Why install frets over binding instead of stopping short of binding?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Al Varez, Apr 22, 2015.

  1. Al Varez

    Al Varez Member

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    I'm wondering why is frets installed over the binding THE way that is taught? It seems to me that if you just cut the fret short, to fit within and right up to the binding edge, it would feel much smoother running your hand up and down the neck, rather than frets right up to the edge of the neck. Plus, I need to buy a special tool, or tools if I buy one for small, medium and large fret wire, to trim the tang to fit over the binding. And no, I don't believe the 2mm of extra fret not being there is going to cause your strings to slip off the fretboard. How is installing fret over the binding better? It's seems like a lot of extra work and hassle for something that's really just cosmetic.
     
  2. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    It takes more time to fit the fret to the inside of the binding, but equally important is that many of us simply don't agree that loosing the fret real estate is unimportant. But you can build your guitars however you like. It's not like it's unheard of to do that...Gibsons come to mind.
     
  3. T Dizz

    T Dizz Member

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    I have wild bends. I need all the fret I can get .
     
  4. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    Incidentally, I'll mention that it's been mainly done like this even as far back as the bar fret days. :)
     
  5. dbeeman

    dbeeman Gold Supporting Member

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    what's a bar fret?
     
  6. chelleeguitars

    chelleeguitars Member

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    Gibson does it with the fret inside the binding because it's easier to produce. There's really no other benefit. If you shape the end of the fret the same as you would the end of the binding it will feel the same. It just takes a lot more effort to shape the end of the fret so from a manufacturers perspective it costs more. You may also want to keep in mind that binding will shrink. If the string get bent onto the binding eventually it will cause problems.

    Also worth noting is the method that Gibson uses to trim the edges of the binding after it's glued on. They install the frets in the board and then going the edge of the board and frets level before adding binding. They use binding that is taller than the height of the fret and then scrape the binding down to the level of the board between the frets with a razor blade. This leaves nasty scratches in the board as the blades get used and notched. Take a look at a Gibson fretboard with binding and then some other brand.
     
  7. Riscchip

    Riscchip Supporting Member

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    Frets formed from bar stock. An old technique.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    BTW, the fret tang nipper is convenient, but you can still just file them off. I usually file a little after nipping anyway because you never get it truly flush with just the nipper.
     
  9. Al Varez

    Al Varez Member

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    You're talking about inserting the frets at the manufacturing stage, then scraping away the binding around them, Gibson-style. I was actually referring to re-fretting the existing frets by inserting them within the already-in-place binding, on a guitar without that little bit of binding that meets the fret, like on a Gibson.
     
  10. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    What, just having the fret end at flat binding, so you have a flat shelf on each side of the neck with no fret or nib?

    That would be awful, the strings would slide right off the ends of the frets.
     
  11. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    I've seen that on de-nibbed Gibsons, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why anyone would go through all that trouble to preserve the stubby fret. I think Erlewine even does it on one of his videos.
     
  12. AdmiralB

    AdmiralB Silver Supporting Member

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    And then there's the part where he mixes up binding and acetone and 'paints' new nibs on...
     
  13. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    Which video is that on? I have some of the fretting videos, which I think are actually pretty good. I picked up a lot from them, and I usually have them lent out to friends who are just starting out building their first guitars. I don't think it's on those. I'd like to see that, actually. :) I would think it's going to be difficult to match the color perfectly after the binding/lacquer has aged a bit.
     
  14. AdmiralB

    AdmiralB Silver Supporting Member

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    I don't know if it's on a video, but it's in at least one of his books. He melts binding material, fiddles (as you say) with colorants, then 'sculpts' it into new nibs. I think the fretwork book Erick whatshisname did has it too.
     
  15. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic Member

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    A lot of people like the nibs. I don't understand that at all, but they do. I've read that Les Paul used to send out the guitars Gibson sent him to be refretted and de-nibbed.
     
  16. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    To assume that installing new frets inside of old binding nibs could be simple, or easier than standard over-the-binding frets, is a rather drastic underestimation of the work involved.

    1. Fitting 22 frets perfectly within existing nibs is very challenging, and very time consuming. Filing each one perfectly smooth and perfectly square both vertically against the binding (which is not vertical to the wire itself) and perpendicular to their length, and to the perfect length so as to leave zero gap, but add no pressure either. It can be done, but it's a hell of a job. Then try to press each fret in perfectly straight down and centered - not more than .001" off either way, as the barbs pull it one way or another in to previous barb notches or along angled grain. Have fun with that.

    2. Pulling the frets cleanly without affecting the nibs at all. Sure, it can be done, but again have fun with that.

    3. Limiting choices regarding fret size to be installed in a refret. Maybe you could go shorter or more narrow, but not wider or taller.

    4. Issues 1, 2, and 3 are really only hypothetical, because in reality when it comes time for a refret there are usually no nibs worth saving. Usually the frets have already been dressed a few times, taking the nibs down short, meaning you would have to take the brand new frets down to meet the old nibs at the ends. Or sometimes they have been worn by the player's hand, or often times were grossly over beveled and lowered below ideal straight from the factory. This means if you want to preserve the nibs you rarely have an opportunity to "keep" anything original, but rather have to rebuild new nibs or replace the binding.

    5. Fretboards almost always benefit from a proper leveling during a refret - try doing this effectively without pulling the binding if you want to keep the nibs.

    Binding over fret ends serves no benefit at all beyond suiting a particular preference for manufacturing process, or some individuals aesthetic preferences.

    It is not a smoother feel (unless your fret ends are just improperly shaped).

    It pops binding loose in dry climates, whereas conventional crown-over installations can be easily trimmed and reshaped with no other ill effect.

    It limits the amout of playing real estate that can be utilized compared to a well shaped crown-over end.

    It drastically inhibits ease of and increases cost of service.

    I used to entertain the idea of preserving or rebuilding nibs, but charged 2-3 times what I would for a standard refret. These days I just won't entertain the idea at all. It's a royal pain to keep something of no tangible value whatsoever, I have ample other work to keep me busy, and am just not interested in dealing with it these jobs anymore.
     
  17. HoboMan

    HoboMan Silver Supporting Member

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    I hate the nibs. They serve no purpose other than to eat up fretboard real estate.

    When I have a guitar refretted I always have the nibs removed.

    Pic of my SG with SS Jumbo frets.


    [​IMG]
     
  18. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    agreed, but the OP is't even talking about that, but rather (on "nibless" binding) just ending each fret where the binding starts anyway, no overhang out to the edge of the neck.

    completely bizarre if you ask me.
     
  19. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Ah, I completely missed that. I could give a whole other list of reasons that would be a bad idea, but don't think it's even necessary to go in to. That is bizarre.
     
  20. bunny

    bunny Member

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    nibs? bindings?

    [​IMG]
     

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