When is it time for a fret job?

Tadpui

Well-known member
I've had my LP Classic for close to 15 years and over its lifetime it's received a fair amount of play time. Several years ago I noticed some visible wear on a few of the frets, and by now pretty much every fret is visibly worn. Honestly, it doesn't bother me much and doesn't seem to hurt the intonation badly enough to warrant big spending on a fix.

But it got me to wondering, at what point does a guitarist/bassist bite the bullet and get a fret job done? Is total replacement of all of the frets the way to go? What kind of ballpark cost are we talking here? I don't even know what's what when it comes to fret wire options. Something more resistant to wear seems like an attractive option to me...
 

muttley600

Banned
I would suggest that it only needs doing when a setup cannot make it play in tune, intonated and without buzzing.

Total replacement is best but partial refrets are an option but is normally just papering over the cracks. As to how much? That largely depends on where you take it and what the guitar is. Bound fretboards = more work. Stainless steel frets wear better but are a real pain to do so cost three to four times as much at best.
 

ranjam

New member
You should be able to feel when you need a fret job;

Cassie_PRSCustom24_+093.jpg

Go by how many guitars you have, how often you play each one, and how fussy you are about that guitar playing as perfectly as possible. Weird things like what strings you use make a difference. For bass players, flat wounds have minimal fret wear. For guitar players, pure nickle strings cause much less fret wear than stainless steel. Up here in Canada, the 'better' repair guys all charge around $200 for a fret job. Of course it can be more, but seldom if ever less. Maple fingerboards means a few dollars added to the bill, especially if the repair guy wants to lacquer the board after. Bound fingerboards cost even more. Now factor in if you go to a jumbo fret that a new nut will have to be put in. There's a few more dollars. I have a dozen guitars, of all types of fingerboards/binding, so each fret job I know will last at least ten years. Still, it's not unusual for me to spend $300 on a fret job, and I've yet to do the same guitar twice. I usually go with jumbo fret wire and a new nut. The jumbo wire means lot of fret dressings and no need to think about new frets.
Go to your library and look for the Dan Erlewine book, or borrow it from somebody. Even if you never want to repair guitars, you'll be a savvy customer.
 

Greg_L

Banned
You should be able to feel when you need a fret job;


Go by how many guitars you have, how often you play each one, and how fussy you are about that guitar playing as perfectly as possible. Weird things like what strings you use make a difference. For bass players, flat wounds have minimal fret wear. For guitar players, pure nickle strings cause much less fret wear than stainless steel. Up here in Canada, the 'better' repair guys all charge around $200 for a fret job. Of course it can be more, but seldom if ever less. Maple fingerboards means a few dollars added to the bill, especially if the repair guy wants to lacquer the board after. Bound fingerboards cost even more. Now factor in if you go to a jumbo fret that a new nut will have to be put in. There's a few more dollars. I have a dozen guitars, of all types of fingerboards/binding, so each fret job I know will last at least ten years. Still, it's not unusual for me to spend $300 on a fret job, and I've yet to do the same guitar twice. I usually go with jumbo fret wire and a new nut. The jumbo wire means lot of fret dressings and no need to think about new frets.
Go to your library and look for the Dan Erlewine book, or borrow it from somebody. Even if you never want to repair guitars, you'll be a savvy customer.

Lol. Many of the frets in my strat look just like that.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
The jumbo wire means lot of fret dressings and no need to think about new frets.

That's true....but you have to really like jumbo frets for them to be a good way to go.
I don't care for them, and prefer the smaller/thinner frets....medium at worst case. The jumbo frets just feel weird to play (easier, but weird), and if you play a little harder into the strings, you get tuning issues with the added fret to neck height.

That said, with the kind of fret wear shown in your picture, you could still redress those frets even if they were something smaller than jumbo, though certainly not as many times as you could with jumbo frets.

