Monday, July 18, 2011

Gibson Les Paul Frets - I prefer the following.....

Let me start this off like this: I do not like frets that fail to span the width of the fret board.

So this places me at odd's with a lot of guitars manufactured by Gibson. I can replace frets well regardless of the length but for a few reasons, which I will outline, I prefer the longer frets.

Why does size matter in this case?

Eh hem, wood shrinks and expands. This process is all encompassing and you can take your pick - humidity, temperature, time, wood preparation blah blah blah... So if the guitar you own has a contracting or expanding surface, the frets can be adjusted easier. If the guitar fret board contracts you can file off the excess. If the fret board surface expands the fret could be removed and replaced with a new wire. Oh, and frets don't chip or break as easy as plastic binding fret nibs.

With the "nibs," a gap is created between the fret board and the binding. I've often filled the gaps for customers so their string doesn't snag in the gap. Replacing the fret is much more laborious.

I don't like the binding "frets" !
I prefer fret ends that extend to the edge of the fret board. See photo below.
Regardless of the system you choose, your frets will wear out if you play the instrument enough. On a high note; some of the less expensive Gibson Les Paul specials have the frets I like and honestly these guitar play well and deserve your attention. So, before you take your hard earned cash and buy a fancy Les Paul Traditional, Traditional Pro, Standard, Standard Pro, SG, et al, you might be better served with a Les Paul Special and spend the money you save on a nice amplifier or effect pedal.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS FOR NASTY NIB GAPS! (getting your string caught is a show stopper nobody wants!!!!)

I've received some excellent feed back regarding how to span the gap between the frets and the binding nibs on Gibson Les Paul necks. There are two methods that I've used; one is an inexpensive solution, the second remedy is more expensive but also better.
  • Method 1 - I take a 600 grit sand paper and sand some stock from a white piece of plastic or spare piece of binding (binding stock link). I take the plastic chad/plastic dust and mix it with thick cyanacrylate cement (Stew-Mac link). Next, I carefully apply the mixture with a toothpick or similar object. I've found that you can carefully manipulate the cement but start by applying conservative portions. Take your time and DO NOT RUSH THE JOB. I let the patch set for 24 hours. Clean up the ends with fine grade fretting files.
  • Method 2 - Follow the same instructions above but use 3M Light cure (instead of plastic chad) composites. You will also need a VERY HIGH INTENSITY visable blue light to cure the adhesive. This is the same tools and supplies Dentists use. Each gap can be filled and cured in about 10 seconds. This is super high tech and probably not a inexpensive alternative. However, it works GREAT!


Anonymous said...

Regarding the filling of space between fret and nib... can you briefly describe the process? I have a highly collectible Gibson that suffers from this problem, and I am not really willing to refret due to potential loss of value. Thanks!

Scott said...

I posted two possible solutions. However, in a pinch I've used Elmer's glue (on the road) and it worked fine. The down side is that the glue might peel out,fragment and fall out. It's a good idea to first clean out the gaps with a dilute phosphoric acid etch (alternative Naptha)this raises micro fibers that allow for a better bond of adhesive. I let the glue start to harden before application. You might need several applications. The carefully file off the excess. I did this to a 1968 Gibson Les Paul Custom five years ago and it's still working well for the owner. The solutions are all subjective to the size and severity of the problem. Cheers! Scott

Scott said...

I forgot to add that you could use saw dust mixed in with the glue to add strength which is an old word shop tip. The Elmer's glue method is simple to remove with dental style pick tools if you do not achieve the results you desire. If I think of more I'll update. Cheers, Scott

Anonymous said...

Thanks Scott. Quite honestly the gap on mine is minimal. You cannot see it, but the high E string catches slightly. It won't quite catch and fall inside the groove, but it will snag briefly. I tried pushing in the thinnest gauge from my feeler gauge, and it takes some effort to slide it in between.

Net, I cannot imagine getting any glue in such a tiny tiny gap!

Scott said...

Hey, I understand. That is a small gap but it would be something I could not be able to live with due to my OCD nature. I'll run the question up the flag pole and I'll convey whatever I yield regarding this matter. Cheers! Scott

Scott said...

Yeah, I am inclined to use thick superglue and work it into the groove. You'd be surprised at what goes on behind the closed doors of a luthiers shop. There are times when I tell the customer that they might want to look away whilst I am working on an instrument. Honestly, I'd rather not work under the scrutiny of the owner because they could hamper the outcome. People can be very emotional about their musical instruments. I've seen people cry over string height and buzzing issues that were simple fixes but left them frustrated and overly emotional. I wish I was joking but it's the truth. I've seen the same thing with bicycles and other equipment. Meanwhile, I do my work with confidence and I've been lucky so far. Upon consulting others - my yield is the aforementioned data. I am sure I'll hear more and have more to share!
Thanks for the thread as it is an invigorating topic to me.
Cheers, Scott

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