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The Infamous Bar Frets
Refretting the 1931 Martin 000-45
© Frank Ford, 3/4/98; Photos by Frank Ford, 7/9/95

This 000-45 (Lefty) was the subject of my article on
neck resetting. I've reset the neck now, and I'm ready to replace the frets and deal with a badly abused fingerboard. This one has been treated roughly during repairs, probably at a time when its actual cash value was not so much. I can now afford to take my time to correct past abuses!

I invite you to read my article on
refretting a D-35 to fill in any of the gaps in this discussion. Bar frets are much more involved, and I'll gloss over some of the details and processes that both jobs have in common.

The fingerboard shows reglued and loose chips at almost every fret, and severe scarring from fretwork between all the frets:

One of the previous repairs consisted of raising the frets by pulling out all the frets and slipping mahogany slivers underneath, then returning the frets to their original slots. In the process, many of the overhanging fret ends were simply cut off.

First order of business is to remove the frets. I'll use a special pair of bent flush cutters I found while rummaging around in the local SNAP-ON truck:

These cutters are made for fine electronic work, and they work just perfectly to raise bar frets. I can "bite" the fret gently, and rock the cutters backward, allowing the jaws to pivot where they contact the fret. I'll heat the fret as usual with my soldering iron:

Here I'm just starting to raise the fret right where I'm heating it. I want to go very slowly and the leverage of this rocking action allows me to do that easily. The high heat will allow me to avoid pulling chips from the fingerboard. I'll still have to deal with all those previous chips, though!



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