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Not to Fret, Buy a New Neck or Fix It?

May 13, 2008
Recently, a nick scratch or whatever was noticed on a fret on my Fender Mexican Stratocaster. Before we start, it is important to mention that what is discussed today is not brand sensitive.

That article brings to mind an conundrum that concerned a nick on the fifteenth fret on a highly upgraded Mexican Stratocaster. It's truly a special guitar.

This particular guitar has Texas Special pickups, a Vintage bridge/tremolo and Sperzel Locking Tuners. It is also set-up with extra low action for bending them strings.

No one likes an excuse. And I am not making one. I don't remember banging or dropping or even smashing anyone or thing with it (and I don't drink or do drugs), but I may have bopped it unknowingly. As a matter of interest, I am a product of the fifties and was a teenager in the sixties, so pardon me if I only have one point five (1.5) active brain cells that remember my past reasonably well!

To summarized the problem in short order, I noticed this scratch on the 15th fret the other day when I was playing and bending really hard above the 12th fret. It snagged or got caught on the fifteenth fret only when I bent the high E or B string one and a half notes and higher.

Realistically, I hate to break a string, however I'm used to that. Further more I change strings every week. More of an issue is hurting my fingers. A cut or scratch or rip job could lay me up for a while. I would probably loose my mind if I couldn't play every day.

Basically you have four choices. #1 is to replace the fret/s. #2 is to buy a new neck and replace the neck. #3 is to use some J.B. Weld epoxy and carefully fill and finish it. #4 is, do nothing.

Four strategies. Which one is the best? Depending on your budget, and a few questions that may come up, like: are my other frets worn or in need of dressing up too? And can one fret be replaced without affecting the playing ability? Should I re-fret the whole neck? Can I use some J.B. Weld epoxy to smooth the fret?

Simply put, all strategies have a positive and negative side.

Most likely, you can buy a new neck and have it installed and set up for less than a fret job. A fret job can run three hundred bucks or more. I have seen new necks ready to bolt on for less than two hundred bucks. Even with labor, that is most likely the most cost effective way to go. Companies like Warmoth,
Stu-Mac and Fret Not Guitar Repair can provide you with so many neck options your head will spin.

Unless the guitar is of extreme value to you, either personally or monetarily, or it plays to sweet to change the neck, go for a new neck. If you are ready for a change or have tried a guitar with a neck shape you like, you probably should consider a new neck. Check the reserve of necks the above companies have to offer. You will want to call them and talk to an expert. It's a complicated subject. You definitely want to get the right neck.

As an experiment, one time when I was more broke than I am now, I fixed a fret with a nick in it with an epoxy. J.B. Weld is the brand I used, but there are many good FAST DRY epoxies in the hardware store, marine store or auto parts house. Fast dry is important. Mix your epoxy properly and thoroughly and with a toothpick put a drop of epoxy and smooth it out as much as you can. This is absolutely temporary in terms of a fix. Strings will wear the epoxy in a short time.

Note: Clean the fret first with a non oily cleaner, not WD-40, but rubbing alcohol or anything that ends in "zine". Be careful not breath it or get it on you.

Let the fast dry epoxy sit for a few hours and then, with a really fine sand paper such as 400 grit carefully sand the epoxy until it is smooth. Finish the fret job off by sanding with a 2000 grit wet or dry sandpaper for extra smoothness. It works, I still play that guitar regularly, but realistically the fret will need replacing in the long run, but it works in a pinch.

Well, hopefully, this clears up the mystifying and scary thoughts on what to do when you scratch a fret. The strategies listed all work, it's in your court to make the final decision. Take time and study your subject, since it has been my experience that the more you know, the better decision you will make.

About the Author
For more information about Guitar Players Center Fender Guitars or Guitar Upgrades. Feel free to visit our website, ask questions, share it with others, make comments or simply enjoy.
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