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Refret cost. I'm in shock.

Discussion in 'Tech-Talk' started by GaryCorby, May 13, 2012.

  1. GaryCorby

    GaryCorby Strat-O-Master

    Apr 11, 2012
    I have a MIM made in 2000 with alder body and a maple neck. I've customised the guitar to the point that the only remaining original parts are the body and the neck. The neck has vintage frets, some of which are now worn to the point that I think a refret is in order. I could level, but because they're vintage height I think I'd end up too low. Also I'd have to lower every fret to the new height.

    So I called a couple of luthiers. One charges $500 for a maple refret. The other charges $550. OMG! I could buy a new neck for less than that. I'm in Sydney, Australia, so that might affect the price, but even so, this seems over the top.

    So my questions:

    What are the chances I could refret this neck myself? I'm handy with wiring, and I have a woodwork bench, but I've never refretted anything in my life. My thought at the moment is, how hard could it be? And if I stuff it up, I'd only end up moving on to Plan B anyway:

    Would I be better off just buying a new neck? If so, what would be a recommended source? I checked out Warmoth, and I imagine there are others?

    All suggestions welcome.

  2. nickmsmith

    nickmsmith Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 28, 2011
    Yes, definitely. A new neck is a better choice. In Australia, I would think you could get a nearly new MIM neck for 2 or 300.

    In the USA you could find one for 100-200. 500 dollars is completely outrageous, they should factor in what kind of guitar they're working on. I'd understand that for a 1950s or 60s strat, not for a modern MIM.

  3. mw13068

    mw13068 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 29, 2009
    Ithaca, NY
    In that situation, I would try the refret myself. We live in the internet age and it's not rocket science. You would need a few tools, but you'd have them available for the next project when you're done.

    I might try it on a cheapo neck first, and then move on to the Strat.

    You would end up with a refret, and the skill to do a job that others apparently charge $500 for. You could charge people $250 and make all your money back with a few jobs.

    At the prices those people are asking, they're basically begging people to DIY and make them obsolete.

    My local luthier does strat refrets for around $145.

  4. oldwolf

    oldwolf Strat-O-Master

    Jun 6, 2011
    San Antonio, Texas
    I do highly recommend practicing on some junker guitar first. It is probably the hardest job in all of guitar repair, to do, and do it right. On top of that, the maple neck is much harder than the rosewood fingerboard version.

    It would be easier for a novice, to replace the neck with an after market neck.

    Good luck.
    Gene Warner

  5. srvwannab

    srvwannab Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 19, 2010
    Riviera Paradise
    I would agree with mw and old wolf, it's something you can do but it will be a lot of hard work to do right, but you can get those precut frets from Stewmac and give it a try, that should make it easier. But really with Warmoth necks being such high quality and for about $200 I don't know why anyone would bother with a refret unless they need to use the neck they already have.

  6. OldtimeR&R

    OldtimeR&R Strat-O-Master

    Sep 12, 2010
    The Midwest
    I do luthier work, but I would recommend you getting a new neck. Warmoth necks are high quality & if you buy an unfinished (no lacquer) one you can get it for less than 200. I don't know what the shipping would be down under, but you'll end up with a high quality part, musch better than you could likely do yourself, considering it would be your 1st try. You can also try USA Custom Guitars, Best Guitar Parts, & even Allparts if you can live with a Mitey-Mite neck. I only say that because they are not as good regarding quality, but are cheaper.

  7. ghostwolf

    ghostwolf Super Moderator Staff Member

    Jan 5, 2009

  8. jimmiraz

    jimmiraz Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 3, 2010
    Buffalo NY
    If you really like the neck mw13068 brings great points to the table.
    It's a heck of a lot cheaper and the tools and skill learned can pay for themself.
    I myself would be inclined to do it myself being a bolt on neck.
    I have done a telecaster maple neck and it turned out fine.
    If you have faith in your skill and take your time it should go well.
    Worst case senerio is a new neck anyway right.

    If it were a cherished guitar with a one piece neck body design I would probably then suck it up and pay the price.
    I'm planning on having my old Flying V done one day, it's gonna cost but i'm not gonna chance it.
    I'll leave that up to the pro.

  9. mw13068

    mw13068 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 29, 2009
    Ithaca, NY

    People charging $500 for a strat refret are basically telling the world that they want more competition in the market, because they're probably swamped.

