With every played guitar or bass sooner or later the fretwire needs to be replaced (refret). This can be a complicated job that needs experience. Every guitar has its own specific points to take care of during the refret job.
To perform the fret job, I have several types of Dunlop and Jescar fretwire instock, in nickel silver and stainless steel. By order I can supply many other types of fretwire. So there is always a solution for your guitar.
Refretting of a Fender stratocaster with stainless steel wire
Typically old guitars that have been played a lot, need to be refretted. Occasionally, new guitars need to be refretted as wel, like this Mexican Fender stratocaster. The guitar was made with a round 7,25" fretboard and nickel silver fretwire. By request, the fretboard is made a bit more flat with a 10" radius, and fitted with stainless steel frets. The plastic topnut is also changed to a bone nut.
The frets are being removed by heating them up with a soldering iron. In case CA glue has been used before, the heath will break the bond. A special tool is used to carfully take the fret out of the wood.
This is a new guitar with a hard fretboard made from poa ferro. The wood is almost not damaged after removing the frets. Some fretboards made from ebony or rosewood can chip. Those damages must first be restored before continueing.
The fretboard is rounded to 7.25" in the factory. This might be very convenience for playing chords, for solo playing with lots of string bending, it can be a problem. In most cases, the high E string needs a higher action than usual, for enough clearance while bending a full note around the 12th-17th position.
The fretboard is manually sanded and corrected to the new radius. Long aluminum sanding beams with a round profile are used. Also the truss rod is being set in a new position. After everything is sanded with a coarse grit, the fretboard is sanded with finer grits, almost untill being polished. This gives a nice feel while playing the guitar.
The fretboard after the correction. The new 10"radius is sanded at the whole length of the fretboard. After this, the fret slots are also checked for the right depth; after all, material has been removed from the neck.
Straight lengths of fretwire are first being bend to the right radius. Then they are cut at the right size for each position and sorted. For every fret job, being it a guitar with or without a binding around the fretboard, i cut a bit of the fret tang (the part of the fret that fits into the wood) away on t he edges.
This gives an advantage later, in case the fretboard shrinks a little sideways. Only the top part of the fret will stick out then, wich is easy to fix.
Particularly with stainless steel frets, a fret press is an ideal tool to use. A separated neck, like this stratocaster neck, can be reached by the press on all positions. A counter piece with the right radius gives even pressure. Other guitars are being fretted with a hammer, because the press can not reach, or the guitar can not be fretted in any other way.
Frets are always fitted with the aid of a bit of hot hide glue. Small open cavities under the fret are being filled. Also the end grain in the wood around the fret is protected, wich gives an advantage of giving less wood damage at a future refret job. The glue bond is easy to break with heath.
When all the frets are fitted in the neck, the neck has to dry for one night.
The sides of the frets are angled by using a file in a wooden block. For stainless steel frets I use special hardened files, but even they don't last a long time.
The ends of the frets, where the metal touches the wood, will be made round, so the fret feels smooth when touching the sides of the neck.
The truss rod is adjusted again in preperation to level the frets. Even with a good fret press, small height differences wil occur, that needed to be leveld. This is done by a flat routed steel bar and sandpaper.
By levelling, the fretwire profile is made flat. The next step is to restore the round profile. This is done by a fret file, in the case of stainless steel by a diamond coated file. Also the ends of the frets are rounded.
The frets are sanded, and polished with micromesh paper. Micromesh gives only the smalles amount of waist. Steelwool is not used, because the steel dust gets stuck in almost everything and can even damage the pickups. Liquid polish paste is also not used, it can be hard to get out of the wood and along the edges of the fretwire.
The new fretwire in the neck. In the end the neck gets a dap of oil finish.