck, lost my favorite guitar.
     
  4. MrMunky

    MrMunky Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,292
    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    What you describe isn't a problem with refrets themselves, but rather the unfortunate and pervasive problem of techs who have no idea what they are doing holding themselves out as perfectly competent to perform a refret. A good luthier can refret almost any guitar so that it is better than new and you'd never know that the frets were replaced. The problem is a crappy refret can truly ruin the instrument, and because there are so many crappy techs out there who will say "hey I'll do your refret for you, no problem" there's a bit of a stigma on say, eBay, about a guitar that's been refretted by some unknown person.

    The solution is to have one of the handful of highly reputable and excellent luthiers out there do the work. I would recommend Glaser instruments or Phil Jacoby of http://www.philtone.com. Glaser doesn't have a website, but you can google him. Phil does but it's not that helpful. Call either one and talk to them about it.

    Anyway, as a previous post pointed out, there are ways to get your frets level short of a refret. Ordinarily you can have the frets leveled, which entails filing all of the frets until they are all even with the lowest point of the lowest divot, and re-crowned (just putting the shape back on the fret after they're filed) several times to correct divoting before a refret is required. This procedure is also something that requires skill and that a lot of techs will botch without feeling guilty about, so again I'd recommend Phil Jacoby or Joe Glaser. I have a nearly constant rotation of guitars going to and coming from them for fret leveling. When you get your instrument back from either of them, it will play flawlessly, better than you ever remember it.
     
  5. mike80

    mike80 Member

    Messages:
    2,665
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Near Lima, Ohio
    Thanks for the replies everyone.

    I was just wondering because the 12-14th frets on this neck are pretty flat. To the point where it looks kinda skeptical for a levelling. I'm actually thinking about trying to level and crown them myself, since it's a bolt-on, and it's not worth much other than sentimental value. My son wants it, so I want to set it up to play nicely for him.
     
  6. DavidH

    DavidH Member

    Messages:
    2,365
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    If it's your favourite guitar then get the thing fixed,re-refret it if necessary.Everything is fixable,you could replace the board if you had to,just send it to a luthier this time.
     
  7. paulg

    paulg Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,333
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2005
    Location:
    San Rafael, CA
    One problem I've encountered is; waiting too long to refret. As the fret gets lower (after three levels or so), more of the finger hits the fretboard. Once you start getting divits in the board, it requires releveling the board. This needs to be done anyway, but you don't want to remove so much that the feel of the guitar changes. This can be avioded by not only watching the fret height but monitoring the divits in the board. The comment I most often get is" I can't believe I waited so long, it's better than ever!"
     
  8. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Messages:
    7,026
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007

    I would take it to a good luthier and ask him if there is problem.
     
  9. Axekisser

    Axekisser Member

    Messages:
    1,160
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2006
    Location:
    Sunny Buffalo!
    I sent in my Carvin for a refret to Phil Jacoby. I'm hoping it'll be done soon! He's had it for over two months. The man is very busy! He's putting SS frets, plek job and bone nut on my axe. Can't wait to get it back as I have another to go to him. Maybe this week is the week!
     
  10. bluesjuke

    bluesjuke Disrespected Elder

    Messages:
    24,154
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2005
    Location:
    Gretchen's House, Bluesland, TX.
    Austinrocks, In the DFW area there is Kerry Cash and Charley's that do outstanding work.
    In the future I would highly reccomend either.
     
  11. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Messages:
    7,026
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    I now go to charley's to get work done, the refret was done many years ago, by some one else who was highly recommended and I took the guitar to charley's to try to get it fixed, steve was the tech then as i recall, and he tried to fix it, but the frets continued to lift up, I sold the guitar to GC a few years ago.
     
  12. gang twanger

    gang twanger Member

    Messages:
    943
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2007
    Location:
    Canton, CT
    Is leveling and crowning the same thing as dressing and crowning? My guitar is a '88 Strat Plus that I am particularly fond of, and the problem with the frets isn't that they've become too flat or too low, but that a couple of the frets have developed a groove/slot across them where the G string runs over them (almost as if someone had pressed down way, way too hard on that string/fret for a long, long time with their finger, if that makes any sense). What is the best solution for this problem? It's only like this on 2 or 3 frets. The rest of them look okay.
     
  13. gang twanger

    gang twanger Member

    Messages:
    943
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2007
    Location:
    Canton, CT
    Bump. Still looking for an answer to the question in my last post.
     
