I might have a 70's Strat on my bench in the near future and I wanted to see what you all use for sideways fret removal.  If there is a specialty tool from Stewmac or LMII i'm not aware of it yet.  Also, how probable is it that I will need to level the board, refinish, etc?  I of course would prefer avoid this but i'll do it if it means getting the job done right.  Unless the board is way out of true, is there anything wrong with using a taller wire and correcting through leveling?

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Hi Brian,

I use a small nail punch with a concave tip (used for putting in "brads" or pin nails).  The edge of the tip goes against the end of the fret bevel and get a few taps to dig in and I use a brass jewelers hammer (any small hammer will work) to work the fret out after heating it and scoring the lacquer line.

If the board is good so are you.  If the board is out of true you should level it/re-radius before you refret - you will probably need to re- lacquer the neck/fingerboard anyway as the 70's finishes tend to be dodgy once broken or cut.   Using the frets to effect a board geometry problem is only done when there is no alternative.

Regards. Rusty.

Thanks!  Do you have a link or pic of what you use?  The only think i'm not visualizing is how it has enough grab without skipping off the fret and causing damage.  Also, what is your preferred heating method?  I have a cheap soldering iron with a concave tip that I usually use.  I can't say definitively if it helps at all, it's just a practice I adopted and never really stopped doing.

I forget where the tip originated (maybe one of Dan Erlewine's) but it works for me:  

I'll place a stainless fret-guard over the fret to protect the fingerboard, then use a thin abrasive disc in a Dremel tool to make an angled near (but not right at) end of the fret.

The idea is to not cut through the fret, just to make a nick with enough area to accommodate a tool to start driving-out the fret.

If you angle that cut correctly, it serves as a nice ledge (or resting place) to start tapping the fret out with a small hammer and a nail punch, as Russell mentioned. 

Hi Brian,

This is an example of the hollow tip (about 1/16th wide) on my nail punch.  I'm not near the workshop otherwize I'd image the real one for you.   You just rest it against the bevel on the fret at around 45 degrees, give it a tap to dig in the edge of the hollow point and it stays there all day on the fret end as you tap out the fret with around 30 degrees of tilt on the punch.    Clamp the neck down hard to keep it dead steady.  

I use a 40 watt common soldering iron with a grooved tip to heat the fret - which heats the timber around the fret cleats and allows the fret to slide out relatively easily. I top load the frets when refretting and use CA glue when planting the frets to fill the groove left by the sideways fret removal. 

Done a lot of these - anything else just ask.




I would first find a Dremel bit with a small round ball on the end and make a little divot in the end of the fret then use a prick punch to lightly tap out the fret. Just a thought.


While we're at it, what are the specific years/models of instruments where had their frets installed this way?  Also, were there any companies other than Fender that used this method?  

Hi Brian.

Fender used this process [presumably] from inception until 1983 on all guitars and basses. As far as we know, they were the only ones.

If you have Dan E's  repair book, he dedicates several pages to the very subjects you've brought up. It also has a pictorial instructions on how to remove them (as described by Michael L.). Good reading:)

If you don't have Dan's 'bible', it would be beneficial to obtain one. You'll have the answer to hundreds of repair questions at your fingertips:)

Best of luck,


Paul, I should honestly buy everything the guy has published, but which book in particular are you pointing out?  

Guitar Player Repair Guide. In the 3rd edition, it begins on p. 209 and ends on p. 212. It's been in all 3 editions. There's some super background info from Wayne Charvel too and a drawing of Fender's fretting system/jig/contraption.

The next subject on p. 212: "About Fretting Maple Necks" will also be useful.

Best of luck with your project, Brian :)


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