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Fender Strat Maple Fretboard Refinish and Refret

9/14/11

Note: This Fender neck was shipped here from out of state for a refret. Sending just the neck for repair is a great and economical approach for folks who are comfortable setting up their own guitars.

1.0 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret headstock.JPG 1.1 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret worn out frets.JPG
1. Fender Necks get shipped to the shop for fret-work and new bone nut installations on a regular basis. For customers who can set up their own guitar, shipping just the neck saves them money. I’ll attach this neck to a surrogate body, then I will adjust the truss rod with the neck strung up and tuned to pitch. 2. A 70’s Fender Strat. This twisted and warped maple neck has a thick factory finish sprayed over the frets and fretboard. At some point, the neck was over- sprayed with tinted lacquer which has further reduced the useable height of the already worn frets. Refretting this neck will give me the chance to address all of these issues.
1.2 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret score lacquer around nut.JPG 1.3 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret remove frets sideways with punch.JPG
3. Removing the Nut. I like to use a razor blade to cut through the finish. This will prevent the finish on the side of the neck/ fretboard from chipping when I remove the nut. 4. Removing the Frets. At the factory, this neck was fretted from the side of the fretboard so pushing the frets out sideways with a mallet and punch is perfectly safe.
1.4 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret pull frets sideways with end nippers.JPG 1.5 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret no chipping at fret slots.JPG
5. Pulling the Frets with end-nippers gets them the rest of the way out of the neck. 6. The Frets Removed. Normally, I remove frets by forcing them up from the fretboard, but the sideways approach is quicker and easier on old Fender maple necks with really thick finishes sprayed over the frets.
1.6 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret sand fretboard under simulated string tension.JPG 1.7 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret seal fretboard with shellac.JPG
7. Sanding the Fretboard straight under simulated string tension will get rid of the old layers of thick finish and provide a straight neck for low action when the work is done. 8. Sealing the Fretboard with shellac.
1.8 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret polyurethane fretboard under frets.JPG 1.9 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret pre bend fretwire.JPG
9. Brushing on the Finish. Two coats of polyurethane will make the neck look sharp and protect the maple fretboard for many more years of playing. After curing for 2 weeks, I’ll lightly sand and buff the finish. 10. Pre-Bending the Fretwire will allow me to pre-shape the fret ends.
2.0 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret fret tang nippers.JPG 2.1 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret pre-grind fret ends.JPG
11. Tang-Nippers cut back the tang of the fretwire. Next, I’ll place each fret in its fret- slot with finger pressure and cut the fret end flush with the side of the neck. 12. Pre-Grinding the Fret Ends with a disc sander.
2.2 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret tap in fret ends with deadblow mallet.JPG 2.3 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret press frets with arbor press.JPG
13. Tapping the Fret-Ends in place with a mallet gets them started. 14. Pressing the Frets with an arbor press seats the frets the rest of the way.
2.4 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret glue frets with super glue.JPG 2.5 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret wipe off excess glue with acetone.JPG
15. Gluing the Frets in with thin super-glue prevents them from coming loose in the future. 16. Removing the Excess Glue with a small piece of paper towel lightly dampened with acetone won’t hurt the polyurethane.
2.6 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret glue and clamp frets.JPG 2.7 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret sand fret ends.JPG
17. Clamping the Frets while the glue cures ensures that the frets are correctly seated. I glue, clean up excess glue and clamp every third fret starting with the 1st fret. Once I get to the end of the neck I repeat this pattern starting with the 2nd fret and so on. Gluing and clamping in this pattern ensures that each fret has enough time under clamping pressure for the glue to dry. 18. Sanding the Fret Ends flush with the edge of the fretboard is quick and easy since I pre- shaped the fret ends.
2.8 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret level frets.JPG 2.9 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret dress fret ends.JPG
19. Leveling the Frets under simulated string tension with 400 grit self-adhesive sandpaper. 20. Rounding the Fret-Ends with a 300 grit crowning file.
3.0 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret polish frets.JPG 3.1 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret.JPG
21. With the Fretboard Taped off, I sand the frets with 600, 1000 and 2000 grit sandpaper. 22. A Final Polishing with the buffing-wheel gives the frets a nice shine.
3.3 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret fill fret ends.JPG 3.4 1978 fender strat maple fretboard refinish refret.JPG
23. Smooth Fret-Ends don’t catch your hand as you play. 24. New Frets will allow the owner of this guitar to set it up with low action and no fret- buzz. I’ll make a new bone nut then ship it back to its home for final assembly and set-up by this strat’s owner.