I'm doing my first refret, in fact it's almost done.  One thing I wish I would have done differently, and this is my question...

Should I have sanded over the fret slots to remove the small fraction of the clear finish before putting in the wider frets? 

The width of the jumbo frets is obviously wider compared to the medium frets.  So the wider frets look like they're sitting a little proud on top of the clear coat finish on the neck, so it doesn't look like they're all perfectly flush with the neck.  The frets look decent, but that issue really bothers me. 

I think I'll definitely get a fret press.  Hammering in frets gets quite loud in a condo with neighbors on both sides. 

I should have over radiused the frets a little more, and maybe used a tang expander. 

My guitar teacher had this neck sitting in a closet that he wasn't doing anything with, and he knew that I was starting to do repair work, so he told me to see what I could do with it as far as a refret.  He said if I screwed it up, no big deal.  It's a Warmoth neck, maple fretboard, compound radius. 

Honestly, I'd like to take the frets out and start all over again.  I learned a great deal doing it the first time.  I'm halfway into cutting the nut, and I'm picking up the rest of the guitar today so I can finish the nut (no tuners and no body).

Any tips, suggestions, and constructive criticism is welcome. 


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If it were me, I'd remove the frets, sand the finish off, re-fret and finally spray-finish with clear lacquer. When the lacquer is good and dry, carefully scrape the lacquer off the fret crown with a scraper. It is a lot of work, but it's how Fenders with a one-piece maple neck are sprayed in the factory, and anything less is just suboptimal :-)
You don't have to have spray-equipment either: you can use a rattle-can, either nitro or poly, the results are comparable. I've also used 2-component clear lacquer, it is more wear-resistant than 1-component lacquer.
You know you want to do the job properly, go for it :-)

Yes, I do want to do the job properly!

Question... the fretboard is dirty and worn in some areas. Will the dirt be removed with the sanding?

Is there a different way to sand it since it's a compound radius?

Thanks for your input Grahame, Paul, Howard and Pierre-Antoine. I really appreciate it.

I let the owner see the neck the other day when I went to pick up the body. Wanted to make sure he was okay with it so far, and he absolutely loved it. I'm waiting to hear from him if he needs the guitar back any time soon. I guess I could hijack the guitar, "No, you can't have it back until it's perfect!"
Yes, the sanding will remove the dirt. With fretboard wear, it's a judgement call how far to sand if they're too deep. In extreme cases you have to fill the divots with maple dust, and solidify it with water-thin CA and a pipette.Then you can sand it flush, and it'll almost look like original wood. Sometimes you have to stain the areas a bit to match the rest of the 'board, every job is different., a judgement call again.
As far as sanding a compound radius goes, you have to go carefully. You have to maintain the flatness of the neck in the one plane, (measuring with a good straight edge) and maintain the compound radius across the 'board, using radius gauges. If you don't have radius gauges it's difficult to sand accurately. One possibility is to pencil witess lines onto the neck to see where you've sanded and where not, but go slowly and be careful. Food for thought is the possibility of changing it to a straight radius, if the customer is OK with it. Then you could use a normal wooden radiused sanding block with a radius of your choice. Vintage Fender is 71/4", later Fenders have 91/2" or 10" . which one you choose depends on the players playing style: I wouldn't recommend 71/4" for a player that bends notes a lot further up the board for example, due to possible problems with notes choking when you bend too far. That's actually the reason why Fender changed to 91/2" btw.
If this is all getting a bit complicated, I'd strongly recommend you buy this:,_plans/Building_and_repair:_Frett..., it describes it all much better than I can.
Good luck with the job

Thanks, yes... I already have the book Fret Work Step-By-Step, and I have radius guages... 'under the string' kind.

The thought of doing everything over again is kind of exciting. I've done it once, so I feel more comfortable about putting frets in, leveling, and dressing the fret ends. I've read about how tedious dressing the fret ends can be, but I actually found it quite enjoyable... probably my favorite part of the whole process.

Thanks for everyone's help! I'll post with some updates and pictures as soon as I get started.
Here are the two main tools I use to do the fret ends:
and :
Finish polish with 2000 grade wet and dry paper.
The files from StuMac are good quality, well worth the money.

First refret? A VERY nice job. My first (29+ years ago) looked like the day after an artillery bombing.

Good work and hoping your next attempt meets with your personal satisfaction (;

NOT being satisfied is the true hallmark of a passionate repair person. It's what advances the art.

Again, GOOD WORK Craig and welcome to the craft (:
Thanks Paul! Yes, my first refret. The only other experience I've had with frets is when I leveled the frets on my Tele a couple months ago. I've been reading up on fret work for about 15 years. It fascinated me, but I was afraid to do it to one of my own guitars. This opportunity came along after he liked the fret leveling I did on my Tele, so he gave me this neck to work on.

Thanks again Paul, that means a lot.

I spoke to the owner today, and he likes the worn look of the neck and wants it the way it is. So no refinish this time.

I just have to make the nut tonight, got the bone blanks today... so I'm excited to get started.

@Grahame- I have that fret dressing file, and it's amazing! I didn't think my fret ends would turn out as smooth as they did... and that file did it all. I have basically the same fret beveling file. I decided to go with not much of a bevel. This guy is about 6"4" and had HUGE hands, and plays with .009-.042. So I thought I'd give him a little more fret to play on. I have trouble with regular beveled frets and my hands are pretty small. I talked to him about the straight bevel and he loved it. He's seen the neck and loves it.

Some nut work tonight, final fret polishing, string it up, set up... see how she plays. I'll post some more pics when it's all finished.
I just didn't feel right about leaving the finish the way it was. After all, it's birdseye maple and it's beauty should be shown off. The owner said he didn't care if I refinished it or not. I took Grahame's advice and did it right. Since my finishing skills are non existent, and I've read such good things about Tru-Oil, that's what I decided to go with.

I still need to buff it out, but all of the coats are on and I need to let it cure for another day.






I have a ton more pictures. I thought the Tru-Oil really brought out the depth of the grain, even better than laquer would have. I left the headstock as it was, the finish still looks great there.

I thought it looked so good, and the wood was so beautiful I didn't want to stop taking pictures of it. I tried to get every little bit that I could.

If you had asked me 2 weeks ago about the neck finish... I could have cared less, and I've always thought that way. Seeing how nice the piece of wood was gave me a totally new perspective of guitar and neck finishes.

It was AMAZING to the see the wood grain jump out and take on a whole new dimension after I applied the first coat. Every coat after that the wood just looked better and better.

I can't wait to finish this neck just so I can see the look on his face when he sees the transformation.

This is a blast! I've been on vacation from my real job for 3 weeks. All I've done is research, and work on this guitar. Very fulfilling work.
Very nice job! Well done. I think your idea with Tru Oil is great, I'm tempted to try it instead of using spray lacquer, the next time I re-fret a Fender maple neck.
Nice one mate!

Thanks Grahame! It was really easy to use. I've read several stories about Tru-Oil where the person said it wouldn't dry and cure. But I think they must have used too much. Really thin coats is what's needed. It should almost seem that as you're wiping it on, you're also wiping it off. I gave it about 8 good coats.

I'd like to stare at the wood grain all day, but I'm going to get the frets in today.

The headstock and heel of the neck still have the laquer or poly... not sure which one it is. The original finish and the oil finish match really well from a distance. Close up view the oil finish looks much better. Feels a lot better too... like a satin finish.

Glad you like it!


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