If your guitar has an issue with its fretboard, you may want to learn how to reseat guitar frets. A pro shop may have to be used for certain guitars, such as those with bound fingerboards which use material to secure the fingerboards at each end or guitars with lacquer applied over the frets. Before taking this on, make an honest assessment as to the effort you will expend versus the cost of taking it in to a guitar store.
To reseat guitar frets, you will need:
- Philip- head screwdriver
- Small hammer
- Needle-nose pliers
- Strong glue
- Masking tape
- Emery board (optional)
- Remove all strings. Loosen the tension on each string by turning the tuning nuts until you can remove the string from its peg. It is recommended to loosen them each in turn a bit a time, to relieve pressure equally among all strings. In this way, you will not exert undue pressure and warp the neck. Once all are loose, pull each string out of its peg, using needle-nose pliers to make it easier if desired. The other ends of the strings can be left in the bridge or removed to make it easier to work. Caution: if there is excessive bowing, loosen the truss rod using your screwdriver to relieve pressure.
- Clean your fretboard. Take advantage of the fact you have removed all strings to wipe down your fretboard with a dry cotton cloth. Use a toothpick to get out any gunk from the frets. Might as well clean your pickups on an electric guitar, also.
- Try to reseat using pressure first. Frets have “teeth” which engage into the fretboard and hold them in place. Sometimes you simply have to press the fret into the fretboard using your fingers and this will reseat it. If it won’t go in fully, or pops up after it’s pressed in, go to the next step, otherwise skip to step 5.
- Use glue. Remove the fret entirely from the fretboard. Clean the slot, make sure there are no obstructions. If there is old glue or an imperfection in the wood preventing the fret from reseating properly, carefully sand it out using an emery board or small file. Check to make sure the fret now sits comfortably in the slot. Ensure it is at the same level as the other frets. Carefully place a drop or two of glue in the slot, let it run through to coat the inside, and reseat the fret. You may want to protect the surrounding fretboard from any loose glue by covering either side of the fret slot beforehand with a strip of masking tape. Wipe of any excess glue immediately.
- Check leveling. Using a flat edge, such as a ruler, place it on the fret and ensure it is level with the surrounding ones. If the ruler rocks back and forth, the fret is not level. Check your other frets also, if there are several raised frets it may be best to take your guitar to a shop, otherwise you can try to repair as above.
- Replace strings and tune. Reverse the steps you did to remove the strings, winding each string through its tuning peg and tightening. Again, try to tighten each bit by bit, to avoid warping the neck. Remember to adjust the tuning rod as needed. Tune your guitar, but if you used glue let it your guitar rest for 24 hours before doing so.
This guide is for simple repairs. You can ruin your fretboard if you are not careful. For complicated jobs, leave your ego aside and bring it into a pro shop. It will be less costly than replacing your entire neck if you mess up!