Today’s Tips du Jour Mailbag question comes to us from Italy.
“Dear Robert, I’m trying to remove the frets from my fretboard. However, I’m getting a lot of chip out as the frets are removed. Am I doing something wrong? Please help. – Mossimo in Italy”
Well Mossimo, removing frets from an old fretboard can create a problem and the problem you are finding is, you get chip out. Let me show you a couple of things I do to help minimize this as I’m removing frets. So the first thing I like to do is heat the fret. I’m just using a little soldering iron here and I run it along the fret. Make sure that you have some solder on the tip so you don’t ruin the tip. And what that’s doing is heating up that fret and perhaps helping loosen any adhesive that’s in there to hold that fret it. And I don’t know if there was any adhesive used. Perhaps there was, perhaps there wasn’t. But if you heat the fret, it will help break down any adhesive that was used in there. It also helps shrink the wood just a little bit from around the fret. As it’s drying out it gets hot and it will help relax that slot just a little bit. Next I’m going to come in with a pair of cutters like this. Now, these cutters I’ve put on a grinder, on my disc sander, and have ground a flat surface on there. So what I’m going to do is come in, start at one side here, and press down with the plyers as I start to get those plyers under there and squeeze. And there you go. You have very minimal chip out, if any at all. Now let me show you another pair of plyers that I have. And this trick I learned from Scott Baxendale of Baxendale guitars. I want to give him credit for this. What this is just a pair of cutters that I went down to my local hardware store and bought. And then I put it on an edge grinder to grind that edge flat. I then took a dremel and opened up the area there in the middle with the little grinder and then recessed this area here just a little bit. Now let me show you how I use these plyers. According to Scott you can use this without heating up the fret slot. That’s the beauty of this design. However, as a little security, I like to go ahead and heat the slot just a little bit by heating the fret and letting it dissipate down into the slot. I then come in with the tool and start on one edge. I’m just going to apply lateral pressure like this. As I apply lateral pressure, it’s forcing the fret up. But because the bottom of the tool is flat and I’m only applying lateral pressure – I’m not pulling up on the fret – in theory, it should help hold all of that ebony down in there. Now you’ll notice the fret goes right through the underside of the tool and comes out the back side. And there you go. So here it is again. Start with the tool, just get under the edge there. Work the tool right on across the fret and the fret goes under the tool and out the backside. And you can remove frets very quickly by doing it this way with little chance of tear out. So Mossimo, I hope you found this information useful and happy fretting.