Tag: Jescar FW47104

How to… install side dots

Francisca Montersat
Francisca Montserrat with her new side dots

I get really confused when I play on guitars without side dots. You are playing your cowboy chords and everything is fine and then suddenly you want to play a bit of solo up on the 12th fret and you realise that there are no markers above the 5th fret and you have to guess where to put your hand. Well on a 14th fret acoustic guitar you know roughly where the 12th fret is, 2 above where the body and neck joins but say that you need to quickly find the 11th, or 9th fret. For me position markers, or side dots, are essential. Flamenco guitars seems to never have any side dots at all and a lot of Spanish or Classic guitars seems to have forgotten them too. I guess if you are used to it, if you have played your whole life without them maybe it’s fine but I come from the world of electric guitars with clear indications where you are on the neck. My Levin guitars only have side dots up until the 7th fret, it’s just my Goya T-18 that has markers up to the 12th fret, so I decided to change that. I had to order some new Jescar frets from my favourite eBay luthier supplier in the States, Philaluthiertools, so I got some 2mm side dot position markers in black as well. I was a bit scared to drill in to thin strip of binding on my 40-50 years old Levin guitars but after practising on my Francisca Montserrat I felt ready and just did it. It went pretty well, no real drama. It was interesting to see what the fretboards was really made off when you saw the sawdust. Some of the Levin’s had normal rosewood freatboards but the Levin 174 has a ebony fretboard, how fancy pants is that? My dads old Levin LT-16 is supposed to have a rosewood fretboard but I think that sawdust looks very dark for being normal rosewood.

Francisca MontersatFirst I installed 3 side dots on my Francisca Montserrat just to warm up. There might be some Flamenco purists saying that I’ve ruined this guitar now but I think it was a fairly discrete modification that will make it hundred times easier for me to play it. I just drilled a 2mm hole, same as the plastic side dot, about 3-4mm deep. I didn’t use any ruler, I felt that my eyes would be the best judge to make a visual estimatation and get them to line up. I made a little mark with a black pen and then when I was happy with that I made a little pilot hole with a nail so the drill wouldn’t slip. I put some super glue in the end of the side dot stick, stuck it in and then cut it off with a pair of pliers. I got it smooth with a razor blade and then sanded it down with 400, 800, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit paper, the same technique I use for repairing lacquer damage.

Levin LM-26, Levin LT-16
All my Levin’s got new side dots installed, here is a 1959 Levin LM-26 on top and a 1966 Levin LT-16 below. I have to say that the dots I put in on the 9th and 12th fret on my dads LT-16 looks better than the original one on the 7th fret that was installed 48 years ago at the Levin factory in Gothenburg.

How to… refret a guitar

How to… refret a guitar
The shiny new Jescar FW47104 frets I put on my Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul Standard “Made in Japan” 1991

Here is a little update on my previous post on How to… refret a guitar. It turns out that maybe it wasn’t as easy as I first thought to level, crown and polish the frets on a guitar. I have had some small issues with both the Tokai that I refretted and my old Claescaster that I levelled the frets on. I didn’t pay enough attention to the height of the frets and I hardly used the fret rocker the first time around. This resulted in some buzzing when some frets were pressed down. I have now levelled, crowned and polished both guitars again and checked every single fret with the fret rocker to make sure they were all the same height. It would probably have helped if I had glued in the frets on the Tokai when I refretted it, which I didn’t in case I needed to take them out again for some reason. I think the frets not being glued in combination with the difference in the neck with and without the tension of the strings was enough to cause problems with on the Tokai. Now I when I levelled it again I pushed down the guitar to simulate the tension of the strings and that worked pretty well. The Claescaster was a lot easier, that was just a case of paying a bit more attention when I levelled the frets and actually use the fret rocker properly. When I first attempted to level, crown and polish frets it was evening so it got pretty dark and my main light source was the ceiling lamp above me. I have since learned that it’s a lot easier to get this done properly if you have light coming from the opposite side of you. This time I was working in front of the windows and had an even flow of natural light coming in which made it a lot easier to see if the frets were even and later during the polishing stage, if they were smooth enough. Both necks still feels a bit weird but I think that after a couple of hours of heavy playing, not playing heavy music just playing a lot, they will settle and even out a bit. Normally guitars feels weird even after just adjusting the bridge saddles, imagine after changing all the frets.

