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FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Poor man's cheap refret slideshow



Apr 25th, 2019 09:40 AM   Edit   Profile  

I found this yesterday while cruising the internet.

No special high priced tools.
No leveling and crowning.

Yes, I know that a good pro fret job/refret is nice to have.
Yes, I know that this was done with what seems to be a cheapo guitar.
I probably wouldn't do this if I owned a Tom Anderson or a Suhr or an LSL.
That isn't the point.

How many of you do it this way (or similar)?
How many of you use garden variety tools to maybe replace a couple of frets that have divots in them?

What do you use as an alternative to higher priced tools?
Where do you get them? (Home Depot, Lowes, Harbor Freight, etc.)

Thanks in advance.

Linkus Maximus:

Poor man's cheap inexpensive refret with no special tools

Te 52

Laws of Physics

strictly enforced
Apr 25th, 2019 09:59 AM   Edit   Profile  

I've done level, crown, dress and polish with nothing more than:

* For leveling, an 18" length of Home Depot 1"x1" aluminum extruded square tubing with 320 sandpaper attached to one side with double-stick tape.

* For crowning, a felt-tip marker to color the fret tops and a common 8" triangular file with one corner ground smooth.

* For end dressing, a flat needle file with one safe edge.

* For polishing, masking tape to protect the fretboard and small pieces of sandpaper down to 1000 grit.

The fancy tools are nice, no doubt, but you can get by with much less. I doubt all of the above cost more than $20.

Contributing Member

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
Apr 25th, 2019 11:46 AM   Edit   Profile  

Not far off from my process. The more you do, the more you refine the little things that make a difference. The instructable shown is quite a simplification of all the things you normally encounter but it shows the basics.

Fret puller: This process is really important. If you damage the slot, you either need to fix it or risk that the new fret won't hold. You can also really screw up the cosmetics if you're sloppy or pull a chunk of rosewood out. I always preheat the fret with a soldering gun but you don't want to burn the wood in the slot. I buy a good quality pair of end-cutting wire cutters and take them to my belt sander and make the cutting edge flush. These work as well as the stewmac cutters. You just need to make sure that no one else grabs them off your bench and uses them to cut guitar strings. I have two pair that are totally dedicated to pulling frets. One small with a 3/8" wide cutter and one larger with a 1" wide cutter face. Only using them for fret pulling keeps the cutting edges clean so I don't mar the surface of a maple fretboard. I have another pair that I use to cut fret ends right against the fretboard. They will cut stainless frets also but occasionally need dressing.

Fret slot cleaning tools: I bought a number of .020 feeler gauges from McMaster made from high quality steel. I used a drum stick cut into lengths to make handles and my dremel to shape a number of special shaped edges. Used my fret slot saw to cut a 1" deep slot in the drum stick and superglued the feeler gauges in place. The blade length is only about an inch long and the wooden handle keeps your fingertip from wearing out. I use a number of different shaped blades to clean out fret slots.

You need a precision straight edge. I don't think you can cheap out on one of these. You need this to set up the neck for fret leveling with the trussrod. It will immediately identify lone random elevated frets which often just need to be seated.

You need a fret rocker if you want precision leveled frets.

The rest is just finesse.

Contributing Member

Pueblo, Co

I qualify!
Apr 25th, 2019 01:37 PM   Edit   Profile  

Nice. I have some nice tools and this can be intimidating at first but it really is worth it and the feeling is great afterwards!!!

Thanks for the post, gonna be doing my Ovation Legend in the next few months :)



Apr 28th, 2019 09:50 AM   Edit   Profile  

How many of you do, or have tried to do, the bare minimum?

- Pull the old frets.
- Clean the slots.
- Install pre-cut and pre-bent new frets.
- Clip off the ends.
- Round/bevel the ends.
- Done.

No leveling, crowning, etc.

What were the results?
Granted, a lot may depend upon how picky you are, what kind of action/string height you're looking for, what shape the neck is in when you began, etc.

Contributing Member

Planet Peegoo

Rhythm & Lewd Guitarist
Apr 28th, 2019 11:44 AM   Edit   Profile  

Doing fretwork like this is not rocket science, but it does require some careful attention to detail.

If you use a rotary tool (Dremel, Foredom, etc.), and carbide cutoff wheels, throw those wheels out and get a few diamond cutoff wheels. Yeah, they cost a little more, but they are the same size as the carbide wheels, they don't wear and reduce in size, they don't shatter, and they last years (not kidding). Even the cheap no-name Chinese diamond wheels are fantastic.

When you level the frets after installation, it is critical that you use the truss rod to get the neck as straight as possible before you start. If the rod won't do that, you need to screw/clamp it to a stout board to hold it straight.

Also, don't lean on your leveling tool (sanding beam, flat file, diamond hone, etc.). Let the weight of the tool do the work because you need to remove a few thousandths of an inch from all the frets to equalize their heights. Less grinding means less re-profiling. Using little to no pressure like this also prevents the wood from flexing as you work, which helps preserve the perfectly straight/flat condition of the neck.

Work slowly and carefully and you'll have a good result. There are also absolutely no shortcuts and no expedients to the process. Patience and careful work will pay off.

There are probably hundreds of ways to refret and level/profile/polish them. The trick is to find a process that works for you and go with it.

Contributing Member

Planet Peegoo

Rhythm & Lewd Guitarist
May 2nd, 2019 05:59 AM   Edit   Profile  

Here's the easy way to make and use your own fret file.


FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Poor man's cheap refret slideshow

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