    It's not an "easy" job, but with all the resources available these days, how hard could it be?

  10. Corona

    Corona Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 27, 2010
    Austin, TX
    My favorite luthier, charges $320 for a refret.
    If you want stainless steel ADD $180. (There's $500 right there.)
    Add another $50 if its a bound fretboard.

    I don't know. Its pretty labor intensive, and not a task the average "shade tree" luthier would likely be up to. Remember, they have to be dressed, leveled and polished too.
    I don't think the pricing is completely out of line - might be a little high.
    If it were me, I'd get a new neck from Warmoth. 500 bones will go a long way on a new neck.

  11. pauljo1963

    pauljo1963 Senior Stratmaster

    Jul 30, 2010
    Melbourne Australia
    I feel for the OP, i was quoted ( if I remember rightly) $ 100 for the first fret, then $ 15 for each additional fret. I know that it is a skilled job, with specialist tools, but I passed on it.
    the axe still plays fine

    this was here in Melbourne Australia

  12. Corona

    Corona Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 27, 2010
    Austin, TX
    Here's a picture demo of what he does, and what is involved in a refret job.
    Again, IMHO this is a very specialized skill and not to be under taken by the faint of heart, or those lacking the necessary skill set.

    1985 Strat Refret | Straight Frets Guitar Service


    OLDGREYGIT Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 7, 2011
    Oh dear, one of my set neck Gordon Smiths needs a refret at some point.........
    I hadn't realised it was that expensive.
    I think it's time for a bitza Tele.

  14. srvwannab

    srvwannab Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 19, 2010
    Riviera Paradise
    Thank god for bolt on necks, at least the OP has more options. Leo you genius you!

  15. GaryCorby

    GaryCorby Strat-O-Master

    Apr 11, 2012
    This is superb and thoughtful advice, and I can't thank you all enough for your ideas.

    Having looked through Corona's link and done some reading, I'm sure I couldn't do anything like a quality job without a huge amount of lengthy trial and error. I'd definitely have to practise on a cheapo neck, as mw and others suggest. Good idea, that.

    Checking over the Warmoth site is not doing me any good either, because now I have Neck Acquisition Syndrome. There're a whole pile of interesting options. I want to buy about five different necks. An ebony fingerboard could be very cool and still come under a refret cost. Which is bizarre.

    I know for sure I'll be doing a US tour next year. I think I'll try both plans. I'll look into refretting in detail, and if I don't have it under control by next year, buy a neck while I'm in the US.

  16. Stratattack72

    Stratattack72 Strat-O-Master

    Nov 4, 2010
    New Neck is the way to go . Warmoth you can get one that you like to your specs . I have attemped a refret and it's a night mare . I probably won't attempt another one anytime soon. too many things can go wrong, that you can't fix . GET A NEW NECK !

  17. sir humphrey

    sir humphrey Strat-Talker

    Jan 2, 2012
    Find a new guitar tech! $500 AD works out a £310 - I'd expect that for a bound neck Gibson, but a Strat should be less than half that.

    I had my old 57 reissue refretted by a very good luthier I use. He charges £5000 to build you a guitar. He charged me £125 to do a fantastic refret with stainless steel frets.

    You may have to pay a bit more if he needs to relaquer the neck (my lacquer had worn away years before) but even with that it shouldn't be more than £200.

    Shop around.

  18. TexCaster

    TexCaster Strat-O-Master

    Aug 18, 2009
    You can get a new neck, but for me the neck IS the strat. A new neck might not feel "right."

    Why not get the tools you need, and try to refret it? Practice on a junker first. If you jack up your good neck, well, you were thinking about buying a new neck, right?

    And if you do a good job you can charge your buddies less than the shop charges. But don't forget that maple fretboards are more work (refinishing) than unfinished fretboards.

  19. Jack FFR1846

    Jack FFR1846 Senior Stratmaster

    May 4, 2011
    Hopkinton, MA
    If you decide to do it yourself, you're going to have to learn how to level and crown the frets anyways, so check out the Ron Kirn tech post on tdpri, get his book from him and do your neck yourself. If you like how it came out, just play it. If not, you haven't lost anything.... can still buy a new replacement and put the old one up for sale.

  20. 32soundz

    32soundz Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 16, 2010
    In front of my amp.
    I paid 170 euro for a perfect refret on an AVRI57 maple neck, perfect job, not a tiny chip of the original lacquer missing anywhere.