How to refret a guitar
I checked every single fret with the fret rocker and then marked any parts that was higher with a black marker. I levelled the frets and took extra care with the problem areas. I used a small Bahco file this time instead of the long fret leveller that I used last time. I checked with the fret rocker, levelled a bit more and then checked again until it was perfectly even.

How to refret a guitar
When everything was levelled I just had to crown the frets again and then polish them. I’ve realised that these little aluminium fret board protectors that I have used in the past doesn’t really work. If you have levelled and crowned the frets you have to run a sandpaper over the whole fretboard, feeling every single fret with your fingers to round them off, that’s the only way to get them smooth and nice. For that you really need to do it properly and tape the whole fretboard to protect it.

How to… refret a guitar

How to… refret a guitar
Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul Standard “Made in Japan” 1991

It’s done, it’s all over, I can retire and put my luthier’s tools on the shelf now. Everything I’ve been doing for the last year has been leading up to this moment, to refret my beloved Tokai Love Rock. I decided about a month ago to learn how to refret, crown, dress, polish and care for the frets of my guitars. A fairly wise decision I think since it turned out to not be as hard as everyone said and it has saved me ridiculous amounts of money since people charge 300-400€ for refretting guitars here. I did spend about 170€ on tools but hopefully they will last me a life time and if I refret a couple of more guitars it has soon paid for itself.

How to… refret a guitar
I decided to replace the humbucker rings as well since they were in such a bad state. When I got the Tokai I had to drill out the screws in order to replace them, so I could adjust the pickups, so the plastic rings was kind of super glued together and I have been meaning to replace them ever since. Now I did, with a fancy 3€ pair from China that I scratched with wire wool and then soaked over night in tea and later with coffee, to try to get them to look less new. The cat didn’t fully approve of my decision to spend 6 hours on Saturday refretting my Tokai when I could be rolling around on the floor with her instead. I tightened the pots too, I hate when the knobs feels wobbly, this is actually on my Westone Les Paul, I tightened the screws on quite a few guitars while I was at it. This is how bad the frets were before.

How to… refret a guitar
First step, removing the old frets. It went pretty easy, I was scared they would have been glued in so I would have to heat them with a soldering iron but the weren’t. I got a bit of chipping, I think it’s pretty hard to avoid on an old and well played rosewood fretboard. It wasn’t too bad and since the new frets will cover most of it I decided to just ignore it, sand the fretboard smooth like a babies bottom and the oil it up with lemon oil.

How to… refret a guitar
This was the part I was dreading the most, how to get the frets to fit without ruining the binding. You can get a fancy tool for doing this but I felt I didn’t want spend 85€ since I only have one guitar to refret with binding. I came up with the idea to take on fret at the time, match it to the old fret, cut it, then try to file down the under side so it wouldn’t cut in too much into the binding. I tried my best to file the edges and corners as well, since it would be hard to reach once the fret was in place. It took forever, it hurt my fingers and I hated it but it worked and I guess was worth the 85€ I saved on doing it by hand, fret by fret.

How to… refret a guitar
I made sure the neck was straight with my straight edge and then I marked the top of the frets with a black marker, just to see how much I was taking of when I later leveled the frets. Next step was to crown the frets, make sure everything was straight and even with a fret rocker, file the edges a bit more and then just polish the frets with sand paper and later wire wool.

How to… refret a guitar
How shiny, smooth and awesome is that? New Jescar FW47104 pre-radiused 12″ frets installed on a 1991 Japanese Tokai Love Rock LS-55. Just look at those freaking edges, I’m so proud I could burst. I doubt anyone could have done a better job, even if they would have charged me 400€.

How to… refret a guitar
I decided to go over my old Claescaster as well. This is the good part with having all the tools needed for taking care of your frets. It cost nothing to make sure that things are in a perfect state. I bought both Claescaster necks from the same guy in the UK, First Avenue Guitars. When I bought the first one it was pretty hard to find cheap necks with a vintage tint, especially with a logo fitted under the lacquer. I really like the profile of these too, it’s a normal C but it feels pretty fat and nice so I got a second one for the new Claescaster. The only problem, as with all cheap necks, is that the edges aren’t that smooth so I decided to level, crown, dress and polish them, with extra detail to the corners. Now it feels better than ever.

