Tools for refretting an electric bass or guitar
By Ras on 18 Apr 2009
If you want to refret an instrument yourself, you will probably have to invest in some new tools, since some of the tools needed are fairly specialized. Most of them can be bought on the internet or you can make them yourself, to help keep expenses down.
These are the tools I used for my first three refrets -- the price of the professional fretting tool is put in parentheses, after the name of the tool.
In stead of a precision straightedge (€ 27) I use a scraper I had lying around. Granted, it isn't nano-millimeter precise, but it gets the job done.
Tower pincers (fret puller)
As I wrote in Refretting a Fender Jazz Bass guitar, DIY next time I am going to refret I am tempted to get hold of a real fret pulling tool (€ 20), or something similar, since the tower pincers are a bit rough on the fretboard. But they only cost € 2... 8o)
Carpenter's pincers (fret cutter)
A pair of carpenter's pincers which cost me around € 2, in stead of a fret cutter (€ 22). They do an excellent job.
Dual-face plastic hammer
To hammer in the frets with, it doesn't scratch the frets like a metal hammer will.
Standard double cut file
For removing excess fret ends, before using the fret leveling file. Not crucial, but a good way to save the fret leveling file from being worn down too fast.
Fret leveling file
I made my own custom-made fret leveling file with rounded edges (€ 26) by cutting off the handle of an ordinary flat, single-cut, smooth file, grounding off the edges and gluing it to a piece of wood. The length is 16 cm (≈ 6 inches), so that it will touch 4-5 frets when leveling.
A well functioning leveling block (€ 25) was made by gluing some masonite on a piece of wood. It doubles as isolation when I secure the neck with a clamp, putting it between the clamp and the fret board.
Japan scrapers (fret rocker)
I bought a set of Japan scrapers for € 2, normally used to apply plasters in smaller areas, to replace a fret rocker (€ 17). I also use them as slot-cutting files: I gave the biggest Japan scraper a few “teeth” with a small file and use it to clean the fret slots with.
Fret end dressing file
I made a fret end dressing file (€ 10) by grinding one of the sides of a small four-sided file flat, which cost me € 2.
Sandpaper, steel wool, masking tape, instant glue, naphtha, cloth
I put back chips with a little instant glue, like cyanoacrylate. To protect the fret board from scratches I tape it up with masking tape, which comes off fine without any problems. It's probably not a good idea to let it stay on overnight though. To sand the frets, I use sandpaper in grit sizes 320, 600, 1200 and 00000 steel wool to finish off with. I wipe the neck clean with some naphtha on a cloth.
Since I don't have a garage to work in, I made a functional working environment by cutting a piece of masonite board so that it fit on my living room table. I use it to put my tools on and it also prevents metal-dust and dirt from ending up on my table.