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Thread: Cost for refret

  1. #1

    Default Cost for refret

    What is a reasonable price for refretting a mandolin with no binding and cost for a new bone nut?

    Thank you!

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Prices vary considerably, depending on who is doing the work.

    In most cases, $250 to $450 for a fret job. You might find someone who will still do it for $200 or less, but it probably won't be precision work.

    In my shop, $325 for most mandolins and flat top guitars. I charge $275 for most banjos- they are usually easier to do. There is an additional charge for significantly warped fingerboards or bar frets. For partial fret jobs, usually $18 per fret for 5 or more frets.

    I charge $85 for a mandolin nut, including the bone, $75 for guitars, $50 for banjos. Others may charge more or less.

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoMan1 View Post
    What is a reasonable price for refretting a mandolin with no binding and cost for a new bone nut?

    Thank you!
    Mostly what @rcc56 said...

    But also:

    Do you want nickle-silver, Gold Evo or stainless steel frets?
    Is your fretboard flat or curved?
    Does your instrument have an adjustable truss rod? (If not, does tang width maintain you neck's proper relief?)
    Do you want different size or different profile frets than what is currently on your instrument?
    Do you want to provide new strings, or use the old strings (some luthiers will not do this), or have the shop provide strings?
    Do you have an accelerated time schedule in mind for this refret work?

    These and a number of other options may also affect the price of the work you want done.
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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    The price I quoted above is for nickel-silver fret wire of any standard size; and is the same whether the board is flat or radiused, with or without a truss rod as long as the neck is reasonably straight. It does not include the cost of strings or the labor to install them. I am content to let owners supply their own strings if they wish, as a matter of fact, I encourage it. It saves me the time it takes to go to the store or order them.

    There is an additional charge for significantly warped fingerboards. And if the old nut is to be re-used, there is a fee of $25 to shim it up [if necessary] and re-cut the slots to the correct height; and if necessary, an additional $25 to adjust the height of a one-piece bridge. I do not charge to twist the thumb wheels on a bridge that is adjustable.

    Others may use different standards to price such a job. I suppose that some may charge for the cost of fret wire, bone, or charge differently for a board that is flat, radiused, red, or green. I do not.

    Expect an up-charge from anybody for EVO or stainless steel fret wire, or for nut materials other than bone. Some of us prefer not to work with stainless steel fret wire.

    Shipping charges are the owner's responsibility.
    Last edited by rcc56; Oct-08-2021 at 12:58am.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Prices vary considerably, depending on who is doing the work.

    In most cases, $250 to $450 for a fret job. You might find someone who will still do it for $200 or less, but it probably won't be precision work.

    In my shop, $325 for most mandolins and flat top guitars. I charge $275 for most banjos- they are usually easier to do. There is an additional charge for significantly warped fingerboards or bar frets. For partial fret jobs, usually $18 per fret for 5 or more frets.

    I charge $85 for a mandolin nut, including the bone, $75 for guitars, $50 for banjos. Others may charge more or less.
    Thank you so much for the information! Very reasonable prices that you quoted.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    Mostly what @rcc56 said...

    But also:

    Do you want nickle-silver, Gold Evo or stainless steel frets?
    Is your fretboard flat or curved?
    Does your instrument have an adjustable truss rod? (If not, does tang width maintain you neck's proper relief?)
    Do you want different size or different profile frets than what is currently on your instrument?
    Do you want to provide new strings, or use the old strings (some luthiers will not do this), or have the shop provide strings?
    Do you have an accelerated time schedule in mind for this refret work?

    These and a number of other options may also affect the price of the work you want done.
    Nickel frets are fine with me. The mandolin is a Gibson Snakehead A Junior, so no truss rod. I am in no big hurry. The first two or three frets have some wear.

    I have a spare set of strings to include for replacement. Was planning on keeping the same size fret wire that is currently on the mandolin. I would always be open to suggestions from the luthier on what would be best.

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoMan1 View Post
    The first two or three frets have some wear.
    It sounds like you may only need a partial re-fret. That should be less expensive and may not require a new nut, unless you otherwise need one.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    It sounds like you may only need a partial re-fret. That should be less expensive and may not require a new nut, unless you otherwise need one.
    If you put on new frets at the nut end, and don't at least shim the nut, so much new [fret] material is filed away it's kind of pointless. And, if the frets have been dressed even once, it's probably close to a full refret until you get past the point where you're losing money by not replacing most if not all of the frets. (And, you can't address fretboard issues with a partial refret, if that's possibly contributing to setup or wear issues.)