How to… refret a guitar
Looks pretty good. I decided to put a couple of drops of dry Teflon lubricate in the machine heads before I tightened all the screws and restrung the guitar. I read that these types of dry lubrication for bicycles are good because the attract less dust and crap than normal wet oils so for 4€ I thought it was worth a try. A quick adjustment of the Wilkinson brass saddles and then we are all set. Ready to play.

How to… refret a guitar

Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul Standard "Made in Japan" 1991Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul Standard “Made in Japan” 1991

Today I did it, I decided to go all in and cross the final frontier when it comes to DIY guitar work and ordered everything needed for refretting my Tokai. It has really poor frets, well not only does the frets have big groves in it but it’s hardly any frets left. It’s such a nice guitar and she deserves to be brought back to her former 1991 glory. I have thought about this for a long time, well I’ve thought about refretting her since I bought her, but if I should pay someone 240-340€ to do it or if I should just learn how to do it myself. I have to say that my trust in the quality of any form of workmanship south of the Pyrenees is pretty low. I have seen too many people charge too much for things that I could have done better myself, hopefully I’m right this time to. I bought quite a lot of things from G.M.I. tools in Greece, a fret leveler, fret puller, hammer and then I got a neck support caul and a fret rocker from Guitars & Woods in Portugal. I always try to buy things from my Mediterranean neighbours if I can to help their economy out during the recession, even though I doubt that any of these eBay sellers pay tax.  I struggled a lot when it came to what type of crowning file I should get, I watched a lot of Youtube videos to see what people were using but everyone had a different opinion. In the end I went for two fancy Japan made Uo-Chikyu files from Japarts in Canada, mainly because they were made in Japan and I’m gay for Japanese guitar things, and they had a cute fish as their logo which made me happy. I read a lot of good things about Dunlop’s fret wire on European forums, they seem to be pretty standard here, and a lot of bad things about them on American forums so in the end I trusted the Yanks and bought Jescar fret wire instead from Philadelphia Luthier. All in all I spent 172.73€ for tools that hopefully will last me a lifetime, two sets of fret wire, one for my Tokai Les Paul and one for a Strat/Tele, I don’t think you can get Jescar here so I thought I might as well get an extra set. I also got a cheap set of fret wire to practice with, I was going to refret my old Morgan neck, the original neck to the first Claescaster, just to try to get used to pulling frets and hammering new ones in. If I would just refret one guitar I guess I could just have paid someone 300€ to do it for me, but the main thing for me is to be able to crown and polish the frets on all my guitars, before they get big groves in the frets so I can’t play them. I’ve also notice that I tend to not play some guitars just because they have a bit of fret wear, not because they are hard to play, just because I don’t want them to get worse. That’s a ridiculous excuse for not playing your favourite guitars. I prefer to learn how to do it myself so the cost of refretting a guitar is 12-14€ for the fret wire, and then of course a huge amount of my time but that’s not as precious as having to pay 300€ for someone else to do it for me. Wish me luck!

Here is a list of what I ordered:
Hiroshima Files Uo-Chikyu Medium Radius Fret Crowning File
Hiroshima Files Uo-Chikyu Fret End Dressing File
G.M.I. fret-fingerboard LEVELER 400mm(15.75”)
G.M.I. fret puller-luthier’s tool-MADE IN GERMANY     
G.M.I. fret hammer-luthier’s tool-MADE IN GERMANY
G.M.I. fretboard guards    
Bahco replacment files for G.M.I. fret bevel(3 different cuts)
Guitar Neck Support Caul
Stainless Steel Guitar Fret Rocker Laser Cut – Luthier
Set 2.5mm Wide Nickel Silver Fretwire
Jescar FW47104 Electric Medium/Jumbo Fretwire Pre-radiused 12″
Jescar FW43080 Electric Medium Fretwire Pre-radiused 9.5″