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Ouch, It Hurts

Like pulling... frets.

I knew it had to happen eventually. I first got my fingers on this Vintage '62 Reissue Strat (made in '82) when I was 16. Now, 25 years later, she was in need of a refret. On the cheap, I decided to do it myself.

Frets removed.

For the better part of my adult life I've lived in very dry apartments, dry in the winters anyway, due to radiated heating. That dryness must have taken it's toll on the rosewood neck, because the whole process of pulling frets was a bit of a crumbly affair.

Close-up of naked fretless neck. Very dry wood.

I worked my way up through various grits of sandpaper bringing the fretboard to a smooth finish, then gave it a rub-down with mineral oil. Frets were hammered into place, with a few requiring some glue to keep them in place. I tried doing some chip repair with glue and a bit of leftover wood-dust, but it ended up making a bit too much of a mess.

New frets in place. Fretboard is sanded and oiled.

Next came the fret trimming, filing, sanding, crowning and polishing. I masked off the fret board with tape and went to work using sandpaper that I had previously taped onto a block of wood (actually a leg from an ikea table). :) A small file was used for fret crowning, and a dremmel with polishing compound for the final shine.

Frets masked off with tape to protect the fingerboard.

The most frustrating part of the whole process is that you can't really know how accurate the fret levelling is until you get some strings on the guitar, tune it up and give it a good play up and down the neck.

Final product, sanded and polished, with a few noticable chips.

In the end I had to do some temporary spot filing on a few frets after putting the strings on, which means I'll need to repolish the frets. I also need to sand/file a proper slope from the 12th fret up, to fix some buzzing and lack of sustain. So more work on this is still ahead. In spite of the remaining work, I've still been able to record several guitar focused pieces.

~ Cory

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Cory (Daniel) Todd is a Canadian Artist and Musician. | Listen: Spotify and iTunes. | Watch: youTube | Visit for more info.
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