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Refretting a lacquered fretboard

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Freeman Keller, May 19, 2020.

  1. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    A couple of weeks ago a friend brought his Jazz Base over and asked if I would refret it for him. Altho I've fretted quite a few guitars, I had never done on with a lacquered maple fretboard. Had a couple of opportunities, turned them down.

    I actually asked here and on another forum what people thought

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/refretting-a-lacquered-fretboard.1022274/

    On the other forum two repair people who I highly respect chimed in, one said "you can do it", the other said that their shop has stopped doing them and they refer the work elsewhere.

    I really wanted a reason to say no. I told my friend all the things that could go wrong, that I had never done one and I was afraid to mess up his lovely bass. I considered just dressing the frets that were on it, but even that was fraught with potential issues. Finally I said OK.

    I decided to replace the first 9 and masked off that part of the board. Here is the upper frets and the finish I want to preserve

    Oh, just to add one more little complication, even tho its a one piece neck (I think) it is bound in black plastic

    IMG_6272.JPG

    I scribed around the base of each fret with an Xacto knife to cut through the finish

    IMG_6286.JPG

    And pulled 'em. The old frets came out hard, even with heat, but very little actual chipping

    IMG_6287.JPG

    Cleaned out the slots, bent and cut off the new frets. Filed back the tang to fit between the binding. I find an Xacto knife really good for cleaning out the slots, as well as that funny little saw

    IMG_6304.JPG

    Pressed 'em in with a drop of medium CA in the slot

    IMG_6307.JPG

    Clamped them up over night. Next day I clipped the ends and dressed them being as careful as I could about not damaging the finish near the ends

    IMG_6308.JPG

    IMG_6309.JPG

    Marked the tops of the frets with a magic marker and backed off the truss rod so the board would be flat

    IMG_6310.JPG

    and leveled them with the big beam

    IMG_6311.JPG
     
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  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    More of the saga. In spite of all of my efforts I did manage to scratch the finish in a few spots and while there wasn't much chip out the edge of the frets just didn't look as good as I would have liked. So out came the spray gun and 6 coats went on

    IMG_6313.JPG

    What a total hassle mixing the little bit of lacquer, cleaning the gun and all for just two passes down the neck. Fifteen minutes of fiddling for fifteen seconds of shooting

    IMG_6314.JPG

    I thinned the last coat pretty heavily but I'm just not a good enough finisher to get a perfect application that doesn't need buffing. Its pretty good, but not like it was before.

    Let this dry for a couple of days, masked the board back off and scraped the frets themself.

    IMG_6316.JPG

    Pulled that tape, sanded at 1500 and buffed

    IMG_6317.JPG

    notice that the foam pad has picked up a bunch of color from the frets - its probably shot for any future buffing

    Put the neck back on the bass and did a little setup

    IMG_6319.JPG


    When I played up the neck the middle strings were slightly buzzy and I thought "what the heck". Checking the radius at the bridge it was much flatter than the fretboard - raised the center saddles slightly and all is good.

    IMG_6320.JPG
     
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  3. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm satisfied with the results but its certainly not my best effort. It easily took me twice as long as a "normal" fret job. I might consider doing another one for a friend as long as we had a serious discussion first, but like my friend Hesh at the other forum suggested, I'm not interested in doing this on a regular basis.
     
  4. ladave

    ladave Tele-Holic

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    Nicely done! Thanks for sharing.

    My first fret job was on a brand new Musikraft neck I had just bought and finished (maple board as well).

    Definitely learned a lot.
     
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  5. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    Pull frets>sand lightly>refret>overspray thin lacquer coat, it will melt the old lacquer.
    I've done it this way no issue and easy peasy.
    You job looks great though.
     
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  6. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    Well, you got through it ok Freeman. Doesn't mean you have to take another project like that on in the future. Great work though. I'd bet it sounds and plays great too.
     
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  7. dazzaman

    dazzaman Tele-Afflicted

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    Looks really good in the photos Freeman.
    Can you tell me what you are using compound-wise for polishing after the 1500 please? I see the Meguiars Mirror Glaze there, but what else?
     
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  8. ElJay370

    ElJay370 Tele-Afflicted

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    Now you know why your local repair shop charges $400 bucks.
     
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  9. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Thanks everyone. Owner just picked it up and is over joyed - he has a number of basses but this is his baby. I won't say that I'll never do another one but I have a much better idea of what I'm getting into. Actually, that is not true, it was pretty much exactly what I thought I was getting into.

    I use Mequiars #2 and #3 for all of my polishing, either with the foam pad or with a small pedestal buffer. The #3 glazing compound doesn't have silicon or wax, is available at my auto parts store and seems to do a pretty good job. Normally I would start standing at 800 or 1000 and go to 2000 but I didn't want to burn thru the finish around the frets.
     
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  10. koolaide

    koolaide Tele-Afflicted

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    Well executed and explained. Bravo. Clean and precise.
     
  11. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Came out great!
     
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  12. tubegeek

    tubegeek Friend of Leo's

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    @Freeman Keller - you have a real gift for the "show and tell," over and above the "do." I always get a lot out of your threads, I admire your work both in the communication and in the process itself.
     
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  13. sothoth

    sothoth Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

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    If this was easy, there wouldn’t be a special word in the dictionary for people with the niche skill of fixing and building guitars, man. Nice work.

    I’m going to make and fret a cigar box guitar neck soon and am bookmarking this and a few other threads to read prior to hitting it. Really appreciate the post.
     
  14. sothoth

    sothoth Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

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    I might find an old maple neck and refret it to try that technique. Where do you get your lacquer? I have a few bottles of spray from Reranch.
     
  15. tintag27

    tintag27 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Great thread - beautifully photographed and very well explained!
    You did a fine job on that old bass, and your friend must have been delighted with the result!
     
  16. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have used Colortone and Behlens from StewMac, Behlens seems to be no longer available. Recently I've purchased Cardinal lacquer from LMII - unlike SM, LMII ships for free. I try to match the sealer and use the same brand of thinner for reducing the lacquer - I don't always know what they put in the stuff so I try to stay with the brand. For clean up I just buy generic lacquer thinner from a box store.

    Thats actually a good thing to note here, the only reason I would consider doing this is that I knew I could fix the lacquer - if it was some modern catalyzed poly-something I wouldn't have even attempted it.
     
  17. sothoth

    sothoth Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

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    Excellent. How are you determining what’s on there before you decide to do it or not?
     
  18. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Put a drop of lacquer thinner on some part of the finish that is hidden - in this case the bottom of the neck heel (you can also remove a tuner and do it on the footprint). If the finish softens it is lacquer. You can also make some guesses from the age and type of guitar, sometimes the manufacturer will tell what they use.,
     
  19. CajunJ

    CajunJ Tele-Holic

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    Nice work!
     
  20. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    I've done it with Reranch. Stew Mac is fine though.
    You can also do the lacquer before fretting if it's just a thin flow coat. You may need to drag a fret saw ( have a thin Japanese Pull Saw I use) through the frets but just as likely you wont have to even do that.
    Fender finishes some of their maple necks after fretting.
     
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