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  Project File:
Kay Kraft Refret

1. This is a funky guitar belonging to Gurf Morlix, a great guitarist, producer, and songwriter. I'm a big fan of his so I was honored when he asked me to refret his Kay Kraft archtop. Features include a mahogany neck and body, mother of toilet seat headstock overlay, an arched top and back, a round soundhole, and a gold decorative motif. The body has a shape similar to a violin and is actually very comfortable with a cutaway that conforms to your leg while sitting. 


2. These Kay Kraft guitars were made by the Stromberg-Voisinet company in the 1920's and 30's and feature a cool bolt-on neck that allows you to adjust the neck angle and set string height. Bob Taylor wasn't even born when these were made! You can see how the end of the fretboard floats over the top.


3. This particular guitar sounds great. Gurf said he uses on every recording that he plays acoustic guitar on. The strings on this guitar seemed to be as old as the guitar itself but Gurf said that is the way he likes it. He doesn't change strings unless they break and he asked me to save the strings and put them back on the guitar when the job was finished. So off came the bolt neck and on with the job...


4. This guitar truly was a fretless wonder. Gurf wanted regular acoustic fretwire installed so I said that the Stew Mac #148 would do the trick. I oiled up the board with lemon oil and let it sit overnight. Then I pulled the frets very carefully and slowly. They came out nicely with minimum chipping.



5. The board had plenty of wear and needed to be trued up before I started installing the frets. I used files and sandpaper to get it level and then used a radius block to make sure the board had a uniform arch. The radius of the neck before I worked on it was very similar to an old Fender, about 7.25" but the bridge had a radius of 12". So I went ahead and made the fretboard radius 12" to match the bridge.


6. Since the neck has binding, I had to cut the tang of each fret to where it would butt up to, but not into, the binding. Also, the underside of the fret, where the tang was cut off, must be filed so it will lay flat against the top edge of the binding. This takes more time and care than fretting a neck without binding, that is why it costs more.


7. The frets hammered in nicely. But when I got to the part of the fretboard that hangs over the body I decided I was NOT going to hammer frets into that unsupported piece of wood. I had to seat the frets in the slots without hammering. The best way to handle this section was to widen the fret slots with the trusty Dremel tool so that the fret tangs would push in easily by hand. Then I would fill the slots with epoxy and seat the frets into the slots. Why use epoxy?


8. Now all the frets are in and I have to clean up a few spots of epoxy before clipping the fret ends and dressing the frets. I took the neck off of the body to dress the frets. That way I could support the overhang for filing.


9. After I dressed the frets I gave the fretboard a lemon oil treatment and polished each fret individually. The rosewood came to life and the frets shined like mirrors.



10. I put the neck back on, adjusted the neck angle, and strung it up with those grungy strings. The great Gurf was happy. And that makes me happy!


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