1.  Remove the guitar strings.  

2.  Removing the frets:

A.  I remove the frets by heating the fret with a

     soldering iron that has been modified with a

     grove in the tip so the tip of the soldering iron

     won't slip off the fret while being heated.  

     I use a 50 watt soldering iron being very careful

     not to scorch the fret board.

B.  Using a special tool purchased on line from a

      guitar supply store, while the fret is hot,

      carefully slip the teeth of the tool under the fret

      by placing the tools teeth flat against the fret

      board and carefully squeezing and rocking backing

      forth, if necessary. Once the teeth of the tool

      has slipped under the fret move it along the fret

      in the same manner until the fret has dislodged

      from the fret slot.  Continue until all the frets

      have been removed.

C.  After the frets have been removed I clean out

     the fret slots, check the fret slot depths, and

     clean the fret board. Fret board cleaner can be

     bought from a number of guitar supply sites or

     your local guitar supply store.

D.  If the fret board needs a slight sanding I do it at

     this is the time using a radius block the same

     radius as the fret board.

     I don't sand if it's not necessary. It is important

     to check the radius of the fret board with a radius

     gage before sanding and use the appropriate

     radius block for sanding.  

C.  At this point, if your not using any type of neck

      jig as I use (see below Installing the frets 4D )

     adjust the truss rod to make the neck as straight

     as possible. Do this now if your not using a neck

     jig. See my Truss Rod Adjustment instructions.

    Note: Before continuing to the next step be certain

    you have the fret type you need to install.

3.  Preparing the frets for installation:

A.  Using a fret bending tool (pictured) I bend the fret

     slightly more than the radius of the fret board.  

     Then cut the frets slightly wider than the fret

     board slot it'll be installed into.  I usually leave

     about 1/16th over each edge.

B.  I place the fret into an index to keep the frets

     organized until I'm ready to install them.

C.  At this point if the guitar neck has binding the

     fret tangs need to be nipped at each end to fit

     in between the binding.

D.  Measuring how much needs to be removed, nip the

     tang flush to the bottom of the fret using a fret


4.   Installing the frets:

A.  I use two methods of installing the fret into the

     finger board. I either press them in or hammer

     them in using a fret hammer. I actually prefer

     hammering because I feel I have more control

     over the fret being inserted.  Great care must

     be taken when hammering so not to over

     hammer damaging the fret board. There are

     times when pressing in the frets is desirable.

     I usually determine that on a case by case basis.

B.  Using a little hot glue pore a bead into the fret slot

     starting on one side and going to the other so the

     entire length of the fret slot has glue in it. A small

     amount is enough. Be careful not to over do it.

     Hide glue can be used, preferred by some. I've read

     that some people use Tightbond, I wouldn't

     recommend it.

C.  Once the glue is put into the fret slot press the fret

     into place or carefully tap the fret into place with the

     fret  hammer.  After installing the fret make sure the

     fret is in contact with the fret board the entire length

     of the fret.  I use a .001 to a .0015 feeler gauge to

     check between the fret and the finger board running

     the feeler gauge along the fret board and the edge of

     fret. If the feeler gauge slips under the fret tap the

     fret down carefully to close the gap. Do this before the

     glue dries.

     Note: If you decide to hammer the frets into place

     Be sure you have a solid padded radiused base

     under the neck and do not over hammer you could

     damage the finger board or the neck. Please read

     this article on Stewart MacDonald's web site.


D.  Trim the ends of the frets by cutting the ends of the

     frets, using a fret cutter, as close to the finger board

     as possible with out damaging the fret board.

E.  Using a file, bevel the ends of the frets 30 - 35°.  Run

     the file along the edge of the fret board holding the file

     at the 35° angle until the frets are flush with the side

     of the fret board. Using a beveling file makes this

     operation much easier. The edge of the finger board

     should be smooth when you run your finger up or down

     the finger board. You should not feel any sharp edges  

     of the frets hanging over the edge of the finger board.

5.   Leveling the frets:

A.  Check the neck and make sure it's straight.  You can

     check it with a special straight edge notched for the

     frets or by sighting down the length of the neck. Don't

     use the frets to check if the neck is straight.  It is very

     important to make sure the neck is straight to perform

     the next step.

     Tape the neck off as shown in the illustration on this

     page to protect the finger board, finger board edges

     and binding.

B.  Using the appropriate radius block with 150 - 180

     grit sand paper sand the frets moving up and down

     parallel to the neck. Make certain you keep the

     center of the block  aligned to the center of the neck,

     until the top side along the length of each fret has

     been touched by the sand paper.

     Note: You can use a higher grit if you choose not to be

     so aggressive removing material.  I use Porter Cable,

     Norton or 3M sticky back paper on a 6 or a 12 inch long

     radius block.  

C.  Check the flatness of the frets, using a straight edge,

     along the radius of the frets, from one side to the

     other. The straight edge should not rock over any fret

     in any position along the radius of the frets.  If you've

     touched the tops of each fret while leveling, the frets

     should be level at this point.  It is best to check with

     a short straight edge across each set of three frets

     down the length of the finger board, then check with

     the longer straight edge across the entire finger board.

     This insures that you didn't missed a low fret.  

D.  Some frets may have larger flat spots than others.

     This is OK as long as it's not excessive.  As your

     sanding check the flat spots on the frets. If the flat

     spots appear to be larger in the center of the neck the

     neck may not be straight.  You may have a back bow

     in your neck. Excessive flats spots will show at each

     end of the fret board if the neck has a forward bow.

     Sight down the neck again and straighten it before



6.   Re-crowning the Frets:

A.   At this point tape off the finger board between each

      fret the entire length of the board. I use Scotch 3M

      Blue Painters Tape for delicate surfaces.

B.   First, make sure you are using the correct recrowning

      file.  Start by placing the file on the frets closest point

      to you rolling the file across the entire length of the

      fret until you reach the opposite side.  Repeat this

      process until the flats on the frets created by the

      leveling process have been removed

C.   Using the same radiused recrowning file, roll the file

     over each end of each fret to slightly round the ends

     of each fret.  It's important to round each end slightly

     and to keep the round consistent between each fret.

     Then using a 3-Corner Fret Dressing Files dress the

     edges of each fret so there are no sharp edges at the

     edge of the fret board. Run your finger up and down

     the edge of the finger board to ensure there are no

     sharp edges.

D.  Once the frets have been dressed to your satisfaction

     using a small square piece of 400 sand paper sand

     The any file marks out of the frets.  Do this carefully

     so not to sand through the protection tape on the fret

     board especially on the edges.  

     Hint:  I usually double tape the fret board so this

             doesn't happen.

     Repeat this sanding of each with 600 sandpaper.

     Then buff with 0000 or 000 steel wool.  You can

     substitute the steel wool with a piece of clothe and

     rubbing compound.

E.  Remove the tape set the neck relief, restring and

     enjoy your new fret job.  See Adjusting the Neck

     Relief HERE.

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Refret Instructions