This Fender Strat was in need of a re-fret and its lacquer was beginning to peel too.
The process for re-fretting a Maple fingerboard or any lacquered fingerboard is long and drawn out as the fingerboard is usually protected by several coats of hard wearing clear lacquer.
This lacquer sometimes becomes worn and flaky and also starts to break out along the edge of some frets. This usually depends on how well the lacquer has been applied in the first place.
The Re-fretting Process
- The neck is removed from the body for ease of working. All frets are removed; at this point I prefer to protect the fingerboard from the rotating motion of the end cutters* with a slither of veneer
- The truss-rod is slackened off and set in a flat and neutral position. The neck is then fixed to a holding-jig so that its flatness can be maintained throughout the re-fret
- The radius of the fingerboard is checked and a corresponding profiling block used to sand off the finish**
- At this point any repairs necessary are made to the fingerboard
- The fret slots are cleaned out and enlarged as necessary
- The headstock and sides of the neck are masked off to protect from spray gun over-blow
- Several coats of lacquer are applied
- The fingerboard is re-fretted
- The new frets are snipped to length and their ends smoothed off
- The final coats of lacquer are applied
- The new finish is smoothed and polished
- The new frets are levelled, profiled and polished. Check out this process here
* Cutters with the jaws ground to a flat and level edge.
** Note that by removing the finish down to the new wood will irreversibly change the colour of the maple. Affectively, the tanning of the finish will be removed; this tanning is caused by ultra-violet light bombardment over time. The tone of this tanning is age dependant. Please be aware that removing the lacquer back to the wood will alter the overall look of the fingerboard. This should be considered when regarding the general look of the guitar.