Stainless Steel Refret Facts and Pricing
We believe that an informed customer makes the best decisions. There is a lot of information here- please read if you are searching for a refret.
There are a number of refrets you can view on our site to gather more information and see how it’s done. Please go to the Blog Everything or Refrets Only blog on the menu. We have been doing stainless refrets since 2008 and have done too many to list them all. We have samples of a few of the major types- electric, acoustic and bass.
Stainless steel refretting is our specialty and is 90% of what we do. Stainless steel by far makes the best fret material for acoustics, electrics and basses. It lasts 5 times longer than alloy and is without question the smoothest fret material to play. It does not change the sound of your guitar. Claims like that are just plain false! The fact is most shops don’t do refrets with stainless because it takes special equipment and knowledge to do it. We have designed and developed our own machines to cut and trim stainless. It cannot be done successfully with alloy techniques and tools.
If your shop complains about tool cost with stainless, walk out the door. They clearly do not know how to work with stainless, nor do they have the equipment or knowledge to cut and install it properly. The “tool complaint” is a marketing method used to justify their too high prices and/or lack of experience with it.
We charge $365.00 for a normal stainless steel refret including a standard size Graphtech nut** if needed and a set of Martin Darco 9’s or 10’s if you ship the complete guitar. With binding or not, the price is the same. We do not save the ‘nibs’ on Gibson or any other brand’s binding. Obviously, if the guitar has out of the ordinary problems there can be additional charges. If you are out of state, shipping is additional and ranges from $12 to $65 one way depending on where you are and whether you ship the neck or whole guitar. USPS is good and FedEx and UPS are price competitive on any given day. Insurance is an option. Maple fret boards can add to the cost if they have to be refinished. 95% of the time they do not so don’t worry until you speak with us. If you ship the whole guitar and want a particular brand of strings we can order them at additional cost and setup the guitar with them or you can include them when you ship. If you ship the complete guitar then a full setup is included in the cost. If you ship just the neck we mount it in our jig and adjust the truss rod and nut slots. Either way you are in good shape when you get the neck or the guitar back. We do not add additional fees to your shipping costs. The carrier’s charge is what we pass on to you.
** Standard size nut means Fender 1-11/16 or 1-5/8″ or Gibson Les Paul or Epiphone LP size nut. 90% of guitars fall in these categories. Nuts of special size may require an additional charge for custom fabrication.
Click here for info on shipping USPS You will need to ship the neck with the tuners installed on it.
Many of my customers have been quoted crazy prices from $500 in Memphis and Atlanta to $800 in Nashville for a stainless refret! With turnaround times of 6 months. Others have been quoted prices so low it is not realistic. If the shop doesn’t charge enough they’ll go out of business and you will live with the result. If they charge too much you are being taken advantage of. We’ve had to re-do some bad expensive refrets done in large shops in Nashville, and repaired other results of poorly trained luthiers and amateurs refretting with stainless. Stainless steel is all we use, and we guarantee our refrets.
Mass producers like Taylor in acoustics and Fender and others in electrics don’t do it as a standard because it costs more to put it through their fret process and their ultimate goal is to meet a price point. When they will do it you pay a premium.
If you’re going to spend $300 plus for a quality refret, stainless is your best investment. I have worked with stainless steel for over 20 years in various forms and it does have unique characteristics. It is harder than alloy and it doesn’t form as nickel silver alloys do so it will not conform as easily to a fingerboard radius when installed. The necessary skills are required. You cannot beat it into place with a fret hammer as guitar techs do with alloy. You need luthier and metal working skills to do it correctly. Each fret must be perfectly formed for its position on the fingerboard before installation. Then you must use glue. (In fact, glue should be used on an alloy fret job too.) Glue is the stability factor in refret work, preventing roller coaster frets after expansion and contraction of the wood. If your fret shop doesn’t glue the frets, leave quickly and please come see us. Our glue machine comes from the semiconductor industry! You must use a fret press in combination with a fret hammer for finishing. Since SS is harder than nickel alloy, it is harder to file the fret ends to even them up with the fret board, meaning more time invested for the average shop. We take the extra time to do that. Each fret must be cut with special tools to the closest length possible and the correct radius before installation, unlike soft alloys that can be clipped off with nippers once they are in the fret board. Stainless will ruin those tools and that’s where the complaining guitar shop comes in. Refretting with SS is no harder to do than using nickel alloy IF you have the requisite knowledge.
So what does all this mean to you? It means that you’ll have frets that last a long, long time, excellent sound from your guitar and unmatched playability, guaranteed! Once you play stainless you will never go back to alloy! The price difference between alloy and stainless material is insignificant. What you are paying for is the luthier’s knowledge and time. Don’t be taken to the cleaners on sub-par over or under priced stainless fret jobs from the big box or local stores. Come see us or ship to us and get it done correctly for a fair price, guaranteed 100%!
How it’s done:
Here are the basics of what happens on a refret.
These are just the fundamentals. It takes anywhere from 9 to 12 hours to do a refret depending on problems that may or may not arise.
1. Evaluate the fret board for twists and divots.
2. If set neck remove pickups to prevent damage, remove tuners.
3. Remove old frets.
4. Remove nut.
5. Level fretboard and repair if needed.
6. Clear and re-saw fret slots.
7. Form and cut fret wire.
8. Inject glue into fret slot.
9. Press and hammer in new frets.
10. File fret ends flush.
11. Level, re-crown, de-burr fret ends and polish.
12. Make new nut or use old nut if possible and install.
13. If maple and if needed, spray tinted poly on fret board and then clean poly off fret tops.
14. Restring and setup bridge saddles and adjust nut slots.
Fret Wire Sizes:
We currently stock the following stainless fret wire. All our wire is from Jescar and purchased in 1 and 5lb rolls depending on demand. Jescar is the supplier of choice to all major guitar builders, Andersen, Suhr and others. We do not buy off brand wire and brand it with our name. Quality of the wire is just as important as the quality of the fret work:
6100 – .110 x .057 – Most preferred electric wire. Considered Jumbo. Suitable for all electrics including shred guitars.
6105 – .095 x .047 – Preferred for acoustics, Martins, and Taylors. Suitable for electrics if a smaller than jumbo fret wire is desired.
6150 – .104 x .047 – An interim electric wire for those electric players who prefer a smaller fret.
It can be a tough call to pick out the right wire size if you don’t know what you want. By far the most requested is 6100 stainless. It is the biggest of the wire but once accustomed to it, it’s very easy to play and you’ll wonder how you did without it all those years. But it’s not for everyone. So if you’ve tried it and feel it’s too large then go with one of the others. Acoustics work really well with 6105.
Here are some important points to take note of before you come in for a refret:
- We DO NOT do partial refrets.
- We WILL NOT use your fret wire under any circumstance.
- We DO NOT fret with alloy. We ONLY fret with stainless.
- If you desire a wire size we don’t stock we can accommodate you if it’s available but there is a $35.00 additional charge. Because we buy wire in quantity we must pass along the cost. If you have multiple guitars to refret, arrangements can be made for us to share that additional cost with you. We will work with you on the wire depending on the number of refrets you need done.
- We guarantee our work 100% and stand behind it.
Call us. Ask me anything about stainless and the refret process. You will love stainless steel frets! 🙂