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  Project File:
Refretting a '63 Stratocaster
  62 body

1. A fella brought in this lefty Stratocaster. He told me he purchased it new in 1967 (one year before I was born!) and wanted me to do whatever it needed to get it into playing shape again. It was badly in need of a refret (there wasn't enough fret left to dress) and it had some output problems. Once I took the guitar apart, I was surprised to find that the neck was dated "1-62" and the body "4-61". I looked up the serial number and it dated the guitar at 1963, pre-CBS, baby - and not a '67 at all!

  Divets and flat spots in the frets

2.    As you can see in the picture above, the frets contained deep divots up and down the the neck and many flat spots. The fretboard was also worn and I had a hunch I would have to do some planing to true-up the board.

  Removing the frets without chipping is fun!

3. First I had to remove the frets. The rosewood fingerboard was very dry and I knew it would be tough to remove the frets without chipping the board so I slathered on some lemon oil and let it sit a couple days before trying to remove the frets.

  Preparing the fret slots

4. Then, I began to pull the frets very slowly and carefully, using heat from my soldering iron and a little solder to help spread the heat. The frets came out with no chipping. Ya can't rush good fret work.

  Marking the hump at the heel so it can be leveled.

5. Next, I checked the fingerboard with a straightedge and found that there were some humps and dips. So, with my straightedge and a china marker, I started to mark the areas that needed attention, and got down to business. I used a file and sandpaper to even out the board until it was straight as an arrow and then hit it with a radius block to make sure it had an even 7.25" radius. When it was done to my satisfaction, it was time to prepare the fret slots.

  Ready for frets!

6. I cleaned the slots with a slot scraping tool and then measured the depth of each slot. The slots needed to be a little deeper so I determined how much. I adjusted the gate on my saw to the determined amount and started to saw each slot very carefully and measuring often.

  Frets are radiused to fit the radius of the board.

7. Once that was done, I cleaned all the fret slots and cleaned up the neck and my work area. Rosewood dust gets everywhere!! Now it was ready to be fretted. Next, I radiused the fret wire for the 7.25" radius of the fingerboard. Sorry I don't have pictures of hammering in the frets, my batteries went dead!

  Smooth action, baby!

8.  Anyway, I cut the fret wire to size for each fret. I use a little Titebond glue in each slot and then I hammer in the fret. Then I secure the overhanging fret ends with rubber bands and when all the frets are seated, I clamp the entire board with plexiglass and cam clamps. There are a lot of ways of fretting guitars. This is the method I use. There is no right or wrong way, as long as the frets seat nicely and stay that way.

  All done

9. The middle pickup was not working properly, it was reading only 1.9K Ohms. I sent it to Lindy Fralin for rewinding. I also replaced the 3-way switch with a 5-way at the request of the customer. I made sure he kept the 3-way switch in case he ever wants to sell this sweety!

  New frets and a new bone nut.

10. As you can see, this job turned out nicely. I had to make a new nut, as is often the case when you refret a guitar. This one is hand-crafted out of bone. I set up the guitar with 10 gauge GHS Boomers and it plays like butter. No buzzing, smooth action, and properly intonated.


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