This project brought new life to an old friend. The Telecaster that was pieced together by my customer. It was loved and played for many years to the point where the frets had divots all up and down the neck. Normally, frets have enough material on them to get at least one or two fret levelings before replacing them is needed, but at the customer’s request, they needed to go.
With the guitar pieced together, the height of the neck at the heel didn’t match the neck pocket. The action was still quite high even with the bridge lowered all the way down. The customer actually placed 2 outdated credit cards as shims…
To remove the frets, I heat them one by one, with a soldering iron and working each out with a fret puller. It’s important to keep the frets warm so the teng pulls the least amount of wood grain with them.
Once the frets are out, I measure the radius of the fingerboard so I know what to bend the new fretwire into. This Tele has a particularly round radius of 7.25″ After cleaning off the new frets, I run the wire through the fret bender. Usually takes a few times of trial and error to get the correct curvature. After that, I prep the existing slots in the neck with a saw which matches the new fret wire’s teng. Not much is needed.
Next, I pre-cut the bent fret-wire and begin pressing the frets into the fingerboard with my handy arbor press. This tool is amazing. Traditionally, a neck is re-fret with a hammer, which is loud… really loud and takes at least 5 hits per fret to sit properly. Multiply that by 21 or more frets and you have angry neighbors.
Sometimes, I like to use glue when pressing in the frets. I chose not to this time and let the teng of the fret work its magic. After all the frets are pressed in, the next step is to file the edges flush with the fingerboard. As you can tell the picture with the sleeping cat, I was working late into the night… or maybe early afternoon, or… I don’t know. Cats sleep 2/3 of the day apparently.
Next up, I take a small, 3-corner file and round out the fret ends. If you’ve ever played a guitar off a factory belt that skipped this step, you’ll probably remember it for the rest of your life because those cuts are nasty! I mask off the fingerboard with tape and file each fret end, both sides
After that, the new frets need to be leveled. Although they look to be at the same height at a glance, there are always high spots. and check each string position with my handy fret rocker and make a note of which spots that will need leveling. Then, I get to work with my leveling file. I check the marked areas with my fret rocker as I go. Once everything is at an even height, I take a crowning file and re-shape each fret. This same procedure can be done with the 3-corner file, but for the sake of time, this is my method. Then, I sand out any remaining scratches with wet/dry sandpaper and finish them off with some rubbing compound. I remove the tape and apply a bit of lemon oil to condition the fingerboard.
Lastly, I discarded the credit cards and shape a piece of 1/8″ maple to the neck pocket to aid the neck height. I cut the new bone nut, (which I’ve explained my process in a few other blog entries), strung the guitar up and VIOLIA! This guitar’s got a brand new start in life.
Does your guitar need some a re-fret leveling or re-fret? Call Andrew with South Austin Guitar Repair 512-590-1225 for fast friendly fret work.
This project was special, it was a personal project, resurrected from one of the first basses I ever built! This particular project had changed appearances a few times through it’s life. Originally, it was a Jazz bass, then I experimented with a series of different pickup combinations, all of which required routing to the body. Eventually, this bass was set aside and scraped for parts. After using some of the spalted maple for a repair on another build, I sanded the top wood of the bass entirely and set it aside as a future project.
Finally, I had an objective. Build a bass with a sharp attack, broad tonal range, sleek look, light-weighted and elegant aesthetic. Having never built a bass with a graphite neck, I knew that was a necessary component. I had this bookmatched AAAA quilted maple top sitting around for years. Originally, I was planning to build a guitar with it, but things got in the way and the farthest I ever got was gluing the two pieces together until it sat for years. Something funny about working with this this maple top: I don’t currently own a band saw, which is how I typically would cut out wood when building. SO when working with this piece of maple, I cut it by hand, scoring the wood with a straight-edge ruler and a razor. When the top wood was close to shape, I glued it onto the walnut body and rasped the rest of it to fit the shape. Lastly, I beveled the top with a hand router.
For electronics, I was on a mission for a versatile, sharp-attacking growling bass tone. I hadn’t had a jazz bass for a long time. I am always experimenting with different pickup combinations and manufacturers to see what is best, but you can’t the simplicity of the almighty jazz bass. Gritty, tight, balanced; there’s good reason why they are the winning combination for musicians and manufacturers. I am a firm supporter of the Aguliar OBP preamps. I have them installed on each of my 6 basses. This one was an OBP-2, which offers a bass/treble boost and cut. I wired those with a stacked pot to save space. I prefer my pickups to be wired through a 3-way mini toggle switch into to a single volume. I’m all or nothing when it comes to pickup volume and combinations. Now, comes is my ace in the hole. The middle knob on this bass is actually a 5-way rotary switch. It’s a distortion circuit that moves from true bypass and though 4 switchable distortion models that get progressively grittier as you go up. Personally, I prefer the 3rd position for my stylings. Just enough break-up for each note to pierce through the mix while still maintaining clarity and the role of the low end of my band.
For all your guitar repair needs, contact Andrew of South Austin Guitar Repair – 512-590-1225
This poor Taylor had a run-in with a misstep of the wrong foot! The customer had borrowed this guitar from a friend and mistakenly used it for a slipper, or boot, or… I dunno. But it done got broke!