My solution....have more guitars! :D
That way you don't ever have to overplay any one. ;)
 

ranjam

New member
I don't have the education to discuss much in detail, but I'll tell you what I find weird. Depending on what science channel you watch, the human eye can distinguish either 'thousands' or 'millions' of different colors. There is a slight difference to the answers, but the point is that we can tell the difference between a lot of subtle differences in hues.
Now sound is different. Many 'experts' say we can only really hear and distinguish a difference of 5-6 cents. A typical guitar is maybe 16 cents flat in the minor 3rd and 14 cents sharp in the major third. Or something like that, when using an equal temperament. I'm probably off a little on those numbers, but the point is you would think you'd hear frets that were pitted (playing chords would just sound wrong), resulting from you not hitting the note right on the crown of the fret. You'd imagine the fret was placed properly, so if the apex was moved because of the pit............
Ah, I'll say it again. My thoughts are so muddled, I'm often wrong. But yes, owing a ton of guitars makes life easier. Hell, I've left strings on for a year or longer. Usually January 1st I make it a point to change strings, except on my one bass. If the frets just show a little bit of wear, I'll buff them out with some 600-grit sandpaper, followed by 1000-grit, followed by 0000 steel wool. A few drops of lemon oil on a rosewood board, and I'm good til next year.
Yep, you can redress most frets, almost until they become Fretless Wonders. Those I don't like at all. But it's preference. If you play .009's, smaller frets are preferable I'd imagine. I like .011's tuned to pitch with big frets, but I've been told my handshake hurts for a while after.
 

muttley600

Banned
I don't have the education to discuss much in detail, but I'll tell you what I find weird. Depending on what science channel you watch, the human eye can distinguish either 'thousands' or 'millions' of different colors. There is a slight difference to the answers, but the point is that we can tell the difference between a lot of subtle differences in hues.
Now sound is different. Many 'experts' say we can only really hear and distinguish a difference of 5-6 cents. A typical guitar is maybe 16 cents flat in the minor 3rd and 14 cents sharp in the major third. Or something like that, when using an equal temperament. I'm probably off a little on those numbers, but the point is you would think you'd hear frets that were pitted (playing chords would just sound wrong), resulting from you not hitting the note right on the crown of the fret. You'd imagine the fret was placed properly, so if the apex was moved because of the pit............
Ah, I'll say it again. My thoughts are so muddled, I'm often wrong. But yes, owing a ton of guitars makes life easier. Hell, I've left strings on for a year or longer. Usually January 1st I make it a point to change strings, except on my one bass. If the frets just show a little bit of wear, I'll buff them out with some 600-grit sandpaper, followed by 1000-grit, followed by 0000 steel wool. A few drops of lemon oil on a rosewood board, and I'm good til next year.
Yep, you can redress most frets, almost until they become Fretless Wonders. Those I don't like at all. But it's preference. If you play .009's, smaller frets are preferable I'd imagine. I like .011's tuned to pitch with big frets, but I've been told my handshake hurts for a while after.

The issue of temperament isn't really part of the equation on rerets. The reason for the "out of tune" intervals is due to the nature of 12 tone equal temperament not fret wear. The problem exists regardless of whether they are new frets or old. Most players who have been at it for a while make lots of multiple micro adjustment to technique to try and overcome those little discrepancies. Players who use fat frets do it all the time.
 

ranjam

New member
My muddled thought was that if the fret was worn or pitted in a way that the crown or high point isn't dead center of the fret anymore, the temperament could get worse, and I would imagine I'd hear it more than ever. I doubt the fret wears perfectly flat or symmetrical, but I may be wrong. Which wouldn't be the first time.

frets.jpg
 

muttley600

Banned
My muddled thought was that if the fret was worn or pitted in a way that the crown or high point isn't dead center of the fret anymore, the temperament could get worse, and I would imagine I'd hear it more than ever. I doubt the fret wears perfectly flat or symmetrical, but I may be wrong. Which wouldn't be the first time.


It may well have a slight affect on the intonation but the temperament is what it is. Temperament is a defined tuning system. Intonation relates to the actual note that is sounded. The degree of wear on a fret will not change intonation that much. The biggest factor that changes the intonation when fretting a note is the increase in the string tension that occurs as you push down on it. A high fret and a high action will increase that and should be accommodated when you set the saddle relief. Many players of fat/jumbo frets find that this alone causes problems. Others learn to accommodate it in their technique.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
Many 'experts' say we can only really hear and distinguish a difference of 5-6 cents. A typical guitar is maybe 16 cents flat in the minor 3rd and 14 cents sharp in the major third. Or something like that, when using an equal temperament. I'm probably off a little on those numbers, but the point is you would think you'd hear frets that were pitted (playing chords would just sound wrong), resulting from you not hitting the note right on the crown of the fret.

