Best/easiest way to remove frets from a 1967 335?

Setup, repair and restoration of Rickenbacker Instruments

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Best/easiest way to remove frets from a 1967 335?

Postby (milo) » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:27 pm

So, I bought a 1967 Model 335 husk that I've slowly been working on getting complete and playable. Right now I have it somewhat playable but the worn frets are making the already narrow fingerboard play narrower and are cramping things (in more way than one). I think that new and slightly larger frets would let me make the best use of the fingerboard space by letting me dress the ends with more of a bullet shaped ends rather than the typical angled fret ends.

I've removed frets from a couple of newer and cheaper rosewood fingerboards without too much trouble, but don't know what to expect from this old Rickenbacker. They are seated darn well with no gaps or lifting of the ends. Were they glued in where some heat would help release them, or are there any other tricks or hints that would help me?

Thanks.
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Re: Best/easiest way to remove frets from a 1967 335?

Postby (collin) » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:55 pm

Just in general - how experienced are you in repairing/refretting guitars? I ask only to gauge how in-depth you want this info, or what tools you might already have.

You might be surprised at what a NEW set of standard Rickenbacker frets can do for the playability of your guitar. A Rickenbacker is hardly most people's first choice for doing serious blues-style bending (a la SRV) that would benefit from having jumbo frets.

Basically for removing the frets, here's my procedure:

1. Score alongside each fret with a sharp exacto blade (cutting the finish on the fretboard, plus any grime that's built-up)
2. Place a fret guard over the fret (thin aluminum strip with slot cut for one fret, standard luthier tool)
3. Heat the entire fret with a hot soldering iron, especially the end you're starting on
4. If there's enough fret to "grab" onto, place a fret guard on either side of the fret
5. Grab onto one side of the fret with end nippers that are ground-down flush so they can 'bite' a low-profile fret. Slowly work it side-to-side (not nut-to-bridge lengthwise!) until you see some lift.
6. Wedge the two fret guards under the fret edge where it's started to lift
7. Keep working your way up the fret gently, pausing to re-heat with the soldering iron, and wedging the fret guards in right at the new lifting point.
8. Just before the end of the fret, reheat with a soldering iron and gently push back on the fret so the very end "lifts" up instead of "out" to the side (so you avoid chipping).

Bubinga is VERY prone to chipping, compared to Brazilian Rosewood or Maple etc. So take your time to avoid chipping-out, and expect that it might happen to some extent. The frets were not glued-in at the factory, from my experience. If the frets are fighting you, Dan Erlewine's trick is to apply steam to the fret (via a wet cloth and soldering iron) to loosen the wood and release the fret

Hope that helps - I just did this on a vintage Rick last night, so it's fresh in my memory.

While you have the frets off, you might want to consider planing the fretboard to true the radius. From new, the radius can be all over the place on these old Ricks. I've seen some that are 6" at the nut and 7.25" at the end of the fretboard, it wasn't exactly scientific back in the day.
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Re: Best/easiest way to remove frets from a 1967 335?

Postby (gellkeller) » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:16 pm

collin wrote:While you have the frets off, you might want to consider planing the fretboard to true the radius. From new, the radius can be all over the place on these old Ricks. I've seen some that are 6" at the nut and 7.25" at the end of the fretboard, it wasn't exactly scientific back in the day.


Was/Is compound radius a design consideration on Rickenbacker necks? Id much prefer a flatter radius the further up the neck I go.
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Re: Best/easiest way to remove frets from a 1967 335?

Postby (milo) » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:26 pm

Thanks Collin. I do have those tools and it's basically how I removed them from a couple of aftermarket Tell necks. What size are the original and is there any place special that you get the wire from? I don't have problems with "vintage" frets so the plan is to go with original or just a bit taller. My main goal is to get the ends finished off with little or no bevel to make the most of the width of the board.

I definitely need to level and equalize the radius of the fingerboard. It's definitely worn and doesn't have any finish on it at all (again, I have no issues with vintage radius or if the board has any finish).
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Re: Best/easiest way to remove frets from a 1967 335?

Postby (collin) » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:58 pm

gellkeller wrote:
collin wrote:While you have the frets off, you might want to consider planing the fretboard to true the radius. From new, the radius can be all over the place on these old Ricks. I've seen some that are 6" at the nut and 7.25" at the end of the fretboard, it wasn't exactly scientific back in the day.


Was/Is compound radius a design consideration on Rickenbacker necks? Id much prefer a flatter radius the further up the neck I go.


While I'd love to say that's the reason, things weren't so technical back then. From what I've heard, the fretboard radius was done by hand, with somebody holding the fretboard surface to a long sander, and I'm not sure the radius was measured or just eyeballed.

If it was eyeballed, they were remarkably skilled because the radius is usually close, but it's not exact - and a consistent radius throughout the neck can make a world of difference if you like the action super low.

milo wrote:Thanks Collin. I do have those tools and it's basically how I removed them from a couple of aftermarket Tell necks. What size are the original and is there any place special that you get the wire from? I don't have problems with "vintage" frets so the plan is to go with original or just a bit taller. My main goal is to get the ends finished off with little or no bevel to make the most of the width of the board.

I definitely need to level and equalize the radius of the fingerboard. It's definitely worn and doesn't have any finish on it at all (again, I have no issues with vintage radius or if the board has any finish).


It might be possible to buy fret wire from less expensive places, but I get mine from StewMac. I don't do a ton of refret jobs, so one pound of the stuff lasts for a long of guitars.

#148 medium fretwire

https://www.stewmac.com/Materials_and_S ... twire.html

Image

They make a slightly higher version of this fretwire too, if that's your preference.
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Re: Best/easiest way to remove frets from a 1967 335?

Postby (milo) » Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:07 pm

I have the Stewmac free shipping membership so I just placed an order for some. Went with the next higher size which isn't too much difference.

Thanks again
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