The customer was nervous this guitar might not be fixable in its condition. The breaks were complex and many. When it all comes down, (most) guitars are wood. Everything can be fixed one way or another.
Clamping wood from the outside is no issue, but when a crack is 8″ or longer and going through a surface, is difficult to keep level when re-gluing. I needed to create pressure from the inside-out for the guitar’s top to clamp evenly on the exterior.
For this repair, I went Macguyver and made a new set of clamps from a turnbuckle, threaded furniture foot and… a another, non-threaded furniture foot! The threaded furniture foot provided the necessary torque to apply pressure outward when unscrewed, inside the guitar body. Any additional clamp on the outside can apply pressure inward. The cracks are then equalized between the two sides so not to set unevenly.
Some of the cracks where odd, broken and uneven with the grain where they rest. Overlapping from where they should rest. In some of those occurrences, it’s easier to break the piece off and re-glue than to attempt to force it back.
After all the pieces were glued in place, the back, the guitar back needed to be evened out. Fortunately, Taylor uses light lacquer on their guitars, so it only took a few hours of sanding to get through the finish and level the wood. Once that was even, A few coats of clear lacquer was applied and the back was good as new.
Here is an old guitar that underwent a total makeover. Once again, the was the unfortunate result of parents allowing their young children to “play” their guitars. I honestly don’t know how these kids are able to deconstruct this guitar the way they did, but this is absolutely the most broken guitar I have ever come across…
The top and back were almost completely separated from from the sides, only being held together by the neck, which was broken at the dovetail joint, loose from the top and fingerboard splitting apart from the rest of the neck. The inside of the guitar had melted crayons scattered about. There were no tuners or string nut and bridge saddle. The kerfing on the sides has been split in various locations… basically, this guitar was as they call in the auto-industry, “totaled.”
But one can’t put a price on sentimental value and it was decided to bring this guitar back to life. I think for this occasion, I’ll let the pictures do the talking 😉
Wow, it’s almost been a month since I’ve had time to blog about Austin guitar repairs. Despite the summer rush for repairs being over, the rush itself seems to continue on. I guess it’s a good problem to have?
So, down to the nitty gritty.
After many years of love and play time, the owner of this guitar made an honest attempt to re-fret the first four frets on his own. Unfortunately for his efforts, murphy’s law is especially true when doing any kind of work on your frets. So after his replaced frets completely fret themselves out, he brought it in to my shop for a fix.
The main issue, was the frets were not a good replacement size (too short in crown height) and I couldn’t simply mill them down to match the others. In this case, it was faster and easier to replace them entirely.
First the frets needed to be pulled. The customer didn’t use any glue, so they were only being held in by the teng of the fret. Once they were out, I cleaned out the inside of the fret slots for any debris.
Next, I use a gauge to determine what radius the fingerboard has been manufactured. This guitar was 10″. To translate, imagine a 10″ diameter circle; the top of that circle is the shape of this guitar’s fingerboard, which the frets are placed.
Using my handy fret bender, I fed the fret wire through and cut sections to place on the neck. Because this fingerboard had binding on its sides, I also needed to undercut the ten on the ends so it could sit flush on the fingerboard.
After applying a bit of glue to the bottom of the frets, I hammered them into their slots using a brass-tipped hammer. Once they were in, I clamped them down with a radius block that matched the fingerboard’s profile.
After a night of the glue curing, I removed the clamp and beveled the edges of the frets for any sharp corners. Using that same radius block and a bit of 150 and 220 sand paper, I leveled any imperfections in the new frets and it’s older neighboring ones. Then, using some wet/dry sandpaper, I gave them each a “once over” to smooth them further.
Next, I polished each one with a bit of rubbing compound to buff out any additional scratches. After removing the masking tape from the fingerboard, I apply a few dabs of lemon oil to coat and enrich the rosewood fingerboard
Once that’s dried, I string out the guitar and it’s back in action! Fret work, to say the least, is a series of steps. But when performed correctly, bring a tired, worn guitar, back to life.
Today, we have another one of the many awesome guitar projects here in Austin, TX. The owner of this guitar wanted to do some electronic upgrades to his main ax; an American Fender Telecaster. He didn’t like the output of his current neck pickup and always liked the idea of adding a humbucker in the neck position, just not with the idea of routing out so much material from the guitar’s body and pick guard.
Fortunately, the bright minds at Seymour Duncan provide almost every option under the sun for guitar pickups and after spending a few minutes talking about preferences and styles the owner liked to play, we decided to install the Li’l Screamin’ Demon.
This pickups is actually designed to fit a Stratocaster and though not by much, don’t fit the routing in the body or pick guard “as-is.”
No problem. With my handy little Dremel, the pickup route was opened ever so slightly to accommodate the new addition. After some free-handed filing to the pick guard, the pickup was mounted ready for action.
Lastly, the guitar was wired with a on/off kill switch to be able to achieve the Tom Morello signal cut effect.
Yep… just another day at the office.