The most important thing in the repair process of improving playability is making sure you and I communicate well. I need to know what you are looking for out of your guitar and you need to know what is reasonably possible with it. There is a 50/50 relationship between guitar and player – they have to work well together. Everyone’s technique is a little different; likewise each guitar is a little different. My job is to help the guitar and player (but mostly the guitar) fit well together. As part of this process, I take the player’s requests and translate them into measurable, quantifiable traits and compare them to the measurements of the existing guitar – this tells me how to proceed with the limits involved. Repair work is driven by application; if the work will suit the use of the instrument, I will suggest and employ it. Optimizing the fretwork is often necessary to improve playability. When there are questions about a piece or aspect, I’ll tell you what I see upon examination and you can decide from there how you wish to proceed.
I use a Plek in conjunction with fret operations for the best results possible. You may wish to read the FAQs for more information about the Plek process. The Plek is the most accurate approach/application/method to fret related issues available today. The diagnostic capabilities are the heart of the Plek – it can see better than we can and help quantify difficult to precisely measure parameters (resolution is down to .01mm/.0004”). That said the Plek is only a tool (although a great one) and is only as good as the operator; the operator is only as good as how well he/she knows your preferences and the limits of your instrument. The Plek extends my skills, but does not replace them.
A full Plek level and set up is $180 ($20 additional for SS and EVO frets, double locking floating tremolos, 12 strings, nylon strings), you supply strings (two sets, usually one is extra and is returned with the instrument, the other installed on the instrument) and includes truss rod and bridge adjustment, nut slot lowering and intonation where applicable, fret polishing to a smooth, high luster, fingerboard maintenance and fret end shaping if necessary.
Strings for scanning must be conductive (non coated or corroded – cannot be Elixir, Daddario EXP or Cleartone etc) for the Plek to read them as it uses continuity to find them and build its map of the fingerboard.
A new bone nut (if requested or required) installed in conjunction with fretwork (Plek or full refret) is $70 plus blank. I prefer bone over other nut materials, high quality bone blanks vary from $4 to $6 depending on size. Please see here for more information on nuts.
Frets must be solidly installed and seated in order to properly level as loose frets cannot be accurately leveled, nor will they remain in place to hold the level. Sometimes it is necessary to re-glue loose frets prior to leveling; if this is required, there will be a small additional charge. Many imported brands from the Orient do not glue the frets for extra assurance that they will not “move” due to expansion/contraction of climatic change and recoil from the installation process.
If your guitar does not require a Plek level, the work is billed based on a $105/hour shop rate. A Plek scan excluding leveling is $70 and is credited toward a Plek level or refret if done within one month of the scan and the existing fretwork has not been altered by another party in that time. Sometimes an instrument’s fretwork is very good and only a minor adjustment is needed. Some folks want to scan for peace of mind or curiosity, whether an old stringed friend or new acquisition. Since my approach is application driven, I don’t do work that isn’t necessary.
I can turn a Plek set up and nut in a 2~3 days in shop provided the guitar does not require other work.
Refrets begin with a base price of $300, Plek’d and set up, and take a little longer depending upon the instrument and work request. The secret to a great refret is to tailor the prep work to the desired final result and not cut corners.
Stainless Steel and EVO frets are available and are $100 additional due to increased material cost and increased wear/tear on tools and abrasives and increased time to dress the ends. Harder fret material requires even more precise preparation and takes more time/work to achieve my desired high polish finish compared to Nickel Silver fretwire.
Please see the Refret page for more information about refretting and SS frets.