What is a good guitar refret? Should I do it?

Black electrical guitar in repair service shop with a hands of a guitar luthierWhat is refretting?
Refretting is a specialized process in guitar maintenance and repair that involves replacing the worn frets on a guitar’s fretboard with new ones. This meticulous process involves the removal and replacement of worn frets, breathing new life into an instrument’s playability and tonal qualities.

When does your guitar need a refret?
Over a prolonged period of playing your guitar, the frets will start to wear down due to the repeated friction between the strings and the frets. This wear can result in a variety of issues, including buzzing strings, uneven playability, intonation problems, and reduced sustain. 

An obvious sign that your guitar needs a refret is when the frets are either too low or when deep grooves are apparent on the frets. We strongly encourage you to bring down your guitar to our technician for an assessment if you are unsure of whether your guitar needs a refret.

What are the benefits of a refret?
Refretting a guitar offers a range of benefits that can greatly enhance the instrument’s playability, tone, and overall performance. Not only will a refret give your guitar improved playability and renewed sustain, it also enhances the tonal quality and prolongs the lifespan of your guitar. 

It is also a great option for guitarists who want to customise fret size, material and fretboard radius to suit their playing styles and preferences.

What entails a good refret?
A well-refretted guitar should exhibit smooth and comfortable playability across the entire fretboard. The strings should be easy to press down without excessive effort, buzzing or fretting out. 

At Sound Alchemy, we ensure the fret ends feel smooth to the touch when you slide your hand down the neck. Overall, the guitar would feel responsive and effortless to play after a good refret job.

A luthier fixing a guitar

What goes on during the process of a refret?
The refretting process involves several stages; assessment stage, fret removal and refret preparation stage, fret replacement, dressing and setup stage, and final testing stage before we hand the guitar back to our customer.

Assessment stage:
Our guitar technician examines the guitar to assess the extent of the fret wear and determine whether a refret is necessary. Sometimes, if the fret wear is not too extensive, you can also opt for fret leveling instead of a refret, which is a cost and time effective solution compared to refretting. We will share more on this in a later article.

Fret removal:
The old frets are carefully removed from the fretboard using specialized tools to avoid damaging the wood.

Refret preparation stage:
Once the frets have been removed, our guitar technician will clean and level the fretboard to ensure a smooth and even surface for the new frets. At this stage, you may also choose to re-radius the fretboard radius. For example we will be able to level the fretboard from a 7.25 to 9.5 radius with the help of radius blocks to check the radius curvature.

Fret replacement and dressing:
New frets are meticulously installed into the fret slots on the fretboard using specialised tools such as a fret press. The frets are then leveled, crowned (reshaped to create a curved profile), and polished to ensure uniform height and a comfortable playing surface. Lastly, the fret ends are carefully shaped to ensure a smooth feel and no sharp edges.

After the new frets are in place, the guitar’s setup is readjusted. This includes adjusting the string height, intonation, and truss rod, if needed, to ensure optimal playability. In some cases, we may also need to replace the guitar nut to accommodate the height of the new frets. 

Final testing stage:
Our guitar technician will rigorously test your guitar with new strings after the refret to ensure there are no playability issues before handing it over to the customer.

Adjusting the intonation of electric guitar by screwing a screw at a guitar bridgeConclusion; to refret or not to refret?
Ultimately, the decision to refret a guitar depends on factors such as the instrument’s value, the player’s preferences, and the degree of wear. Refretting can significantly extend the life of a guitar, restoring its original playability and allowing players to continue creating music with renewed enthusiasm. Refretting is a good option for players who want to revive their beloved guitars, some due to sentimental value. Overall, a refret will bring new life into your guitar.

In our experience, we handled cases where the existing frets still have life left in them, and based on our assessment, we proposed an alternative solution called fret leveling to our customers. These process will provide improved playability albeit having lowered frets.

At Sound Alchemy, we understand the significance of this decision. Our team of skilled technicians stand ready to guide you through the refretting process, ensuring that your instrument receives the care and attention it deserves. Whether it’s a vintage gem seeking restoration or a beloved companion yearning for renewed vitality, we’re here to collaborate in crafting an experience that brings your guitar’s potential to new heights.