Reasons for Removing Guitar Frets
Worn Down Frets
There are quite a few reasons why a person would need to remove or replace their guitar frets. Over time frets can get worn down from the constant friction of the strings. If you like to bend the strings a lot, that can also add to the frets wearing down. You can tell that your frets are getting worn down by pulling the strings off to one side. Once you have done that you can see if there are any divots in the frets where the strings usually sit. These divots can be leveled out if they are not to deep. Once cleaned and leveled, your frets will play great. Unfortunately you can only clean and level your frets a few times until there isn’t enough material left on the frets to service. If this is the case, then the frets are so worn down that they will need to be replaced.
Another reason for fret replacement is because it could be damaged. Dropping a guitar (which is a cardinal sin) on the ground or onto another guitar or bass can cause you to hit a fret and put a large dent in it. It will be easier to replace this fret than to try to level all the frets down to the damaged fret’s height.
Improperly Seated Frets
One reason a fret may need to be removed or replaced is that the fret is improperly seated into the fret slot. Usually, an improperly seated fret can cause string buzzing. You can tell if your fret is not seated properly by looking down at the base of the crown and the fret board. There should be no space between the two. The base of the crown should sit flat against the fret board. Usually, improperly seated frets are caused by faulty installation. The fret slot may be to shallow for the fret tang or the fret may not be pressed in the fret slot all the way. Regardless of the cause of the improperly seated fret, it needs to be removed and seated in the fret slot properly.
Removing a Guitar Fret
Frets are usually glued into the fret slot. Some manufacturers made their fret slots so narrow (tight) that the fret does not need glue to stay in the slot. Most manufacturers will use some sort of glue to hold the frets in place. It is important to know what kind of guitar (fret board) you are removing the frets from. Different guitar manufacturers have installed frets differently over the years. For instance, early Fender guitars had their frets slid in the fret board side ways rather than pressing the frets straight down into the slot. This is important to know because if you try to pull a sideways Fender guitar style fret straight out, you will probably take some of the fret board off with the fret.
Removing frets from an early Fender Guitar
As I said earlier, early Fender guitars have their frets pushed in from the side of the fret board. Most likely, Fender most likely did this so they didn’t have to use glue to hold the frets in place. Sliding the frets in from the side creates notches in the fret slot that make it almost impossible to pull the fret straight out of the fret board with normal wear. The only problem with installing frets this way is that it is difficult to remove the frets for repairs. Modern Fender frets are pressed straight into the fret board. So if you have a modern style Fender guitar, you will not need to slide the frets out sideways from the fret board. Here are a few steps to removing frets from an early Fender guitar.
First, remove the strings from the guitar. Once the strings have been removed, you can remove the neck from the body. This is fairly easy to do with a Fender guitar. Simply, remove the neck screws and the neck will slide right out. Once you have the neck removed, you can get ready to start removing the frets. Check out the ends of the frets and see which way the frets were installed (slid) into the fret board. Clamp the neck in place (be careful when doing this) and place a nail set on the end of the fret. Use a hammer to lightly hit (use small strokes) the nail set and carefully drive the frets out sideways. The fret should (key word being should) slide right out of the slot. Be careful not to hit the fret too hard. A large jerk of the fret can cause the fret board to chip. If any chunk of the fret board comes off, save it. You can glue it back in place once the frets are removed. The next step in the process is to clean the fret slot and replace the fret.
Removing frets from modern Fender Guitars
Modern Fender guitars frets are pressed straight into the fretboard. You do not have to worry about driving the frets out sideways. Also, modern Fender guitars usually use glue to hold their frets in place, so you will have to heat up the glue (be careful here). Here are the steps for removing frets from a modern Fender guitar.
On a Modern Fender Guitar
- First, remove the strings from the guitar.
- After the strings have been removed, remove the neck from the body. This is not too bad to do with a Fender guitar. Simply, unscrew the neck screws and the neck can be removed from neck pocket.
- Once the neck is removed, you can start removing the frets. Take a soldering gun and file a notch in the end of soldering tip just big enough for the fret wire to fit but not so big the iron hits the fret board.
- Plug the soldering gun in and preheat. Once heated run the tip of the solder gun across the length of the fret. Heat the fret evenly and make sure to stay at least 1/8″ away from the edges of the fret. You do not need to heat the fret up very much. All you need to do is heat the fret up just enough to loosen the glue in the fret slot.
- Use a pair of flush ground end nippers to remove the fret from the slot. You should not have to pull the fret out of the slot. simply, open the nippers, place them flat on the fret board around the fret, and clamp the nippers slowly shut. The fret should lift itself out of the fret slot.
- Keep clamping the end nippers across the fret in 1/8″ increments until the fret is removed from the fret slot.
- The next step in the process is to clean the fret slot and replace the fret.