|Am I the only one that thinks this looks like a sad Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?|
In my usual style I said, "F--- it! Why not?"
If you look closely - the remaining frets have some life left in them. I probably could have just 'dressed' them and moved on with this build. But I have too many plans for this neck.
...and not nearly enough sense in my head.
I really want to see if I can put some binding on this neck. It's tough to do once the fret board is glued to the neck - but not impossible.
However, it is nearly impossible to do it with the frets still installed - so off they must come.
Also - I thought I could get over those diamond fret markers. ...but I can't. I'm just not a diamond kind of guy. So, those will have to come out at some point too. As you can tell - the neck is going to need some work. Here's what we're doing today.
|I'll cut a B...|
Wait, I already used that joke...
First thing you should do is to score the wood under the fret. This is an essential step on a fretboard that has been lacquered (many Fender maple fretboards) but it's also a good idea on a rosewood fretboard like this one. The exacto blade let's you get under the edge of the fret and start the process of loosening it from the wood beneath it. Scoring the wood like this can (should?) help minimize the wood's tendency to chip when you pull the fret wire out. Also, many guitar manufacturers glue their frets into place. This can help start to break that bond.
|"Feelin' Hot Hot Hot!"|
C'mon - who doesn't love a little Buster Poindexter?
Next I busted out (get it?) the soldering iron. This is supposed to serve two purposes. 1) If the fret is glued in place - the heat will melt the glue enough to loosen things up. 2) It's supposed to warm up the wood and make it expand a little. Which seems counter to what you would want in this situation... So, maybe that's bullocks. I don't know. But I did it anyway because smarter people than me have decided it's a good idea. You heat one fret at a time. I placed the tip of the iron on one side of the fret for about 30 seconds and then on the other side for about 30 seconds. Then you remove the fret.
|I'll cut a...|
Oh, yeah. Right...
|Resist the urge to just yank it out.|
That would be counter-productive.
This has two effects: 1) It pulls the fret out (duh). 2) you are pressing and squeezing the wood fibers down - which keeps the chipping to a minimum. All of this is to avoid having to fill gaps that you create when you pull out rosewood that you shouldn't have pulled out.
When you are done - you only have to repeat the process 23 times!
Once I got to about the 3rd or 4th fret I got into a rhythm and removing the remaining frets took about 2 to 3 minutes each. This is one of those times when everything went my way. If these frets had been glued in - it probably would have been a much longer process.
|My successes and failures - in detail!|
Not too shabby. The very first fret (all the way to the right in the above picture) was the worst in terms of chipping. It's not great - but most of that damage will be covered when I install the new frets. I'm also going to sand the fretboard down a bit when I install new fret markers - so most of that damage will disappear anyway. The rest of the fret slots look just like the other two in this picture - which works for me! I'm satisfied this will do just fine.
|How often do you get to describe a photo as full of studs and tang?|
But in all seriousness - it is designed to be difficult to remove. I'm very happy that this part of the process went as well as it did. With a very dried out rosewood fretboard (or an ebony fretboard) the tendency to take out big chunks of wood with the fret is high
|Hey buddy. Yer slots are showing.|
None of the fret slots go all the way to the edge of the fretboard. This is usually how frets look on a board that is bound - there's a space at the edge - like in the above image.
Most Strats and Tele's I've played don't have this gap - the slots go side to side. And there's a good reason for this - it's hella easier to cut the slots and hella easier to cut the frets if the slot goes end to end. It's cheaper too - when you are pumping out 10,000 guitars a day - like the big boys do.
If the slots are like this one - not only do you have to specifically cut the board this way - you also have to remove the fret tangs right at the edge (like in this image). This is a much more involved process. Which is odd if you are not binding the fretboard. It looks like this was a board that was built to be comfortable. Which has me thinking it was on a decent guitar in its prior life.
But it also means...
I now have to trim the tangs off all of the frets when I re-fret this - whether I bind it or not!