  14. MrMunky

    MrMunky Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,292
    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    People frequently use "leveling" and "dressing" interchangeably in that context. I'd generally think "dressing" would include the crowning process.

    The problem that you describe is exactly what the leveling and recrowning process solves. When people speak of their frets becoming too flat or too low in this context they generally mean what you described - the frets develop grooves where the strings have been pressed into them over time. Frets don't ordinarily become evenly low or evenly flat unless you file them that way.

    The problem ordinarily occurrs or is most pronounced on one fret, but to solve that problem you ordinarily have to make all of the frets level, and to do that, you have to file all of the frets so that they are all even with the lowest point of wear. If you have some really egregious problem with one fret, say, the second fret just got mangled, it might be a better idea to replace just that fret and then level them. But that is the exceptional case.

    As for turnaround time, that can be a problem and techs, even good ones, are notoriously bad about accurately predicting it up front. Right now I have a guitar with Phil Jacoby that has been there for a level and recrown for about 6 months, and in the past few months I have sent a bunch of guitars to Joe Glaser and have received all of them back within 2 weeks. Glaser's turnaround time is remarkable given the quality of the work he does and his national reputation and reasonable rate (although he has a good crew of people working for him. I think Phil does every single thing himself, including all the customer service, shipping and receiving, supplies acquisition & maintenance, etc.)
     
  15. mike80

    mike80 Member

    Messages:
    2,665
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Near Lima, Ohio
    I just did a level and crown on my neck, and it turned out looking pretty good. I don't know how well it will play yet, as I'm waiting on a new set of pups to put in it. They should be here tomorrow, so I'll find out soon if I did a good enough job or not.

    The 14th fret was kinda low, but it dressed up nicely. I put a straight-edge on the neck, and it looks good.
     
  16. bluegrif

    bluegrif Member

    Messages:
    4,024
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2004
    Location:
    Southern Oregon
    My local luthier has done many fret dressings for me (and thousands overall). What usually surprises players is how even very worn looking frets can be dressed to look and play as good as new (or better). Of course if they're deeply worn you'll lose some height. But the fact is, more often than not they're not as far gone as you think and the difference in height isn't even noticeable. He's also done three or four refrets (includng vintage pieces) and in every case the results have been wonderful. There's really no downside to refretting as long as the person doing it is well qualified. And the good guys will always tell you if it can be fixed with a level and dress, which is the case far more often than not.
     
  17. guitardr

    guitardr Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    971
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago
    Head over to Austin & see if you can get Ed Reynolds to refret your guitar.
    Eric Johnson, Monte Montgomery, and Bill Collings seem to like his work.
    Just call a guitar store in Austin and see what they say about Ed & High Risk Repairs.;)
     
  18. The Pup

    The Pup Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,727
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2005
    This is one of the most uninformed posts I've ever read...especially after doing my own re-frets since the late '60s...with no issues.

    ...although I feel bad that your favorite guitar fell victim to a poor re-fret & attempted repair job...should have been salvageable with about 3 hours of work.

    This might help you:
    http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Video,_DVD/Fretting/Dan_Erlewines_Fret_Basics.html
     
  19. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Messages:
    7,026
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    3 hours work and more was spent trying to salvage the guitar which was my 75 les paul , I had the guitar several years after the fret job, the frets would come up with the guitar just sitting in the stand and I went to charley's for the repairs, every few months, charley's did not do the fret job, but steve at charleys was good about trying to fix it, problem was the frets kept coming up, after a few years I sold the guitar to GC, the frets were down when I sold the guitar, so I did not feel bad about selling it them, but after 3 years of not being able to play the guitar it was frustrating, that was my first LP, and I am still sick about the experience.

    So I may be uninformed, how ever it is were I am with refrets, now I go to charleys when I need work done, wish I had gone there when I had the gutiar refreted.
     
  20. GuitarsFromMars

    GuitarsFromMars Member

    Messages:
    11,516
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2004
    Location:
    playing in traffic...
    usually,when frets on a guitar are beyond leveling and crowning,that's when you would refret.make sure you have a nice guitar to have it done on,as it is fairly pricey to get done well.as a general matter,the tech should be one of the guys who does guitar refrets for the local professionals,please get references.it will usually set you back several hundred dollars per refret.
     

Share This Page