    My [local] problem is that folks are backed up, and they don't let you "take a number" to get in line, you have to drop off the instrument (and wait for *weeks*). So, I'll do my own in a couple months. I've done loads of guitars and basses, but never did one of these tiny things, so going to go slow. One local guy (we went to the same "luthiery" school back in the late 70s) says he won't even do EVO wire because of the wear on tools. Since my tools are (like me) old and dull, I'll probably stick with NS, though I would have paid for EVO if I could get it done in a day...
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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    I don't think EVO is as hard on tools as stainless, and you are only doing one. I'd go for it. I put it on one of my mandolins and going to put it on another when I do it next.
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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Whether or not a partial re-fret is a good choice for an instrument can only be determined when the repair person has the instrument in hand.

    Often, a partial re-fret is possible, but an exact match for the early Gibson wire is not available. Generally speaking, when I do a partial re-fret on an old Gibson, I replace either the first 12 or the first 15 frets, so that the difference in size between the new wire and the original is not of great consequence to most players.

    There are 3 common choices of fret wire for mandolins: wire with a .080" crown width and .040" or .043" crown height, wire that is .053" wide by .037" high, and wire that is .040" wide by .039" high. The .040" x .039" wire, which is closest in size to the early Gibson wire, is available in stainless steel only.

    My personal preference is usually for the .080" x .040" wire, which is now in common use on many new mandolins. For me, it is the easiest wire to play. Some people are more comfortable with the .053" x .037" wire, which is also a good choice. So far, I have not used the .040" x .039" stainless steel wire. Conventional wisdom among repair people who have used it is that it is difficult to work with and very hard on tools.

    In most cases, a nut will have to be either replaced, or shimmed up and the slot height adjusted when frets are replaced. I don't mind shimming and adjusting an old nut as long as it is not damaged in the removal process. There may be some repair people who will not want to shim a nut.

    I now save any original frets that I remove from old Gibsons if they are still in reasonably good shape. In some cases, it might be possible to use them to replace only 3 or 4 heavily worn frets, but only if the rest of the frets are in good enough shape. I can attempt it if asked to do so. It can be a tricky job, though, and may or not work, depending on the mandolin. But personally, I prefer the playability of modern wire.
    Last edited by rcc56; Oct-08-2021 at 2:16pm.

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  13. #11

    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Thank you all for the feedback and great information. I had thought about just having a partial regret done, but thought it might be challenging to match the new frets with the current ones. I am pretty sure the mandolin has been refretted in the past. The mandolin is 97 years old, so had to have been refretted in the past.

    I typically don't play much past the 7th fret, so partial refret would be fine with me if the playability is great.

    Thank you for the information on the different sizes of fretwire, etc.

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    ...
    I now save any original frets that I remove from old Gibsons if they are still in reasonably good shape. In some cases, it might be possible to use them to replace only 3 or 4 heavily worn frets, but only if the rest of the frets are in good enough shape. I can attempt it if asked to do so. It can be a tricky job, though, and may or not work, depending on the mandolin. But personally, I prefer the playability of modern wire.
    @rcc56, with the original old Gibson bar frets, is it at all possible to simply turn them over upside-down and tap them back into the groove, and as such have new fret surfaces to work with? Or are those bar frets? Do they have any tangs?
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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    No. I have worked on Gibson mandolins built as early as 1906. None of them had bar frets. All had narrow t-frets with an even narrower tang.

    And although I have seen posts that assume that the Lyon & Healy carved mandolins used bar frets, those assumptions are incorrect. The L & H carved models used narrow t-frets.

    Bar frets were used on early Martin, Larson, and Vega cylinder back mandolins. I have also seen them used on some, but not all bowl back mandolins. All of the early Larson guitars that I have seen had t-frets. Martin was possibly the last company to change to t-frets, abandoning bar frets in 1934.

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    No bar frets here I guess. The old Gibson wire had extra slim tang.
    Martin is known for use of bar frets way into 40's or later.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Except for a Reverb listing for Martin A-K mandolin with bar frets with incomplete serial number information that dates it to either late 1934 or early 1935, the only Martin instruments made after 1934 that I have ever seen or heard of that left the factory with bar frets were their Hawaiian model guitars, such as the 00-18 H and 00-40 H. On most of those instruments, the frets were originally ground flush to the fingerboard. Except for 3 specially ordered instruments, the Hawaiian guitars were last built in 1941. Most of the surviving examples have been refretted, either with new bar frets, or converted to T frets.

    The 1936 Martin A mandolin currently listed at Folkway Music has T frets, as does the 1942 Martin A at Fred Oster's Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia.