I don't think anyone can "hear a bad fret" so to speak....but I find the whole tuning thing somewhat frustrating at times while also rather intriguing in a pleasant/amusing way....how each guitar has it's own tuning personality even if they are the same kind of guitar, same frets and same identical setup.
AFA hearing out of tune stuff...if I just trying listen to a single note, it's hard to tell specifically how much off it is, and yeah, in that regard I think most people have similar tolerances if their ears are trained to listen to music analytically.
What I find curious is that when I'm actually playing chords and following a specific melody...I can hear very, very small tuning issues easily.
Some days it's so acute, that it can be annoying, because after maybe one pass of the song, I'll hear a string j-u-s-t starting to go out, and so I'm stopping to retune...and then when I grab the tuner, which has 1/10th of a cent accuracy, I'm surprised at just how very little the string had gone out, a few tenths only, something you would not notice jujst hitting the note by itself.

I recently decided to use a different intonation SOP...which I think is helping a lot in keep the guitar more "flexible" AFA small tunning discrepancies up and down the neck as I play.
In the past I always used the "standard" intonation SOP... hit the 12th harmonic and match it against the pressed note at the 12th (some people would use a different point or multiple points of harmonic and pressed notes).

What I started doing (so far on two guitars)...is to forget about the harmonic altogether. IMO, that's great for acoustics and people who play a lot of open chords and spend most of their time in the first 3 frets...and same thing for those who tune with open strings.
IMO, that approach doesn't work as well for electric guitars where you play a lot of barre chords and mostly pressed notes all over the neck, even well past the 12th fret.
So...instead of intonating with harmonics, I do it by pressing the string at two points...the 5th and 17th frets, and I set the intonation based on the difference between them.
IOW I adjust the saddle so that the pressed notes are equally close to being in tune for both notes. At the 5th the note might end up being 3 "ticks" flat while at the 17th 3 "ticks" sharp...it's not the amount of difference from perfect tune that counts, but the their differences offsetting each other.
Sometimes they will end up both perfect...it doesn't matter if they don't (and some won't) as long as you have an equal amount of +/- at each note so they offset, or if you will, "neutralize" each other.
Doing that for all 6 strings, I find that the guitars sound MUCH better all over the neck, so the amount of adjustment you need to make while actually playing is much less, and I'm actually quite impressed at how much less.
Also...they seem the hold tune much longer for more prolonged periods of play.

Same thing with actual tunning...I don't hit the open strings, I usually press the strings at the 8th fret and tune it there....because I'm mostly playing pressed notes, not open strings. Sometimes if I know I'm going to spend the entire song only in the first 3-5 frets or mostly in the high end....I'll press the notes in that range when tuning, to get the extra fine tune in that area, but for overall playing, I press them around the middle of the neck, but with this new intonation SOP, I'm finding little need to that, to tune in a specifc area of the neck for a given song since my the "overall tuning" using the middle of the neck (8th fret) just works fine for the entire range.

Oh...I was only kidding about buying a lot of guitars to avoid re-fretting. :D
I just like buying guitars.
 

Sky Blue Lou

Well-known member
blah blah...intonating in the middle and tuning for the playing area...blah blah blah

I'm waiting for mutt to either blow this right out of the water or ...I'm not sure what...

It's a way different approach than I've ever heard of but it sounds intriguing. Actually both concepts are new to me. Tuning the guitar to sound best in the area of the neck where you'll be playing sounds totally reasonable and I'm just surprised I've never heard of it. The alternative intonation method sounds equally reasonable and I've never heard of that either.

Where did you come up with this shit? I'll have to try it now but I wonder if it's way out on the bleeding edge where I just won't hear much difference? I'm just a plank spanker and though I can hear a poorly tuned guitar and I've dealt with some intonation issues I'm not so sure the effort wouldn't be wasted on me.

Cool concepts anyway. What say ye, mutt?
 

muttley600

Banned
I'm waiting for mutt to either blow this right out of the water or ...I'm not sure what...

It's a way different approach than I've ever heard of but it sounds intriguing. Actually both concepts are new to me. Tuning the guitar to sound best in the area of the neck where you'll be playing sounds totally reasonable and I'm just surprised I've never heard of it. The alternative intonation method sounds equally reasonable and I've never heard of that either.

