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Jim's '59... refret?
  • Hey Jim, just curious... how many times have you had your '59 refretted? I too have a beloved #1, it's been refretted once, curious how many I might be able to get out if it...
  • ruger - My '59 has been re-fretted twice. Once, right before I got it 25 years ago and again about 4 years ago by Flip Scipio. I put it off as long a could- until the frets were like lines sitting on the fingerboard and my guitar was never really in tune- for years!

    A re-fret is a very big deal, find someone you trust who has a long career as a luthier with references from similar repair experiences. With all due respect, there are some jokers out there. Find an experienced luthier with an esthetic you find similar to your own. We aren't talking about swapping out a pick up!

    Aside from being a master craftsman - My ideal luthier is someone who doesn't want to change your guitar - like a surgeon who suggests alternatives to avoid the last resort- surgery. Basically, I am suspicious of a luthier who wants to change ANYTHING, and if they do anything at all without my approval, I know they aren't the right person for me. When my pick guard was falling off, Flip understood that was the way I preferred it, he respected it and he didn't get a bee in his bonnet about gluing it, or adding adhesive. He's the MAN.

    I'd give you Flip's info, but I'm sorry- the last time we spoke he wasn't taking any new work. He did a great job- it was absolutely flawless workmanship and my guitar and I are very happy.

    Me? I would reach out to Duke Levine, Bill Finnegan (Klon) or Luca Benedetti if I needed a luthier re-fret referral - those guys have forgotten more about guitars then I know. Let me know if I can help.

    PS- I put on a new pick guard last month - I don't know why I waited so long!
  • OMG! A new pick guard on the 59'??? Heresy!!!! LOL

    Thanks for the detailed reply, Jim. I have already, unfortunately, experienced what you describe... my refret was done by an amateur I was friends with on TDPRI, and the guitar hasn't been the same since. I should have known something was amiss when he told me (after getting my guitar) that, when I requested FENDER medium jumbo frets (which is what was on there), he had "already purchased" "other fretwire" from a Luthier supply house that was "almost identical" to the Fender medium jumbo.... uh-oh....

    It's still my #1, and as I have played the guitar, it's getting better.... it's ironic.... I went with this guy NOT to save money, it was actually to save TIME, I didn't want to be without it for a long time, and most luthiers wanted my guitar in-shop, THEN gave me a 2-month estimate... meaning, they would get to it when they could get to it and work on it when they could work on it. I guess they have so much work, they can do this. I wanted to drop my guitar off the day before work started, and pick it up the day after work was completed, and no one was willing to accommodate this.

    Now that I have a #2 (another tele I have fallen in love with), I could bite the bullet and be without #1 for awhile.... and I'll go to a reputable (and recommended by people I trust) luthier. Thanks again for the detailed advice, as "no change" is the perfect way to describe what we are all after with our beloveds- frets HAVE to be changed eventually, but no change.
  • So much great advice in this post. I had my 87 Strat refretted a few years ago. I had references to a highly regarded luthier in central Houston. But out of laziness, I instead I took a chance with someone closer who had done a nice job in the past with fret levels. And I've never really been happy with it. Turns out there's a big difference between the skill and patience required to do fret levels vs. refrets.

    Part of that is my fault. I went with jumbo frets, and in retrospect should have stuck with medium jumbos. But the guy who installed them didn't do a very good job polishing and rounding the fret ends. I've done my best to clean them up with a Stew Mac fret file, but a pro could have done a much better job.

    I'll probably have it refretted again at some point, with medium jumbos and by a real pro. Lesson learned, I suppose.
  • I'd highly suggest Todd Glaser, or Glaser Instruments, in Nashville. They did a '68 Tele for me a few years ago. They were great to work with. A lot of guys want to replane the fretboard, I didn't want that at all on this guitar and they accommodated that no problem.
  • I know about Glaser, he's famous...I'm in New Jersey LOL.

    Interestingly, I grew up not an hour away from Stew-Mac, so the next time I go visit my family back home, I might be able to take it in to Dan Erlewine (and his team), if they still take work from non-famous people, LOL

    I did research on the procedure, because I do all my own work, and was thinking of trying it myself (I wisely declined), but I've seen those refrets where they plane and refinish the board- they're GORGEOUS! But, at that point, I could probably buy a new neck for the same price as the procedure... plus, the shiny new neck wouldn't match the older guitar as well... I like "relic-ing", as long as I'm the done doing it, by playing it. So I too would leave the neck as-is, only requesting "repair" where necessary (if chips of wood come out when they pull some frets, for example)

  • Well, just wanted to post a small update....

    I never found anyone locally (asking musician friends, etc), and the only guy I did find is, let's say, less-than-reliable about getting back to people and scheduling, which does not inspire confidence. So...

