Sunday, 15 April 2012

Ebay Refret with EVO Gold and filler

I got a Profile Silhouette Strat copy off ebay. I paid £115 for a made in Japan Stat, about 30 years old in good condition advertised with not much fret wear. However on receipt it was evident that it had spent a good deal of time playing rhythm on the first five frets as several areas were utterly shot. I decided to keep the guitar but attempt my first refret. After some research I stumbled across EVO gold fretwire. It's _marginally_ more expensive than standard nickel silver, but much more wear resistant and has a nice gold hue to the metal. 

On removing the frets I noticed exactly how deep the slots are compared to the fret tang and how much more the neck moved in my hands. The frets are obviously part of the structure and rigidity of the neck. That and  and I am now working old fret slots. It can't be good.  My solution was to use a resin wood filler to pack the slot prior the instant before fitting the fret. I placed electrical tape either side of the fret slot, filled the slot quickly and then pulled the tape. This leaves a clean surface and a well filled slot. The wood filler cures very quickly so it was one slot at a time. The excess appears out of the side of the slot so it doubles up as the slot filling job at the same time. The truss rod plays a lesser part now as the fretboard in more structural than before.  Six months later there are no issues. I am sure someone will have an problem with filling the slot but in this instance it seems to have worked a treat.

 As for the Jescar EVO gold fretwire, it works easily, polishes beautifully and string bending is all too easy. Someone please explain why EVO Gold isn't used on everything now and why I have to spend a fortune with Gibson before they will fit it. It costs about £2 more than nickel.... As for the Profile copy, with some decent pickups now installed you would never put it down for a Fender seven times the cost. Below, banging in the frets and taping up for the next swipe of plastic wood filler. I hope it shows the gold in the fret, and when polished it's like glass.

Added photo below as this is in natural sunlight which correctly shows the subtle gold. The dot markers were also changed on the guitar. The standard dots fitted were white plastic so I bought a pack of MOP (mother of pearl) the same size. Removal of the old dot markers was simple. You just stick a soldering iron into the middle and gently rotate it round. The plastic melts first and the glue soon follows allowing for a very clean removal of the old dot marker.


  1. Hey Roos
    Good job!
    I think that for the old school purist types of luthier that using filler or adhesive is a no-no, but in these modern days it has become common place. Especially in the commercial repair industry. Even the great Dan Erlewine from Stew Mac suggests using CA adhesive when encounterning a sloppy fret slot. (a little trick is to use auto carnuba paste wax on the top surface of the fretboard to keep the glue from sticking to the surface when it squeezes out of the slot. You dont want to have to sand the board once you already have wire in place.) Also the thickness of the tang vs the slot is something to definateley consider because as you have found out that it does contribute to the stiffness of the neck. Sometimes thicker tang is used to introduce an amount of backbow in a troublesome neck. As you can imagine that if the tang occupies more space than the slot something is going to have to give somewhere.
    As for Gibson....... I didn't quite understand your question completely. But Gibson frets are unique in the fact that most gibsons such as les pauls have a binding along both sides of the fretboard. Usually most guitars with bindings have an undercut on the fret tang allowing for the fretwire to sit flush on top of the binding edges. Gibsons with neck bindings usually will have the binding wrap around the fret ends and then the binding is filed into the shape of the fret and kinda transitions itself as the actual fret end. To properly refret a Les Paul you must also replace the fretboard binding. (this is also a way to spot a genuine les paul from a fake) .
    One other note.... vintage Fender strats are notriously known for being nastyly chipping out on the fretboards when pulling the wire. This is due to the aggresive barbs on the original wire and the fact that they werent pushed in place from the top of the board but rather they were injected or pressed from the side of the ftret board instead with a special built production workstation that was manually operated with a trundle type of configuration. One end of the fret wire was a sharp point that was filed off after being injected or stabbed through the side of the fretboard. Also the Maple fretboards are clearcoated after final fretwork.
    Refretting isn't such a mystery or too difficult if you take your time and are methodical and patient. Certainly was easier than I had always thought it would be, but then again it was more difficuly and tedious than I had imagined in other ways!
    BTW... I still havent done that triode switch mod yet but I did take note!

  2. Oh yeah I also wanted to mention......
    I just love some of those "vintage" (whatever) Japanese guitars!!!! I am especially fond of the late 70's stuff from the Matsumoku factory !!!!

  3. Southbound,

    Well you know frets! Yep Fender did used to bang them in from the side.

    On using the plastic wood, by carefully positioning the tape before swiping in the filler I had no overflow out onto the fretboard at all. It made for a very clean job. What did squeeze out came from the side and did the slot end filling job at the same time. The filler colour matched the rosewood. I have messed with water-viscosity CY-Glue and frets before, but it was messy and tried to go everywhere. Thanks for the wax tip!

    You sort of answered my point about Gibson. If you are going to go to all the trouble to bind over the fret ends why would you still use standard nickel. The EVO is a lot harder so it won't wear as fast so will last in the slot a lot longer. It's also still soft enough to be workable unlike stainless. I am just surprised that it isn't offered on more top end guitars. The gold hue is quite subtle but very nice. In production quantities it is about twice the cost of normal fretwire, but what is the percentage Bill of Materials cost of the fretwire on a Les Paul. It’s in the noise.

    My main difficulty I had fitting was the authentic 7.5inch radius. The fretwire came for 10” and I learnt the hard way that without the proper tools fretwire is impossible to bend to a tighter radius, it will simply twist. I can still get it to bend two tone’s higher without choke above the 12th fret and the action is still quite low. I swapped the plastic markers for MOP whilst I had the frets out. I also sanded to 1200 grit.

    The Profile is a no-name Matsumoto factory guitar, possibly just pre- 80’s. The detail is very good but the selector switch is about 38mm screw pitch which was a flaw in Japan. It’s shorter than the standard so I am stuck with jamming it between positions to get two pickups together. I also have an Antoria Les Paul which I bought in 1980. Nothing like a Les Paul but is still a fantastic guitar. The neck is still one of the best. The arch top is ply over supports so semi-chambered but it sounds gorgeous. Probably why I still have it.