Where did you come up with this shit? I'll have to try it now but I wonder if it's way out on the bleeding edge where I just won't hear much difference? I'm just a plank spanker and though I can hear a poorly tuned guitar and I've dealt with some intonation issues I'm not so sure the effort wouldn't be wasted on me.

Cool concepts anyway. What say ye, mutt?

It doesn't work like that but I don't have the energy to get involved with one of miroslav's "must have the last word" threads.

Intervals are intervals where ever you play them on the neck. If one is close others are not. There is no magical solution as the maths, physics and science can demonstrate.

You've read the sticky about the best way to tune to minimise the affect of compound intonation errors? Thats the best way forward.
 

Sky Blue Lou

Well-known member
Thanks for your tuppence.
You've read the sticky about the best way to tune to minimise the affect of compound intonation errors? Thats the best way forward.
Yeah, back along. I guess I should read it again. I'm just too fuckin' lazy to much give a shit I just turn the gain up. :guitar:
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
Cool concepts anyway. What say ye, mutt?

Mutt only knows what mutt knows and anything else he scoffs at.
Nothing new there...that's old news, and he's not going to really debunk what I said, 'cuz he can't...he'll just scoff at it as he usually does.

The intonation method I mentioned earlier is not something I came up with...it's a legit method, and an alternative to the old harmonic/12th fret approach which can work in a lot of cases, but the alternative provides a sweeter tunning across the entire neck and minimizes the amount of needed as-you-play adjustments that Mutt was referring to earlier.
It does take longer to intonate with this alternative method, but I wouldn't be continuing to use it on the rest of my guitars if it was worse than the "standard" method or if it made no difference at all.
I can point you to a website that describes the alternative method....if you think it's just something I made up. :D
Try both...use what you prefer.

AFA the pressing of the sting to tune rather than doing the traditional open string tune....that's my own, though I'm sure someone else did it before me. That's just pure common sense, because when you press a string (as was already discussed somewhat within the jumbo vs smaller fret discussion)...it's going to stretch the string from its open string position, and change the tuning slightly...just like pressing too hard with jumbo frets.
If you play open a lot and mostly in the first 3 frets...tune with the open strings.
But if you're like me, and especially when playing electric, you are pressing on the strings 95% of the time....WTF would you want to tune to open strings for...? ;)

And the other point, about occasionally fine-tuning for a specific range of the neck...well, that's mostly a studio thing, where you're going to lay down one track and play a specific set of chords/licks. If they happen all to occur say, between the 5th and 12th frets...press/tune your strings in that area and you will fine-tune for that.
This too is nothing unusual or weird....it's been done before I ever did it.
For overall playing, live gig playing....you certainly wouldn't want to fine-tune for a specific range of the neck.
Like I said, it's just a studio thing, no different than say tuning so that the 3-4 chords you may be using for a given song are as prefect sounding as possible relative to each other and the song...and not worry about chords in other positions that may be off, which you are not going to play anyway.
Say you're doing mostly minor chords on a track, all within a few frets of each other, you can tune more specific to them, and they will sound sweeter. Again...that's nothing new or rocket science, and it works better for some things than other....but occasionally it helps a lot if you want to get the best tuned sound on a track.

At any rate, take the time to try it all and if doesn't work for you...you don't have to do it...
...or you can avoid trying it and just follow Mutt's absolute/only approach.

Oh Mutt....the last couple of threads where you said I needed to get the last word in, you went on for another handfull of posts well after me....so I'll take this one, ...that is, if you decide not to reply. :)
 

Sky Blue Lou

Well-known member
I guess I should read it again.
Ha haaa ha hahahaha... lol too fuckin' funny.

I just read through that thread again for the first time in a couple years. How did it ever stay stickied with all the hate and discontent in there? I guess truth does win out. (And I remember the Richard Thompson info as well. ;) )

You have done great service here, Mutt. Thank you.

I think Miro has developed a system that works for him and his ears and there is nothing wrong with that. Another take on an impossible mission. At the end of the day beautiful noise comes from yer mind and yer fingers and still some will find it fugly.

Fuck 'em.


lou
 

Sky Blue Lou

Well-known member
Posted at the same time, Miro. Great minds and all that.

I have no issues with what you've posted and I wasn't trying to get you and Mutt in each others' shit. It's all good man. The guitar ain't perfect and neither are we.
 
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