Jazz Bass Refret – prepping the fretboard and frets

With all of the frets removed it was time to determine which replacement frets to use.  Using a tang width slightly larger than the original can stiffen a weak neck and is advisable if the slots a very worn.  The closest wire I could find was exactly the same as the original but the slots were so clean and the neck was fairly stiff so I decided it was a good fit.

I was lucky that the finish on this maple fingerboard is not very thick.  There weren’t any ridges around the fret slots.  I used a simple neck jig with adjustable arms to hold the neck stationary during the refretting and leveling.  I adjusted the neck as close to flat as I could manage and moved the arms up behind the neck to support it.

It is important to prepare the replacement wire carefuly.  I first cleaned it with acetone to remove any grease from the factory. Running it though a fret bender creates a consistent curve slightly tighter than the neck radius.  I first cut them a little over long and then trim the tang to fit just inside the binding.  The tang nipper from Stuart-MacDonald does this very well.  After the tang is trimmed I put each piece in a small fret grinding jig to bevel the ends.  The jig is just a block of wood with a groove to hold the fret at a constand angle as it is pushed into a sanding disk.  I bevel just a few thousandths of an inch from the trimmed tang.  I burnish the tiny overhang to curl the sharp edge under and then polish the ends on a buffing wheel.  I use a jewelry polishing compound called Zam.  It polishes the ends and rounds all of the sharp edges in one step.  The reside from buffing is easily removed with naptha just prior to installing the frets.