Refrets

Repair Or Upgrade?

Our aim with refrets is to bring guitars to a much higher standard in terms of playability, tone and sustain than when they were new. It’s not just a repair, it can be a major upgrade. At the workshop we will always have examples of our work for you to try out. We will happily demonstrate and explain how we get great results. As an added bonus our refrets always include a Fully Optimised Service.

Our Methods

We assess each guitar that comes in for a refret and adjust our methods accordingly. A valuable, vintage guitar may need the frets removing in a specific way to save the fretboard from being damaged. A much loved, but cheaper, guitar might have some twisting or warping. We can remove that before refretting and turn it into a much more stable instrument. When it comes to installing the new frets sometimes we will simply hammer them in carefully but more often we prefer to use one of our fret presses. We find they help to seat the frets perfectly and hold them securely whilst the glue sets. After the new frets are installed we put the neck to one side for the glue to fully cure. Whenever possible, we’ll do this with a set of strings on at tension. This gives the neck a chance to settle in its new position. Lastly we get on to filing the fret ends, levelling, polishing and setup work.

Refret Check-up Service

We guarantee all of our work and it’s no different with refrets. However, some guitars may take a while to settle down after such intensive work. We suggest booking your guitar in for a check-up 2-3 months after the work is complete. We’ll go over everything we’ve done, reset anything that might need resetting and give it a full fret polish and restring. You’ll only have to pay us for the new strings. Of course, if it’s playing perfectly then you don’t have to bring it to us … but you’re still welcome to drop in and tell us how happy you’ve been with it whilst we give it a clean and put a new set of strings on for you.

Which Fretwire?

We only use high quality fretwire. Mainly Jescar, Sintoms Elite & Dunlop. Many modern guitars are fretted with quite cheap, softer fretwire. It does not hold a polish very well (essential for a good vibrato) and wears quickly. By using harder nickel silver fret-wire (like PRS/Gibson & Fender USA) or even EVOgold and stainless steel (as many boutique luthiers do), playability is greatly improved and your frets will last a lot longer before needing any more attention. In the cases of stainless steel or Jescar EVOgold fretwire you may never require another full fret dress while you own the guitar! We keep a stock of the most popular shapes and sizes and can always order alternatives in, if required.

Stainless Steel or EVOgold

Many customers want a harder wearing fretwire and ask us to refret with stainless steel which we are happy to do for them, but like most luthiers we charge extra for doing so. Working with such hard fretwire wears our tools out much quicker but the main reason that it costs more is because it takes longer to fit accurately. As an alternative we always suggest trying one of our guitars fitted with Jescar EVOgold fretwire. With a Vicker’s hardness of HV5/250, EVOgold is harder than finest 18% nickel/silver wire at HV5/200, but softer than the stainless (HV5/300). It’s not gold-plated, the colour is of the alloy itself (silicon/copper/iron/titanium) and will stay gold whenever the frets are levelled and redressed. It’s also hypoallergenic so good for any unfortunate guitarists out there with nickel allergies!

Refinishing Fretboards

Fretboards made of rosewood, ebony and other ​darker woods are usually the simplest refrets to refinish. During the fret dressing process we will always clean up these types of fretboards and treat them to a polish and wax. 

When it comes to lighter woods like maple, many fretboards are lacquered and polished. This means our refretting process has to be adjusted slightly to accommodate the finish. We can refret without removing the original lacquer but this is very tricky to do without leaving any signs of the work being done. For the best results we prefer to refret and then fully respray the fretboard before the final fret levelling & polish. 

Some maple fretboard guitars have oil finishes. They feel great to play and are slightly easier to refinish but they are harder to keep clean over time. You have to look after them very carefully and they still need to be sanded back and have more coats of oil added over time.

Refret Pricing

As of 2022, our standard refret price is £250. This always includes Jescar 18% nickel silver fretwire, raising the original nut & our Fully Optimised Service. However, most refrets are not standard jobs and there are lots of factors that can affect the final cost. We always try to work out in advance what the most likely hurdles of a particular job are. Each quote will be tailored to the individual guitar. As well as our own knowledge of hundreds of refretted guitars, we research and communicate with other luthiers about their work and of course discuss things with our customers too… who knows a particular guitar better than its owner?

Some of factors we take into account when quoting for a refret are:

  • Lacquered fretboard/neck
  • Re-radiusing
  • Fretboard wear
  • Binding
  • Replacement nuts
  • Replacement saddles (on acoustics)
  • Neck warp/twist
  • Original patina/relic-ing
  • Vintage fretting techniques
  • Stainless steel or EVOgold fretwire