How to Remove Frets
Source: Fret Repair
How to Remove Frets:
If you are just starting out in guitar repair this would be a great place to begin. Replacing a single fret or a few frets will give you a window to what a partial or complete fret job may be like for you to complete, without the risk of complete messing up. After all – it’s just one fret right? Or maybe 2 or 3. But anyway, when you nail the method of doing one a few more will go just as smooth.
By the way, removal of one fret or all the frets involves the same procedure so this article applies to any fret job you may be addressing.
Required Tools and Materials:
For the complete listing of tools and materials go to the article Essential Fret Repair Tools. There we list the tools needed and how each tool is used.
The first and perhaps the most important task is determining the fret(s) in need of replacement.
Keep in mind that there can be much more wrong with the guitar fretboard other than worn or damaged frets.
Be sure to read the following articles:
For the Purpose of This Article, lets keep it simple and say that you checked the neck relief, and all the other conditions that could go wrong with the neck, and everything checks out OK.
Looking at the fretboard you see that the first three frets are worn past the point of saving them through a fret redressing process. This could be because the fretboard has been redressed once already or it could be that the frets were too low to start with.
Preparation of the Guitar:
Remove all of the strings by loosening them, pulling the balls out of the bridge and looping them around and tying them back behind the peghead. If the strings are worn out, don’t worry about this and just slack the strings and cut them and do a complete string removal.
Next make sure you are working on a padded workbench of the appropriate height and that it is completely solid. Now place the neck in the Neck Support Cradle and adjust so that the guitar is very solid.
Removal of the Frets:
Assuming you have identified the frets to be removed, take the Reworked End Nippers and carefully work the jaws under the first fret to be removed, at the end of the fret. Use a slight upward prying action and slowly work the End Nipper along the fret until it is clear of the fingerboard. If there are any fibers that were loosened along the way, glue them back in place immediately.
Ultimate Guitar Building Tip #1: One method that is used to eliminate fibers of wood being chipped out is to place a piece of masking tape directly next to the fret on either side. Burnish the tape with your fingernail so it is secured to the fretboard.
Prepare the Existing Fret Channel:
To make it easy on the next repairman that comes along you can do this: Very carefully remove the tape if you used tape. It is best not to just simply strip the tape off, but the remove it from the edge opposite the fret channel.
Next take a Needle File or a Fine Triangular File and run it parallel to the fret channel to ever so slightly put a chamfer on the 2 edges of the fret channel. This should be just slightly persevable with your naked eye, but not a lot more than that. This will prevent the wood from chipping when the fret is removed the next time.
Clean Out the Fret Channel:
It is best to clean all debris from the fret channel. For just a few channels, simply take an Xacto Knife with a hooked blade and clean out wood chips, old glue, wax etc. that may be in the fret channel.
If you have determined that you will need to glue in the frets you should take a Dremel Rotary Tool and clean the fret slots to prepare for the new fret job. We will cover this in more detail in a separate, related article.
You should now have cleaned, tidy fret channels ready to receive the new frets.