I'm trying to get an idea of how much it would cost to have a maple Strat neck refretted. The neck is straight as an arrow and I'm happy with the radius. I would just want new frets installed and leveled. Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks for the reply. Do you do the refretting? You say $400 and the month of March $100 off. If you do the work where are you located - Bay Area? This is an older neck and I really like the patina that the neck has developed over the years. Do you have to spray the fingerboard? Please let me know.
The correct way of doing this business is to strip the neck fully with the exception of retaining the peghead finish and decals and heel details and paperwork stuck under the heel for future original look and reference when refinishing.
Reason is: Fender necks are finished in poly (with the exception of the vintage stuff which is nitro). The CBS era necks are finished in very thick poly which generally flakes off when you full the frets and, also, a lot of the CBS necks have the frets loaded in from the side and need to have them taken out sideways otherwize they tear the fretboard to shreds pulling them out from the front.
To save the finish on modern Fenders is possible but generally, on working instruments, the finish on the edge of the board is broken through in places and has ingested sweat and grime and simply going over it with poly or nitro is to invite early failure at this point (exactly where you do not want the lacquer to crack). Similarly, when the frets are extracted from the finish on the board there is a tendency for the lacquer that was hanging onto the frets (Fender sprays over the board and frets at the same time and scrapes the lacquer off the fret tops) to chip and craze which also doesn't refinish well.
Note, when matching the thick CBS finish we use the special 80 x 50 thousand inch frets from Stewmac which allows us to get a thick finish on without the frets sinking too far into the finish but still retaining the original look. These frets are also v.nice for blues players who want to get under the strings a bit but still have the accuracy and look of skinnies.
We charge $400-450 (Australian dollars) for the full works which includes (re)radiusing, finely matching the original peghead finish to the new finish, vintaging up the finish somewhat (if desired by the customer) and installing and setting up the neck. I would note here as I have in other posts that this is still a bargain basement price for the amount of expertise and work that goes into a full refurb of this nature.
If the instrument has any value it's a job for a pro. Rusty.
cool rusty but it only a refret no need to sand everything down its cool if the back of the neck is poly and the finger board is nitro never had any complaints yet not in 10 years plus decals nah I do my finish work after installing frets the lacquer on the fret gets knocked off when I do the dressing and lately I just shoot wash coats cause people here in CA are not digging the thick poly rather thin nitro looks performs great and wears well for a long time no need to put 3 or 4 mils on it when the string wipes it away and causes scaring to the top coat and as far as removal of the fret I heat them up to around 300 degrees before removal this burnishes the slot and as soon as I pull the heat off the fret slightly contracts and makes for a easy removal RV in the HOUSE I would say installing frets sideways is a cool thing to do but I am good with my hammer and files I guess its when and where you start but I am ingrained with Franks Moves and the teachers at RV true tried methods taught to the top students in the country taught by the top teachers in the USA .so Russell where are you getting your decals? I may want one some day if its requested
Umm, I wasn't clear - we leave the finish on the headstock to preserve all the original decals and details and remove the rest of the old finish which is often damaged - we then apply new finish to the rest of the neck (including some new clear coats to the peghead to blend in the shader coats) to match the original finish still on the face of the headstock.
And, the sideways fret installation is what Fender used to do - to get them out you need to take them out sideways - otherwize the tearout is massive as the fret cleats actually undercut the slot when inserted. And, the reason we shoot thick poly is so that customers who wish for an authentic replication of the 70's look actually get it - we spray nitro when it is appropriate or desired and my experience is contrary to yours - thin nitro is not an enduring finish for maple neck fingerboards and the Fender original nitro necks are finished quite thick for durability reasons.
As far as mixing nitro with poly finishes - we can do it and sometime we overspray 'sound' poly with nitro but as far as spraying over a poly fingerboard with nitro I don't recommend it because the niro has difficulty keying to the poly but, hey, it's a free world - I also don't understand how heating a fret (which we do anyway) burnishes the fret slot but feel free to explain the new definition of burnish - sorry to be a pain, but part of my training, at my eminent school, was to be technically correct. I also do not use or advocate bootleg decals.
