Why you might want a re-fret (refret)

  • The most common reason for a re-fret is where fret wear has got to the point where the frets are too low or worn for a fret dress to return the guitar to a comfortable playing feel. Very low frets make string bending much more difficult.
  • Sometimes a player wants different frets on their guitar to match their playing style. Rock players often like high and wide frets to make modern playing styles easier. When you bring your guitar in for a re-fret we can decide on what kind of fretwire will suit. I have guitars with a range of fretwire available for you to try. If you play a guitar in a shop and like the frets then tell me the make and model and I can match the fretwire.
  • Some guitars have a rather small radius on the finger board. Early Fenders often had 7.5 inch radius fingerboards - this makes playing bar chords easier but chokes out when bending strings with even a medium action. These days a 12 inch or flatter radius is common. There are two ways of changing the neck radius.
    • Firstly by removing the existing frets and re-shaping the neck to the required radius before re-fretting.
    • Secondly, by fret levelling in such a way that the higher frets are filed in the middle giving a flatter profile. Often a player will not want to change the actual radius of their vintage instrument so a re-fret with high frets allows an adjustment of the neck radius by fret filing.

In the workshop

Re-fretting service and setup, how a re-fret is done and why a refret is done. All the advantages and disadvantages of re-fretting a guitar.

A powerful fret press makes the re-fretting process much more accurate and efficient. Obviously there is a certain skill required too.

Close up of re-fretting syste. The essential tool for many re-frets, a fret press. This one uses special inserts to do the fret insert. Specialist tools for hammering in frets during a re-fret are also needed. I use steel, brass and hide hammers in cmbination with a set of special tools handmade from brass.

These soft brass cauls cannot damage the fret because frets are much harder than brass. The cauls are made with a variety of radii on the working surface so as to match fingerboards. These cauls differ from the standard ones sold by Luthier Supplies Stewart Macdonald because they have much wider faces. Thus they cannot damage the fretboard surface.

Another view of the re-fret press. The fret press can exert a lot of pressure during a re-fret so it requires skill and experience to use it without damaging the

The cauls have more movement than is obvious in these pictures, as pressure is applied the caul aligns itself very effectively.