No matter what kind of car you drive, sometimes it needs new brakes and tires. And sometimes with guitars, taking out and replacing each and every fret is the only way to correct certain problems like long-term fret wear and fingerboard irregularities. Most players have heard of this job: the infamous Re-Fret.
It’s a labor intensive process. And when we average everything out, it takes approximately 15-20 minutes per fret to do the entire job. Most guitars have 22 frets. This comes out to roughly 6 hours of work. My shop rate is $75 per hour.
Add a full custom setup with a new hand-carved bone nut to the job, then we’re done!
The work begins with removing every old fret and cleaning out each fret slot. Add an extra 3 minutes each if the fingerboard is bound or if you have pocketed slots… even longer if the slots are mucked up with old glue or residue, not to mention old brittle boards that chip out and need repairing after fret removal.
We then thoroughly and carefully level and prep the wood fingerboard. This is done with various sanding blocks and radius blocks to preserve the curve of the fretboard (unless it’s flat like a classical.) Leveling a fretboard to get it perfectly trued and consistent can be tedious—especially if there are relief issues or significant irregularities. Then each new fret gets individually shaped and prepped for installation. This involves clipping the ends to size and shaving off the tangs if it’s a bound fingerboard. We press or pound each new fret with precision for accurate installation. Then we finish with a complete fret level and setup job.
When considering that my quoted bench time is $75 per hour, and there are typically 22 frets on a guitar, our minimum re-fret estimate with a setup is $600 for unbound fingerboards and $690 for bound fingerboards. Any other repairs needed are added to this estimate.
Some re-fret jobs go exceedingly smooth and easy, and I often discount those. But nearly all guitars will fit into the above scenario. Big jobs like this always conjure the issue of value vs. cost. What you should always consider in this regard is the added life, tone, and playbility given to your instrument. Is it worth paying for precision work done by an experienced technician?
Yes. And I guaranteed your guitar will be happy about it too!
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