Scared Shitless: Reftretting a vintage guitar

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by OmegaSlayer, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. OmegaSlayer

    OmegaSlayer SS.org Regular

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    The frets of my Ibanez Jem77 FP from 1991 are worn out.
    The guitar has NEVER been refretted, because yeah, I don't bend often, I bend so very few...anyway...
    Last time I brought it to a luthiery for a setup he told me he couldn't achieve a lower action because of the frets.
    I didn't understood his point (worn frets=higher action??? / new frets=lower actions??? :scratch:)...but anyway...the frets are worn out.
    Not compromised, not unplayable but...the guitar became unplayable for me, I think it's 1 year and a half that I don't touch that guitar fearing to wear the frets more.
    But I know that I have to give her a refret.
    I can take time, wait, but ultimately I HAVE TO.

    Now the point is that I have feticism over signature guitars.
    I feel them as collector's items and I want them to remain with the same specs they left the factory.
    I want a Jem, otherwise I'd pick a good Prestige and customize it.
    I'm so anal about signature guitars that I dream a PGM100 but can't found one that has not a dent or something.
    Same goes for my desire of a JPM and a FGM.

    So...I'm very scared that the refret could damage the neck, mostly the tree of life, mostly because the wood of that neck is at least 23 years old.
    OH! And those 4 scalloped section where the fretboard is obviously thinner.
    I know that the frets are going to eventually worn out again and SS would solve the problem a little longer, but that would slightly change the sound and most of all be something different than the original Jim Dunlop 6100 the guitar is meant to have.

    So, I ask you luthiers around, what's the objective percentage that the refret could go wrong.
    I think my luthier is a pro, he made some good works on other guitars I have, but this work really REALLY makes me feel uneasy and full of doubts.
    So...let's consider for this instance that my luthier between average and good.

    Jeez, when I think about this refret I have chills down my spines, I would like to hide in a corner in fetal position and I need cuddles.
     
  2. WiseSplinter

    WiseSplinter SS.org Regular

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    I had a refret done to my JS90HAM which is a fairly rare signature guitar, came out really nicely and I am very happy with the result.
    To me it plays even better than when it was new, the slightly taller frets and that they are made of SS makes it nicer for me, though I see that is not your preference.

    It did not have any inlays close to the frets, scallops or fretboard binding, so those were not issues I had to consider, I can understand how that might make you think twice.

    However, if you can't play the damn thing what good is it? I say go for it, if you trust the luthier :2c:

    Good luck!
     
  3. DistinguishedPapyrus

    DistinguishedPapyrus SS.org Regular

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    ^ yea man, try it. As stated above what good is it anyway if you can't play it?
     
  4. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    1991? Vintage? pfft, that's not even old enough to order a beer... right?

    Damn I feel old now...

    But seriously, trust in your luthier. He'll treat it well and you'll go from an awesome collector's piece to an awesome playable collector's piece.
     
  5. TemjinStrife

    TemjinStrife Power Metal Cellist

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    Find a good tech and you'll be fine. Guys refret *true* vintage pieces all the time ;)
     
  6. tmo

    tmo This is Blue Pain..t

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    If you are having 2nd thoughts, put another guitar (with lower sentimental/whatever value) for that same job and see how it comes out, so you can gain some trust in his work on this specific job...
     
  7. Adventrooster

    Adventrooster 7SNOOB

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    Don't fret it man...<see what I did there. Seriously, let him handle it! I'd be nervous too, but I think if it has to be done it has to be done! Good luck brother!
     
  8. OmegaSlayer

    OmegaSlayer SS.org Regular

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    There's another guitar I own that needs refretting.
    It's a Yamaha RGX custom with frakkin' binding over the frets.
    And that is a gift from my late Grandfather and probably I'm even more scared :(
    Not to mention it will cost A LOT (&#8364; 250-300) on a guitar that I think it's excellent but has a value on the market of &#8364; 700 max
    Sure I would have Stainless Frets on that one though.
     
  9. SpaceDock

    SpaceDock Shred till your dead

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    Check their refret references before you commit, ask how many other guitars they have done and go check out those customers, ask for their recommendations.
     
  10. Le Jeff

    Le Jeff SS.org Regular

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    If you don't trust your local guy then box your guitar up and ship it to someone else.
     
  11. hairychris

    hairychris Hairy Old Bloke

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    This.

    The most difficult thing is doing the research on your tech. A good one can work wonders!

    As a note the tech shouldn't have to do anything to the fretboard itself, and should protect it using tape while doing the work.
     
  12. Cloudy

    Cloudy Pacific Wood Lab

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    91' is not vintage ;)

    But seriously man as long as the tech knows what hes doing it'll be fine.

    If you're that worried theres tons of competent techs you can mail your guitar to worst case.
     
  13. Mik3D23

    Mik3D23 things

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    From what you say it might just need a fret level/dressing. Did the tech that looked at it say that there wasn't enough material left of the frets to be able to level it? Usually it takes a couple levels/crowns before an actual refret is needed. Also, as for why you can't have as low of action as you'd like: frets generally don't get worn down evenly. Where you play the most gets worn down the fastest (usually the first 4-5 frets). That means that the action needs to be slightly higher to make up for the first few frets being shorter than the rest of the neck. Otherwise you'd get some serious buzzing or dead notes on the frets that are worn.

    Edit: Also, if it's just a few frets that are worn excessively, I think the recommendation would be just a partial refret.
     
  14. metallic1

    metallic1 SS.org Regular

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    You mightn't only need a partial refret., say, up to the 12th, 15th, or even to the 19th.
    Then after a full fret level, you'd be good to go.
     
  15. darren

    darren Forum MVP

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    Re-fretting is usually a last resort only when there's not enough metal on the frets to allow for sufficient levelling and re-crowning.

    Have the frets ever been levelled and re-crowned? Some guitars can go for DECADES without needing a refret, and if you don't bend strings very much, i have a hard time believing that there's no usable life left on the frets.
     
  16. Valennic

    Valennic Many Fingers

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    This. If there's not been any fret work done before, any competent tech could just do basic leveling for you. Much less invasive, and much less scary.
     
  17. OmegaSlayer

    OmegaSlayer SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for all the inputs guys.
    The guitar has been played estensively for at least 14 years, considering my hiatus.
    I looked at it again yesterday and...the last 4 frets seems barely worn but yeah, I think there's very few life in the other ones.
    I had only 2 guitars for almost all that time and this is the one I used more.
    I literally played up to 6 hours a day and back in the time I might not have cured the guitar as it deserved.

    I'll take pics tonight.
     

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