Soldering Fret Divits? Yes, It 100% Works And Here's Proof

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by toomanycats, Dec 11, 2017.

  1. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    File this under the category that previous "crazy TMC" posts are in, you know, like the one where I use brass cabinet knobs for a sustain block, or where I use a telephone listener for an amp.

    I've got this 1997 Squier Affinity Strat, one of the very early ones with a full sized alder body, 22 medium sized frets on a great feeling neck, and pre CBS headstock. I've shown this guitar many times on this forum in the course of documenting the modifications I've made. These guitars are ideal mod platforms, right up there with the Squier SE.

    fullsizeoutput_581.jpeg

    I'd finally got to the point where this thing looked, played, and sounded fantastic. It was a nice shade of pale blue, lightly distressed to match the worn neck. The tuners are from a Douglas Tele. I shaped the bone nut from a blank. The pickups are Squier ceramics that I modified with ALNiCo 3 magnets and which now sound really good. There are numerous other tweaks.

    The one thing that still drove me nuts were the substantial divits beneath the G, B, and high E stings on the first through third frets. Oddly, the rest of the frets all over the neck were in excellent shape. It was if a previous owner played this thing with a death grip while doing mostly D, C, G, and A chords. Perhaps they were in a band that did all AC/DC songs and they played Malcolm's parts. :tonguewink:

    fullsizeoutput_576.jpeg

    I figured that at some point I'd either have to do a fret level (which would be a shame, since all the other frets were still in such good health), or pull the offending frets and level them to match the rest of the board.

    Then a crazy notion came to me . . .

    Is it possible to add material to frets, to actually build them up where there's a divit? It's possible with a nut using the baking soda and crazy glue trick (I've done it). So why not with frets? I figured that if it's been done, then somebody must have posted about it on the internet. So off I went to do some research.

    In short order I came across discussions on the subject. Some guys used epoxy or JB weld and got good enough results for a temporary fix. Then I came across a guy who used silver solder, which seemed to work really well. It made sense to me, as frets are partly silver if I'm not mistaken. I already had some of this solder on hand, so what did I have to loose in trying? This kind of experimentation is part of what inexpensively acquired project guitars are for anyways, no?

    fullsizeoutput_57a.jpeg

    Simply put, it works. I'm actually astounded how well it works.

    Now don't misunderstand me here. If you've got a guitar that has seriously shot frets and that requires a bona fide level or refret, then this isn't going to work for you. It's just not worth it in that case. However, if you've got a bad divit or two, or half a dozen perhaps, and they're located in the same general area, then this might be a godsend. Many times I've considered a used guitar but passed on it only because there were very bad divits in a couple areas; I knew these would prevent me from ever being able to set it up to my satisfaction. Best to move on to the next one in that case. But this quick, easy, and cheap fix throws all that out the window.


    I first cleaned the frets with rubbing alcohol to remove any oil and crud. Blue painters tape was applied to protect the fretboard. Shaw is usually closely involved in these projects in a supervisory capacity, but you've got to watch him because he's likely to abscond with a loose string or screw.
    fullsizeoutput_577.jpeg


    Then it was as simple as dropping a bead of solder onto each divit. Sure, it looks a ugly here, as many projects do at the beginning.
    fullsizeoutput_57b.jpeg


    I was surprised at how hard the solder was. It was as difficult to file as the actual frets. The solder didn't flake or chip off either. Good adhesion probably has a lot to do with the prep work. Yes, that is a Revlon nail file. These are cheap and readily available and I've found them to be very handy on many guitar maintenance and repair tasks.
    fullsizeoutput_57c.jpeg


    After five minutes of careful work.
    fullsizeoutput_57d.jpeg


    The end result after grinding, sanding, and polishing. No more buzzing. The guitar plays perfect now. For all appearances it's not a heck of a lot different result than if I had put three new frets in. Plus I didn't run the risk of damaging the fretboard in pulling the old ones. Time will tell how well the repair wears, though like I said, the material appears as hard as the frets themselves.
    fullsizeoutput_57f.jpeg

    fullsizeoutput_580.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  2. PsychoCid

    PsychoCid Well-Known Member

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    Wow, what a win! Nice project, looks pretty sturdy.
     
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  3. tomringg

    tomringg Well-Known Member

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    Is that the type of solder you would use for plumbing?
     
