I had a customer inquire the other day about a refret concerning Ibanez Jem guitars with a tree of life inlay. They are fine guitars, some of the best made but from an everyday guitarist point of view they pose some difficulties. If they need to be re-fretted the tree of life can get chipped.  This is what I told him.

“The vine inlay can be damaged during a refret even if the fret board does not need leveling. I’m not saying it will- I am saying it could. Frets have to be heated to soften the glue holding them in. That heat can discolor the inlay material, less if it is shell and more if it is plastic. Fret tangs have barbs on them and that is what helps hold them in the wood. When those barbs are pulled out of the slot they are pulling against the edges of the inlay at the top of the slot and can possibly crack it, chip it or pull it out.  There is no exception, all fret boards, Maple, Rosewood, Ebony chip out to a lower or higher degree when pulling frets. So no matter who you get to do your refret you need to be aware of the possible effects of the procedure. An informed customer is a better customer in my book. This is an exposure you have should you have vine inlay or any inlay that goes under a fret and has a fret slot sawed across it.  It is pretty but for an everyday axe that sees a lot of use, it may not work out so well. If you want it kept pristine, maybe use it for special occasions and shows and use something less intricate for everyday playing.”

I’ll be honest with you, the point of the post is that something like a vine inlay looks really nice but it can cause you some problems down the road if you are into maintaining pristine guitars. If you have a vine inlay re-fretted and if it does have a chip or two it shows character and that you play your guitar!  Food for thought.