View Full Version : Refret or dress ?
After a little over a year of
playing, my apparent death grip has
caused some grooves on the A & E
string frets. I also caused them to be a
slider type of groove w/ a groove then
noticable wear on both sides of the groove.
How deep can these be before refretting
is neccessary ? Are nickel silver the hardest
or is there another alloy out there ? I'll
have to do at least 5 frets. Novice type
job or dont mess w/ it ?
I am not a builder, but I am a repeat refret/fret dress customer. I don't do anything until the grooves cause a problem. The first thing I notice is that a given note on a given string will start to sound "dead" or "tinny" or be out of intonation in relation to adjacent frets. I suppose another problem is that you could get buzzing on the next fret from the worn one, but I haven't run into that one. Then I take the instrument to an experienced mando luthier I trust. In my case, that is Joe Mendel here in St. Louis (NFI). I have him make an assessment and go with his recommendation, whether it is dress, partial refret or full refret.
At the high end, there are people who maintain that the only operation worth doing is a full refret, because the luthier can re-level the fretboard before refretting. I respect that advice, since some of the people who give it know a lot more than I do. But I have had very good luck with both fret dressings and partial refrets and I save a lot of money that way. If you trust your luthier and he is actually looking at your mando and he is going to do the work, I would put a lot of weight in what he says. But I have also had bad work done by people who should have known better.
If you have the frets dressed the nut & bridge will also have to be adjusted or your action will be higher. Frets can only be dressed so low & then you will have numerous problems. My personal feeling is that if they are grooved pretty deep, and you are going to keep the instrument for a long time, go with re-frets. It seems unusual to wear them out in 1 year though. I don't know about whether there are different hardnesses.
I just had my Apitius re-fretted by Sim Daley. #He did a great job.(cost 300.00 plus shipping) He will not do partial re-frets & I agree with that policy.
Michael H Geimer
I took my Weber in for work about 4-5 months ago. I had about 5 frets redressed. The sound difference was just as MandoJohnny described - I was getting a thinner, pinched tone from the problem areas. The dressing took care of the issue.
My luthier commented that I'd likely need some new frets next time around. I just didn't expect to see those notches coming back so soon!
Drat ... I've worked so hard to lighten up the grip!
Fret dressings can be ok if there is not deep grooving. When they need to be done, they should all be done. Partial refrets are really self defeating and a poor way to do the job. We will not do partial refrets in our shops either. The cost is similar to Sims. We do have stainless steel fretwire that will outlast anything else on the market. There is not difference in the way they feel, but they will last far longer. The only downside is they could be a little tougher on strings. It all depends upon how often you change strings. If you change regularly it won't likely make any difference. If you only change when absolutely have to, you may need to change a little more often.
Michael H Geimer
As I mentioned I have a future decision to make regarding my frets, and whether to go the partial or total refret route. Why is it that you consider the partial refret self defeating?
TIA, if you have the time to explain the pro and cons.
A different opinion.
Partial refrets can often be a good way to do the job. I often get instruments from owners who say they need 5 frets. Actually, they almost always need 7 really, but, if the neck is straight, if the fingerboard is in good shape, if I have matching fretwire, and if the frets beyond about fret 7 show nearly no wear, there is no reason to replace the rest of the frets.
After the partial refret the instrument obviously needs a mill and recrown, so that goes into the price, but until you get past about 9 replaced frets it still costs less than a full refret, and there is less chance of damage to the instrument from the unnecesary removal of perfectly good frets.
The last step in any good quality fret work is some amount of milling and recrowning as necessary. This applies to complete as well as partial fret jobs and is the difference between an OK and an excellent fret job. I know of one shop (un-named and not involved in this discussion) that does not do partial refrets because they can get away with not milling the frets if they are all new. The shop makes more money but the customer doesn't get a better fret job.