Guitar Repair & Restoration by The Guitar Specialist Inc.


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The first guitar Paul brought in was an acoustic guitar built by Jimmy Foster.


We are intimately familiar with Jimmy's guitars, having owned two of them at one time and having worked on a great deal of them over the years 
Jimmy is a single builder who has done fairly well for himself.  He builds beautiful instruments and his instruments sound uniquely like a Foster. A distinction rarely achieved by most small builders.
OK onto Paul's guitar.
Paul liked the instrument very much - he thought that the instrument could play better than it did.  The guitar was somewhat difficult to play and there was quite a bit of fret rattle. A re-fret was in order.

Here is the guitar before we began. Paul said it was difficult to play.

I'll say - the action is about twice what I'd like to see for one of Jimmy's instruments.

Here is another problem I had - The nut sat very poorly in the nut slot. Lots of gaps.

Let's take a close look at the bass side - just as bad.  This can't be very good for tone. We'll take care of that.

As I stated earlier a re-fret was in order.  the frets were not seated well and there was some warping in the fretboard.
I skipped the usual pictures of fret removal as there are so many other places on this site that you can see that. 

After removing the frets we found a great deal of glue in the fret slots.  I have never been a big fan of using glue in fret slots - I don't think it's really necessary. 
Not that there isn't a place for it in the pantheon of fretwork.  I've been known for using glue to help seat a stubborn fret - but as a rule I don't like the idea of gluing in frets.

I have said it time and time again but it is so important that it is worth repeating.  the key to great fretwork starts with fingerboard preparation. Start with a perfect fretting surface and you'll be that much closer to the perfect re-fret.

After leveling the board we are ready to take care of those fret slots.  As I stated before they were fill of glue ...

... but now that we took off some material from the fingerboard face we have to make sure that the slots are deep enough to
accept the wire.

We'll start by digging out the glue from the slots. Here I am using a great little tool which is perfect for the job. It's basically just a hook and very sharp and very thin but very strong.  I use it like a miniature back hoe.  clearing all of the fret slots is a bit tedious but well worth the effort.  We have an attachment to our dremel tool that will do this job in a fraction of the time - but to be honest I don't think it does as good a job - besides I am not sure I'm real comfortable with using a tool that spins up to 30,000 rpm in or even near fret slots.

Here is another great tool.  A miniature saw with two parts.  Just big enough to saw inside the binding for cleaning out and deepening fret slots

The saw cuts on the pull stroke on one of the cutting surfaces ...

and cuts on the push stroke on the other.  Perfect for controll when cutting and trying to preserve the binding on the neck.

Now that the slots are cut, we will check the depth of the slots to ensure that the slots will accept our wire without bottoming out in the slot

We'll check each and every slot - we actually check while we are cutting each slot. But it always makes sense to check again - to be sure.

All the slots are now perfect - clear of glue, and ready for frets.

Before we put the frets in we'll polish up the board.

I never liked the look of dull ebony.

Here is a look at the cleaned out slots.

First we'll check the width of the slots before we choose the appropriate fret wire.

Fret wire is available with differing sizes of tang (the part that digs into the board).  We'll want to match that to the fret slot width

For ths job I elected to use "Jaws", a superb fret installation tool designed by Dan at Stew Mac.

It is a hand held fret press.  Depending on the guitar I'll choose this fret installation method.

I can't use "jaws" over the fingerboard extension so I'll still hammer them in up here.

All in all I still prefer hammering frets in above all other methods of fret installation.

I always put frets in every other fret. This gives me a chance to read the neck and see how the neck is reacting under fret compression.

At the fretting bench, we have this neat little fret bay.  Not only does it hold the cut frets for two guitars, but all of our tools for the installation.

Now we'll cut the fret ends with a specially ground flush cutter.

Here is the other reason we fret every other - as we travel up the neck - the cutter wouldn't fit between the frets if we did them all at once.

Here is the guitar with the neck taped up ready I skipped the pics of the fret leveling process - there are lots of places to see that at this site already.

We tape up all the fingerboards that have fretwork done to them.  I am sickened whenever I see sideways gouges in a fingerboard because some so called guitar tech doesn't bother to protect the fingerboard.

We see a lot of boards come in with little gouges running along the side of the frets.  As if there are some places that haven't heard of masking tape.

Sorry - I am ranting here - back to Paul's guitar.  The frets are all crowned and we are ready to proceed.

Here is a good look at the nicely crowned frets still awaiting the final polish.

OK - here is a really good look.

A quick look down the fingerboard - just for fun.

Did you enjoy that - good let's get back to work !

Remember that poorly fitting nut? We'll take care of that.  A good fitting nut is crucial for good tone and sustain.

Here is the roughly shaped nut cut from a blank.  After we make sure it fits well and is nicely seated we'll cut the string slots.

We use specially made files for cutting string slots.  Each file matches the string gauges used on a particular guitar. Not triangle files here - I hate the way that looks.

All the string slots are cut - I dirtied up the nut with a pencil so you could see the slots better. 

Here is the nut cleaned up, polished up and ready for strings - lest you think we'd give Paul a dirty nut.

Now we'll do the final polish on the frets.  We also made a new saddle - I'll show you the finished product in a bit.

All strung up and ready to be set up.

Here is the New Saddle I mentioned.

Hard to see in this picture but we compensated it to get the intonation just right

Our final action is much more desirable.  now that the frets aren't a problem It won't buzz with action this low.

Here is our well seated nut - with yet again very nice low action at the first fret. This guitar should play really well now.
Here is another shot of the nut.  And Jimmy's beautiful inlay.
Well that's it for this one.  I am glad to say Paul was quite pleased with the way this one came out.  We should have another one to show you soon.

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