Fret levelling or refretting?

theleman

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I have this old T-Type guitar with lots of fret wear on 1 - 3 frets.
I am wondering, if this fret wear is causing buzz when trying to lower the action further down.

When do you know if the guitar needs fret levelling or actual refretting?
I recall many years ago, I saw this vintage Fender Telecaster with the frets levelled to the FB almost flush to it, and it still played OK.
Was it on its last leg of the frets? It was time for refretting work? Or would it have been ok keep playing with the frets in that low level?
 

Peegoo

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The thing to do is get it evaluated by a good tech to see if the frets can be leveled while still retaining enough fret material to make playing easy on the fingers.

If those few frets are beyond minimums, the best thing to do is a partial refret: pull the worn frets and replace them, and then do a level/profile/polish to the entire fretboard.
 

EsquireOK

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If you're consistently wearing out fewer than half of your frets, you want to do partial re-frets as needed, not leveling or full fret jobs.

Leveling takes a ton of perfectly good fret material off, and will eventually make a full re-fret a necessity, sooner than it needs to be.

Full fret jobs on boards that only have fret wear in a few areas is wasteful of labor, and requires major surgery on areas of the fretboard that don't need it. It's like yanking every tooth in your mouth just because you have six or seven teeth that need to go. And you can only pull frets so many times before the board will start showing it, and the slots will have trouble holding on to new frets.

Partial re-frets offer the best of both worlds. The only time not to do them as a matter of course is if you play pretty much equally over a majority of the board, resulting in very even fret wear over most of the board. In general, a perfectly good, unworn fret should not be pulled, unless the entire board needs significant leveling, or the owner wants to change the fret size.
 
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Bob Womack

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If you are getting fret buzz as you lower an action at bridge and nut, it is typically because of one or more high frets. Interestingly, they are often up in the area one octave above the frets that buzz because that is where the string vibrates laterally the furthest.

By the way, the truss rod is not a means to raise and lower action. It is used to counter the pull of the strings and allow you to set the relief, or slight concave curvature, of the fretboard. A typical setting for relief when fretted at the first fret and fourteenth is the width of one business card. That needs to be set before lowering the action at bridge and nut. A typical indication that there isn't enough relief in the neck is buzzing at the first two or three frets.

And yes, if you are consistently wearing only the first few frets, a partial refret is possible.

Bob
 

PhredE

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Pics of the frets in question would be very helpful. I don't think that will change the nature of the suggestions at all, but being able to see what you are describing can sometimes make a big difference.

As one of our resident subject matter experts would say 'measure and document everything before starting any work' (Thanks again Freeman Keller -- it's great advice I have found).

Just for kicks, have you run a fret rocker over all strings and all frets? It's good to know going in if you might not have some other fret issues to deal with before going too far into a project like this.. IMHO.
 

Freeman Keller

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I have this old T-Type guitar with lots of fret wear on 1 - 3 frets.
I am wondering, if this fret wear is causing buzz when trying to lower the action further down.

When do you know if the guitar needs fret levelling or actual refretting?
I recall many years ago, I saw this vintage Fender Telecaster with the frets levelled to the FB almost flush to it, and it still played OK.
Was it on its last leg of the frets? It was time for refretting work? Or would it have been ok keep playing with the frets in that low level?

Pics of the frets in question would be very helpful. I don't think that will change the nature of the suggestions at all, but being able to see what you are describing can sometimes make a big difference.

As one of our resident subject matter experts would say 'measure and document everything before starting any work' (Thanks again Freeman Keller -- it's great advice I have found).

Just for kicks, have you run a fret rocker over all strings and all frets? It's good to know going in if you might not have some other fret issues to deal with before going too far into a project like this.. IMHO.
I wouldn't try to answer this question without seeing the guitar. Which frets are worn? Have they been dressed before? Does it buzz, if so where? As PhredE says measuring everything before doing anything helps me decide just what needs to be done (and what order to do it).

I do partial refrets, usually on acoustics where it is the first five or six. I prefer to get them all out of the way so I can make sure the board is perfect before banging in new ones. I take into consideration whether the board is bound (takes a little more time), if the neck was side fretted, if the neck has been refretted before, if there was a lot of oil smeared on the board. I don't do necks with nibs and I no longer do lacquered maple boards - someone else can have those hassles. I will use any fretwire the owner wants, my personal guitars get nickel.

I take frets and refrets very seriously - that is the key to everything else
 

eallen

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Pics are essential for a specific answer.

If you think about the geometry of it, anytime a spot on a fret is lower then the next fret, when the string is fretted on that low spot it will be prone to vibrate on the next fret. The only thing that prevents it is for the action & neck relief to be high enough to provide the needed gap when the string is fretted to keep it from contacting the next fret. So yes, fret wear will cause fret buzz whether you are trying to lower the action or not. If you are consistent wearing out the same 3 frets consider hacing those 3 replaced with stainless.
 




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