It appears there were some misunderstanding of our processes here and the reasons for them. My fault - I will try to be clearer next time.
The devil's always in the details so I'd like to get you to go a little deeper, if you don't mind. I know you can certainly go there. First off, what do you do to make the frets come out sideways? Is heat necessary or is it a matter of getting a good grip with the right tool? As with all good sports, I suspect ;that "It's all in the wrist" also may apply.
Second, once they're out and the fingerboard has been prepped to now receive new frets, how do you recommend seating the new ones? A cursory look at Dan Erlewine's account of the fretting procedure at Fender showed a special guide or caul of sorts that was used to install frets. In lieu of that, would one install new frets by the top down approach? If the guitar needed yet another refret in the future, would pounding the new frets in this time confound later fret jobs or would these new frets later slide out through the groove created by the original fret job at the factory? Seems to me that the next repair person needs to have a reasonable expectation of being able to refret the guitar without complications. It's all about leaving a clean camp, I think.
You can thank the crew at Stewmac for showing the sideways fret installation procedure (I think it was in one of their Trade Secrets Books - a mine of information and inspiration) and they use a small flat tipped punch to drive the frets out sideways with the neck clamped firmly and the tip of the punch seated on the fret bevel. I use a small hammer to drive the punch and I suspect a dead blow hammer would make it even smoother. For badly rounded over fret ends I use an indented punch tip, the type used to fit over the head of small brads - give it whack on the fret end and it gets a grip to allow the fret to be driven sideways.
It is a game of skill but as you say, it's in the wrist, and once you get the muscle motors trained it's relatively easy. However, you can get tear out at the end of the fret slot, especially if there is lacquer hanging on to the fret end so I normally run a file down the edge of the board to break the lacquer line at that point and apply heat directly to the fret with a grooved 40 watt soldering iron tip.
I watch the fret at the point of heat application and when it shows a little shiny shade change on the lacquer just next to the fret the temp is about right for the ends to free up and I then slide the iron slowly along the fret a couple of time - be careful as the maple will burn if its too hot.
Driving the fret out cuts a half diamond cleat groove under the fret slot (as it did when it was inserted). I do not reinsert frets sideways - I prepare the slot by giving it a soak in demineralised water shot in with a hypo which helps expand the wood in the slot and, when dry, press the frets in from the top in the conventional manner after applying a bead of gel superglue to the slot (with the slot masked of with shiny brown box packing tape). The superglue bulks out the slot and helps the cleats seat in their new home. I consider the use of gel superglue to be mandatory in this procedure (or hide glue, I guess) to ensure the frets seat/set firm.
Subsequent heat application to the frets by a follow-on luthier will break down the superglue and the frets will come out fine. Just in case you are wondering I have had to remove frets put in in this manner (I forked-up with a fret size) and the removal was clean and easy.
One thing I forgot was to mention that the Fender 70's/CBS necks have larger than standard fret position dots and that a lot of these dots are really thin - so, if you are reradiusing or refurbing the fingerboard you may lose one of these dots as it sands away. You can make a new one by chucking plastic stock in a drill and turning it down to size but better still, Stewmac sells the oversize dots #0012 (6.7mm) which are cheap and easy and nice to have if you do 70s necks.
Yep, that's about what it takes all thing tallied up - the refinishing and attention to the fret/lacquer junction takes time, although Fender are happy enought to just drag the lacquer off the fret crown and leave a ragged edge - no detriment but it looks untidy when it gets old and stained.
I initially use a radiused sanding caul to level the frets and remove the lacquer on the fret crowns and use fret shields and micromesh sticks to get a feathered junction between the lacquer and the fret. I crown the frets with a diamond fret file (cleaning it in thinners often as the residual lacquer clogs the file quickly).
Things that Brian West of Fretco told me which made life easier is to get your main lacquer build on the fretboard done and fine sanded before refretting - you don't need to mask off the fret slots as the lacquer won't get in there to any degree. this provides a nice bed for the frets to contact and also means you don't need as many coats on the frets which makes it easier and much cleaner to clean up the lacquer off the frets.
It takes a lot of time to do this one just right. Rusty.