    All of the Martin history books, plus Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars, date the transition from bar frets to T frets to late 1934, with the exception of the Hawaiian guitars. I don't know where Adrian's information is coming from, but unless he can furnish pictures and serial numbers, I will accept the word of Mike Longworth, Dick Boak, Richard Johnston, and George Gruhn as being accurate.
    Last edited by rcc56; Oct-11-2021 at 3:36am.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    I was writing just from my memory, knew Martin used them few decades longer than the rest.
    BTW, I've used the 039x040 SS wire almost exclusively on my latest mandolins and I don't find it any harder to work with than EVO or Ni. I haven't tried to bend it though, that may be harder without fret bender...
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    My personal experience is mostly limited to nickel-silver. So far, none of my customers has insisted on anything else. I have levelled and re-crowned EVO frets once, and my crowning file did not cut it easily. I suspect that if I start using EVO and/or stainless, I will have to replace my crowning files from time to time, and take tool wear and extra labor time into account when I price such a job.

    As for how easily it seats, I'll reserve judgement until such a time as I try it. If it turns out to be very difficult to work, I'll finish the job, but I might let someone younger handle the next one.

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Nickel frets (and also EVO) in my experience tend to clog files much more than SS and good steel file will stay sharp for a long time. I don't use crowning files but ordinary square or triangular files with safe edges for majority of my work (they are 5 Euro or so a piece so I could easily swap them after each few boards). SS is harder on nippers but once you have quality nippers it's no problem. I've got reshaped quality flush cutters (a'la Frank Ford) that I haven't to resharpen again for many years and I've done few dozen of SS fretboards with them as well and I use them to undercut the wire with the tip of jaws.
    I found out that on average the SS refret takes just as much time as any other especially when you consider half of the work is removal of old wire and preparing the board. Once the board is perfectly straight the well-seated wire doesn't need any crowning, just touch of flat block with fine sandpaper to check for any unseated frets (on rare occasions) and few swipes of 1200-3000 grit to polish the top surface and fret edges (dressed with fine files after trimming).
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    A+

    There you go- send all of your stainless steel refret jobs to Adrian!

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    There you go- send all of your stainless steel refret jobs to Adrian!
    Who needs a refret when you have one of Adrianís Hogan F5ís with stainless steel frets installed from the bench?
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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Well, today I've been gluing loose braces in a 100 year old guitar. This sort of job is always fun and games [not]. Am using hide glue because that's what's already in it. That makes it more fun and games. At least the braces are near the sound hole. If anyone thinks it's easy work, try it sometime. You have to work through the sound hole with one hand, and have 60 seconds to spread the glue under the braces and set your jacks and clamps. If it takes any longer, the joint won't hold and you have to do it all over again. Anyway, two are done, with one more to go tomorrow.

    I'll take 8 hours of fret work over 2 or 3 hours of brace work any day of the week.

    To quote the leader of my old band in 1980: "What a silly way to make a living."
    Mebbe I should'a been an accountant or a bricklayer or something.
    Last edited by rcc56; Oct-11-2021 at 5:56pm.

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    I haven't made any inroads to SS frets with anything yet. I haven't personally re-fretted an instrument since the mid 1980s, but I have a banjo that I built and fretted with NS back in the mid-70s, and which I played heavily for 25 years, that literally has no fretware. I've heard and read that the NS fret material available over the last 30 or so years is supposedly not as hard as what was available in earlier times. I'd be interested in hearing any impressions about that from those of you who are actively doing this work.

    I had my main playing mandolin, my main playing banjo, and my wife's main playing guitar all re-fretted with Gold Evo frets. My mandolin was the first of these, refretted with Gold Evo in 2017, and with heavy playing it is still showing no fretware. Within a similar period of time in the slightly more distant past I had already pretty seriously rutted the NS frets on my mandolin and banjo.

    While I admire the workmanship involved and the virtually permanent SS fretwork results, I haven't felt or seen a need to go with SS frets so far. The way things are progressing, I actually expect to not need any of the above mentioned instruments re-fretted again in my lifetime.
    -- Don

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  29. #23

    Default Re: Cost for refret

    I used EVO on a recent Fender Strat refret and did not have any problems but I made sure the neck was flat and every fret pushed or tapped down to perfection and only have to deal with a couple of high spots. No big deal. I think I'll be using for all my future instruments.
    Richard Hutchings

  30. #24

    Default Re: Cost for refret

    To the OP’s supposition that a century-old mandolin must have been refretted: The old bowl backs I’ve been accumulating don’t show very much evidence of any heavy usage, mostly going by undisturbed finish on the necks and no fretboard wear/finish damage. I think there were far more mandolins than serious players, and if I were cynical, maybe even today. I even think some of mine have only had the original strings.
    Although it warms the heart of a collector to find something pristine and old, it’s sort of sad too.

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    Default Re: Cost for refret

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Although it warms the heart of a collector to find something pristine and old, it’s sort of sad too.
    That's one of the reasons my worn old F2 with new frets makes me so happy!

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