Fret Repair - Replacing A Few Frets:
If you haven't already, visit the general Fret Assessment Page for options and assessment of frets and fretwork. Also visit the Fret
Repair Tools Page to know what tools you will need to make
If your guitar is past the point of completing a Fret
Leveling procedure, you will have to replace a few frets and then do a fret
leveling. How do you now when it is time to shift into total refret job
from a partial? I usually made the break at 6 or 7 frets. If you have
more than that, it is time for a total refret job
Assessing Fret Condition For Fret Repair:
How do you know if you have to replace some frets? Normal fretwire is
between .039 and .050" high. A fret that is .050 will be somewhat
uncommon and you are likely to see frets more in the .043" range.
you take down roughly 1/3 of the fret height with a leveling process,
you will be at .030" in height, which is still an acceptable height for
comfort and clarity.
How do you measure fret height when your frets are already installed?
With a vernier caliper. Just use the butt end of the caliper
Fret Repair - Tools & Preparation Work:
Tools Needed For This Repair:
220 & 400 & 600 Grit Sandpaper
12" Mill Bastard File
Fret Channel Cleaning Tool
Plastic Tipped Hammer
End Cutting Nippers
Thin-Kerfed Back Saw
Fret Rounding File
Additional Tools You Can Make:
Let The Work Begin:
Fret End Dressing Tool
Neck Support Cradle
Start by taking the strings completely off the guitar and
Set the guitar neck in your neck cradle fixture. See our article on how to make your own Neck Cradle. You will want to securely support the neck of your guitar with this cradle.
Also place a pad beneath the body of the guitar or a soft carpet remnant or a soft small rug.
We will also need to remove the guitar nut. Most nuts will release with a firm tap from a Plastic Tipped Hammer and a small block of wood.
If you have a nut that was glued with an excessive amount of glue or epoxy, take a very fine
Thin Kerfed Back Saw and make a straight cut between the nut and fingerboard, carefully down
to the bottom of the nut. Be sure to take it easy as you approach the
bottom of the neck and go very slow.
Also, prior to starting a Fret Repair project, protect the
finish of the guitar by placing 2" wide blue
next to the fingerboard on the guitar top. Also craft either some
cardboard or thin polystyrene to fit around the fingerboard
and protect the entire top of the guitar.
This protection can be used for many repair operations
besides fret repair for
A variation can include a cutout area at the bridge for bridge repair
operations, or crack repairing.
Let's Get Into Fret Replacement
First we need to pull the worn frets. The best fret repair
tool for this
is the modified End
Nippers. This tool allows you to
grasp the fret by
the bottom of the crown and gently pull the fret out of it's seated
Do this very carefully as you may find your guitar had
another fret job and the repairman decided to glue the frets in with
epoxy. I would recommend that you treat all fret removal as if they
were glued in.
What you need to do is heat the frets with a soldering iron first. To
make the soldering iron easier to hold on top of the fret, file a
concave notch in the tip that matches your fret profile. That way the
iron will not slide off during the operation.
After heating the fret, work the modified end-nippers (see
the modification in the image at the bottom of this page) under
the fret on one end and use a gentle rocking motion to work the fret
out of it's seated position.
This should be accomplished without much
splintering. If you do have splinters, try not to dislodge them and we
will have to glue them in.
Once you have removed all of the worn frets, take a piece of
220 grit garnet sandpaper and gently sand the fingerboard, being
careful not to touch the existing frets (tape them off is you are
concerned about this). Repeat this process with 320 grit sandpaper
until the fingerboard shines.
Clean Out The Fret Channels
One fret repair tip I like to use is a fretsaw for unbound fingerboards
and a Hooked Knife for bound fingerboards to remove all the dust and or old glue from the fret
Cut a piece of fret wire - make it about 1/4" to 1/2" longer
than the fretboard.
For unbound fingerboards, start at one end of the fret and
the fret in with the Plastic Tipped Hammer. work your way down the fret
checking to make sure that the fret is being seated correctly and not
This should be done with the neck support jig placed directly
below the fret you are working on. The support jig will absorb most of
the shock of the hammer and leave the neck undamaged.
Once you have the fret mostly seated in the fret groove, tap
harder to work the fret into the groove all the way. Sight between the
fret crown and the fingerboard and make sure the fret is seated tightly
against the fingerboard.
If it does not seat, hammer with more force. Sometimes fretwire can be a
stubborn and they go in harder than expected, if the tang is straight
it will go in completely. Also make sure there are no humps along the
fret, but a smooth even installation.
Check to make sure the fret is standing upright in the groove after the first few taps and that it is not going in the channel crooked.
After you seated all the new frets, take your end nipper and cut the
fret end flush with the side of the fingerboard. Notice the two lines
superimposed on the End Nippers Above. The dashed line indicates the
original outfacing jaw contour. The solid red line is the jaw contour
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