    I decided I'm just going to take it to Lark Street Guitars in Teaneck. The owner, Buzzy Levine, is Duke Levine's brother, and their resume looks outstanding (see below)... I was hoping for a closer local person, but the most important thing is a job well done, and I have little worry that Lark St. will do great work.

    "I have been repairing stringed instruments since 1968 and supervise our repair shop. With this facility we are able to provide customers with very accurate instrument evaluations. We want you to be happy in dealing with us long distance. When you call us you will talk to the owner, Buzzy Levine. We strive to satisfy.

    We have a long list of happy and satisfied customers, and some of the more notable include: Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, Sheryl Crow, Pelle Amqvist of The Hives, Bernie Leadon, Mike Campbell, Jackson Brown, Smashing Pumpkins, David Grisman, AC/DC, David Torn, Reeves Gabrels, Brian Setzer, Graham Parker, Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jimmie Vivino, Conan O'Brien, Duke Levine, Peter Wolf, Jay Geils, the Mavericks, Arlen Roth, the Johnny Cash Band, Asleep at the Wheel, Jimmy Weider of the Band, Jimmy Gnecco of Ours, and Bruce Hornsby."
  • Thanks for the update, ruger. I still think about getting my '87 Strat refretted but have been too lazy to drive into Houston to have it done. The other option I've considered is mailing it to Rob DiStefano. He's done other fret work for me (although not complete refrets). His prices are fair and his turnaround time is typically fast. My only hesitation is fear the USPS will lose my neck. The last time I sent one to Rob for a fret level, it was MIA for a couple of weeks between NJ and Houston. Luckily I asked Rob to insure the neck. Once I initiated a claim with the USPS, it magically showed up two days later.
  • DiStefano was my 1st stop- he wasn't taking any work, he was taking a "sabbatical" or something. IDK if he is currently taking on any new work. But that's why I ended up using someone I knew, which ended up being a mistake...
  • Thanks for the heads up. I didn't know that about Rob taking time off. Looking back at my emails, it's been about three years since he last did fret work for me. I might check to see if he's taking new work now. But then again, I should probably look into someone local anyway. You would think in a city the size of Houston, it wouldn't be so hard.
  • Yeah, I really wanted to find a local guy who could become "my guy"- my ONE guy I take everything too, whether it's for repairs, or setups, or whatever.
  • Hey ruger9 - where are you located? I’d recommend Phil Jacoby in Baltimore very highly. He did a refret on a guitar that’s very special to me, and did a great job. He was an early employee at PRS, and moved on do start his own business.

    I used to drive up from DC to have work done, but moved to Denver... and now I’m in the position of having to find a good luthier again.
  • I'm in NW NJ. Baltimore is quite the haul, especially compared to Lark Street in Teaneck, NJ lol.
  • Heading down to Lark Street today! I've heard alot about the place, and Buzzy Levine, over the years... maybe they'll have some cool amps lying around I could check out...
  • This is all New York/Brooklyn...

    Luca had his Duosonic refretted at https://trcrandall.com/ and they did a great job.

    For general luthier set ups and general work, I can vouch for Lou Femenella. I haven't had the chance to ask Lou to do anything high level, but his set ups are really good, he's a nice guy- and he cares. info@femenellacustom.com
  • Long story short, Lark Street will not be doing the work. Honestly, they didn't seem to WANT to? Didn't seem confidant in doing it, for whatever reason... I know the 90's Fender maple necks have a habit of the poly chipping off when you pull frets, and maybe they didn't want to deal with that unknown factor. IDK. But it didn't "feel right" to me, so I'm taking it somewhere else.

    Lark Street has a pretty good collection of vintage amps tho- one of the best I've seen- lots of old tweed Fenders.... good prices....

    I'm having a Luthier I know (I had inexplicably forgotten about him at the start of this), do the work. He's a Gretsch guy, does tons of work for the guys on the Gretsch Discussion Pages, and is personally known by many people on there. As Jim said above, he "cares", and that's important when you're handing someone your beloved #1.
  • Just posting back on this...

    I got my tele back from re-fretting, I had slightly larger frets installed so they will last a little longer (actually, I got stainless steel frets, it might be the last time the guitar needs re-fretted), and the luthier did an outstanding job. He didn't touch the neck (no refinishing, etc)- he left it as-is, except where he might have had to do very small repairs where a fret removal caused wood to chip), and I really couldn't be happier with the results. He works on ALOT of vintage instruments, and for alot of "famous" players... when I went to his shop he was showing me guitars in the que of players you know or have heard of, so apparently word has gotten around that he knows what he's doing.

    I'd like to mention his business here, not as any sort of spam, and he doesn't NEED any business! He's got dozens of guitars in his que at all times, but just for people to know there is someone I trust to do serious work. Especially if you're in the NJ area.

    His name is Curt Wilson. Old School Guitar Repair & Restoration.


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