Other Guitars

To refret or not to refret, that is the question…..


My '64 Strat is showing substantial fret wear- put on by me back when I was gigging it every night for several years- and I'm debating with myself about getting it refretted. Not likely to get gigged much,if at all,because it's all original (except for one rewound pickup) and far too valuable to take near any of the dives I usually play at. But it doesn't play very well and I'm wondering whether a refret will compromise the collectability factor,even though it would play and sound a lot better.So what does the readership think.Would it lose too much value? BTW the front looks good,the back is pretty well relic-ed. Here's a pic.


No, if you just want to look at it.

Yes, if you want to play it, and have it play and sound well.

The worn back has already decreased it's value some, and a refret may or may not hurt value very much more.

Top bucks generally go to top grade instruments, unless they are very rare.

If it were mine, I would be sending it to the " school house" to get back to former great playability.

Best of luck deciding.


Frets and strings share one common feature: They both wear out. Strings have a relatively short lifespan whereas frets can take decades if at all. Changing strings certainly doesn't devalue a guitar as they're expected to be replaced. IMO, the same can be said about frets. Just because they may take decades to wear down doesn't mean they won't so this shouldn't devalue a guitar in any way. A bad refret will most certainly devalue a guitar someone is buying to play but otherwise no.


Maybe consider a good replacement 'playing' neck and keep the original in a drawer.


Couple of things to consider - sometimes the wear isn't as bad as you might think and a stoning (of the frets, not the player) can return it to playability. And if you do choose to refret make sure it's some good who does it.

If the guitar is a keeper and you want to play it, make it as playable as it can be. If that means a refret then do it, IMO. I don't buy guitars to collect but to play. It's what they are for!


Collectors make me shake my head. A refretted instrument is one I'd pay more for.


Do it -- stock Fender frets were tiny anyway. Playability is important and only the tweakiest collector would pay more for a guitar that is hard to play (if you eventually plan on selling). I agree-- with above. I would pay more for one that has decent playbility.


The replacement neck is an interesting idea, but if it doesn’t leave the house much might not be necessary. Although not exactly the same situation, I faced a somewhat similar decision a few years ago with my 1965 Tennessean. I bought it in 1967 and basically left it unplayed for 40 years. When I got back into playing it needed a neck reset and the frets were worn. Curt reset the neck but I held off on the frets. Two years later he refretted it. Two of the best decisions made. The guitar is now a good, playable instrument. My concern had been over value regarding originality was replaced with the benefit of playing and enjoying it.

I honestly don’t know the value of your Strat so please don’t take my response as wise ass or flippant, but the final decision point for me was determining that even in pristine condition the sale of my Tennessean was never going to finance my retirement or my kids’ education. It’s value is more in being able to enjoy it now. My only regret was hesitating.


Collectors make me shake my head. A refretted instrument is one I'd pay more for. Opie

DaveH, like Windsordave, I'm of the opinion that strings and frets are a consumables items, (frets just take longer to consume than strings). IMO, they're sort of like the breaks or tires on your car, they need to be in good working order, and need to be touched up, or replaced every so often. I have a 40 year old Les Paul (that I bought new), that was becoming unplayable due to excessive fret wear. A good Luthier that I know, was able to level and crown the frets, and bring it back to perfect functionality again. I don't know, but maybe that's all that your guitar might need. Mine "looked" completely thrashed, but looks can be deceiving.

While I don't know the value of your particular Stratocaster, a 64 appears to be very desirable. I think generally, a top valued collectable guitar would have original frets in near perfect condition, and the rest of the guitar in similarly perfect and original condition. They've spent the majority of their life tucked away, under the bed or in the closet.

Meaning no disrespect, but it sounds like what you have is a guitar in players condition. It's been lovingly played, and therefore meant to be continued to be played. A refret (if necessary) on a players grade guitar is not only to be expected, but is desirable. Best of luck with getting this ol gal back up and running again.


FWIW; I just had a refret done on my '57 reissue Duo Jet, to great satisfaction. No regrets.

I bought it used and in excellent shape, just well played and in need of some TLC.
Wade H put it well; it's like putting new tires or brakes on a used car.

As the existing fret wire on my Jet was skinny vintage, I went one gauge heavier for the refret. Not enough to affect the tone, but would still look historically accurate and have more lifespan than the previous.


Wade H nailed it. It's definitely a player's grade Strat, although it was much cleaner when I bought it 39 years ago from the original owners-an empty nest couple whose kids had decided back in the Sixties to take up guitar, then gotten cold feet after their folks had bought the Strat-and the brownface Princeton pictured with it above. If I'd known how ridiculous Strat prices would get I'd have kept it at home and gotten a then-new '81,but I needed something to gig, and was rebuilding the armamentarium after getting divorced again...... BTW I paid $150 for the set and even then felt like a stray kitty after encountering an unfortunate canary. Now I'm leaning towards having a consult with my guitar guy. Maybe a dress-and-crown, maybe a full refret. We'll see.

Guys, thanks again for all the consideration and carefully thought out opinions. Happy New Year!


No finish to bugger up, as with maple...no binding/nibs to mess with...I say Do It! Take it to someone real good, though...chipping/tearing can make a rosewood board refret look rough.


Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The pings and squonks of uncertain fretting,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by re-fretting end them?

Re-fretting will not cause any measurable harm to the value of the guitar. If there are folks out there who wouldn't purchase a vintage guitar because it didn't have the original frets, they don't deserve your guitar anyway.


Is it too far gone to try just a leveling and dressing?


Is it too far gone to try just a leveling and dressing?

– NJBob

It'll take me so long to find out......But I'll find out!


With a guitar like yours that does have value to collectors, it is best to alter it as little as possible, assuming you are going to sell it down the road or pass it along to a relative. This is what collectors want; originality, and whatever most of us think of their fickle attitudes, why devalue it? A fret dress might do it unless they are worn all the way down to the fingerboard. If it was a guitar that you were going to play and gig with, I'd say sure, refret it. Otherwise, preserve.

I have an original 1969 Vibrolux Reverb that I was going to sell to a collector. He lost interest when I told him that I no longer had the crappy, worn out Oxfords that it was issued with, so there ya go.


The question is whether the guitar is more important to you as an artifact, or an instrument. Did you enjoy playing it when the frets were not so worn?I have mostly all nice guitars and gig with all of them. I take care of them and use common sense. I'll select a guitar for a gig at times, based on environmental conditions. So, if you like the Start as an instrument, refret it and play the hell out of it. Many folks say it's the vintage instruments that have the "mojo." It is after all a Strat, and as old as it is, there are still a few out there. It's not like it's George Gershwin's piano.

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