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  4. stormin1155

    stormin1155 Well-Known Member

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    Cool hack! Report back in a few months. I'm interested to see how well it lasts. "Silver" solder is still primarily tin. There is very little silver in it.. The silver replaces lead that is found in most solder, so that it can be safely used to solder water pipes that carry drinking water. Silver is harder than lead, but I'm not sure how silver solder compares to nickel silver fret wire. It is certainly softer, but how much I don't know.
     
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  5. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure about that. I bought it at either Lowes or Home Depot in the soldering department, so it's easy to find. I've been using it for all my guitar related soldering needs.
     
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  6. Milkman

    Milkman Well-Known Member

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    Very cool!

    I'd have been worried about the heat lifting the fret.

    I prefer L'Oreal emery boards, they lend a more "organic" tone.
     
  7. Ed Henry

    Ed Henry Well-Known Member

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    Wow, who would have thought. Maybe I'll have to try this one day. Good to see heating the fret didn't make it lift a bit.
     
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  8. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    Cork sniffer! ;)
     
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  9. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    The soldering iron didn't contact the fret for more than a split second. I probably didn't even touch it directly.

    What I did exactly was to melt a bead of solder onto the tip of the iron, then sort of quickly roll or lay this liquid solder down onto the divit. It adhered with no problem.
     
  10. Rokdog

    Rokdog Well-Known Member

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    thanks for the tip..I have a heavily played git in need of this remedy
     
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  11. Tyrannocaster

    Tyrannocaster Well-Known Member

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    Very nice! I wish I had thought of this...I might still have that Strat with the one funky first fret.
     
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  12. Rokdog

    Rokdog Well-Known Member

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    I just ordered some via amazon the Last Product Description states...Not intended for plumbing applications

    Bernzomatic
    BernzOmatic SRC300 3 oz. Lead Free Rosin Core Solder
    23 customer reviews




    Price: $7.97 Free Shipping for Prime Members


    Get $70 off instantly: Pay $0.00 upon approval for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card.
    Note: Available at a lower price from other sellers, potentially without free Prime shipping.

    In Stock.

    Arrives before Christmas.
    Want it Wednesday, Dec. 13? Choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details

    Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.











    • Rosin-core base eliminates the need for flux
    • Melting temperature of 430° F/ 221.1° C
    • Ideal for electrical applications such as wiring Speakers, small motors and appliances, and for general electronic repairs
    • Diameter of .062 in. (1.6 mm) or .040 in. (1 mm)
    • Not intended for plumbing applications
    See more product details
     
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  13. thepezident

    thepezident Well-Known Member

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  14. DanOH

    DanOH Well-Known Member

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    Soon to appear on EBAY adds..."customized silver reinforced fretts that improve tone by 21.4 %"...
     
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  15. idiotsdelight

    idiotsdelight Well-Known Member

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    I like.

    I have a neck that looks to have taken an impact at fret 21-22nd fret. String divots. I might try this before I pull the frets.
     
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  16. mozz

    mozz Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Going to have to try this. I think they make a few different percentages of silver mix, higher percentage the higher the melting point. They also make a silver braze for gun sights but you would need to remove the fret , you might overheat the rosewood.
     
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  17. pdcorlis

    pdcorlis Well-Known Member Supporting Member+ Supporting Member

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    Very clever! I really hope this works for you, keep us informed - this is hall of fame kinda stuff!
     
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  18. Mickey

    Mickey Gandalf the Intonationer

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    Well, at the risk of sounding like Scott Grove........
    Bullshit! Solder is a much softer metal than fret wire (or guitar strings.)
    So if you are going to sell the guitar to Indonesia via eBay go for it.
    But it won't hold up.

    Side note: do not try this if you have stainless steel frets as solder won't stick to stainless. :)
     
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  19. mozz

    mozz Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    If you use regular solder it will be soft, silver solder is harder. It's not a 100% fix but a temp or "remedy" that will get it back to working order. I guess the lead free version of silver solder would be harder than older leaded versions.
     
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  20. Tyrannocaster

    Tyrannocaster Well-Known Member

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    I think Mickey might be right. But I'd like to be convinced otherwise. I have filed solder before and what I use is definitely softer than fret wire. But I'm pretty sure my solder has lead in it sot it would be softer.
     

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