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ES-347 re-fretting

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Hi. Looking for some advice.

 

I recently bought a 32 year old ES-347. It's in really great nick, apart from the frets are really worn down (see photo).

The yellow binding along the fretboard has whitened over the years through use, but i think that just adds to the atheistic.

 

I haven't been playing very long, but i think the wornout, uneven frets might be why i get lots of fret buzz and jangle.

 

A luthier told me that he could re-fret, but he would never be able to make the binding seamless as it is now (i.e. there would be a little notch out of the binding where the fret is replaced).

 

What would be your advice?

 

Re-fret for a more playable guitar, or keep original and respect the passing of time.

 

 

Thanks for any advice.

post-53025-049438000 1359388069_thumb.jpg

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Before you go for a refret get it set up by an expert who will check the neck and should be able to raise the action a bit so it doesn't buzz nearly as much, then see if you are happy with it like that. While you're at it get him to quote you for the cost of a refret. As the luthier said, when a guitar like this is refretted, you lose the bit of binding that covers the edge of the fret. I notice the binding is cracked anyway which might become an issue if the repair guy isn't a total expert. Any change to the guitar will affect its value adversely but you have to balance that against it being playable or not. I know someone with a LP with frets in that condition and he won't have it refretted. IMO - I'd try setting it up first but in the end I'd get it refretted.

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Hey, thanks for coming back to me.

 

I've only had it for a week or so. It's definitely playable - feels great in my hands, and i have a big grin on my face.

 

I think i'll take your advice and try a setup with a pro.

 

 

Cheers.

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A luthier told me that he could re-fret, but he would never be able to make the binding seamless as it is now (i.e. there would be a little notch out of the binding where the fret is replaced).

 

 

I don't understand why your luthier can't refret / rebind in a way that is identical to the original (apart from the aging).

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He is saying that he could never make it look like anything other than a repaired binding - even if it was a very good repair.

 

To be fair, he did say that there maybe some folks out there that could, but they would likely charge more than the cost of the guitar.

 

I guess my question is would you 'fix' a beautiful, and already quite old guitar, or lust learn to live with its little ways?

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I also have an ES-347 (my Avatar) and although mine does not need a re-fret, I think what you're luthier is talking about is that he doesn't feel he can keep the nibs/nubs or the binding over the edges of the frets. To me, this is the single best quality of a Gibson. I also own an ES-333 and at the time I had the choice of purchasing an ES-335 Satin with no binding or the ES-333 with the great faded binding. I have not looked back. My ES-333 is a great guitar (I have changed the hardware and pickups).

 

Back to binding, my luthier here in NY did a re-fret on my old Les Paul Standard about 5 years ago and for an extra fee he was able to install the binding exactly as they do at Gibson, with the nibs/nubs. Mind you I paid a good $80.00 more for the re-fret but it was very worth it. Also, I had to get the same fret gauge that was previously on the Les Paul, I could not get the big Jumbo frets I had initially asked for. When I got the Les Paul back it was as if I had just purchased it. The end to that story is that I sold my beloved Les Paul to fund the purchase of my 1990 ES-347 and have not looked back from that either. I absolutely adore my ES-347. In more than 30 years I have owned more than 100 guitars and this ES-347 is by far the best I have owned. The neck which is unique fits perfectly in my hands and the Bill Lawrence pickups (usually found in the 89 and 90 models rather than the Dirty Fingers)are terrific for both live sound and they sound great going direct into Pro Tools. The older Ebony neck is very much like the ES-355 and Les Paul Custom. I think they use Rich-lite now.

 

I also agree that you should have it professionally set up before deciding on a re-fret. The frets on my ES-347 are kind of flat (not as flat as yours) but they are flat type of frets. If it definitely needs a re-fret, ask your luthier about installing new faded binding after the re-fret so you can retain the nibs/nubs...

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I think a lot of good advice has been given here. Including your repair guy. The real problem with refretting a Gibby such as this is the binding nibs, which you can't "grow" when they are gone.

 

Thought I might point out a couple things in addition: For some years, and especially years when they made the -347, Gibby was using these low, wide frets that look like these. They do look like they have had plenty of fret dressings and taken nearly all the fret materiel away, but they DID put out a lot of guitars that look this way even new.

 

The other thing, and maybe your repair guy could check this, is after a certain age, even if there is little fret wear on a guitar, one or two frets could be lifted or loose. If that's the case, fixing those could go a long way toward fixing some 'buzz'.

 

And lastly, another point to consider: I can't see all the frets, so I can't say if it's the case or not, but if the guitar TRULY NEEDS a fret job, when it comes to re-sale, bad frets can hurt the value just as a "re-fretted" guitar would. Maybe not by the same amount, and I can't say by how much. But if you got deep divets and there is no way to dress the frets, it isn't like a buyer or collecter isn't going to consider that when he looks to see "origonal frets".

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Thanks for the advice guys.

 

rlan52 - any chance i can get the name of your luthier? I'm in NY also, so would be good to get a second opinion/option.

 

 

Thanks.

 

I have been having all of my guitar work done at Rudy's for the last 20 years. The address of Rudy's Music is 169 West 48th but the repair shop is around the corner on Broadway between 48th and 49th (kind of above where the old "Metropole" used to be). I haven't been to them in just about a year so it's best for you to stop in to the store on 48th and they will direct you to the repair shop around the corner. You can also google them and call in advance but my experience is that they always ask you to bring in the guitar for them to inspect before they quote a price. I think Rudy's is rather expensive in relation to other shops but I have always had great results with them and they are very reliable about having your guitar done when they say it will be done.

 

I have had one guitar set up done at 30th street vintage on 30th street because it is across the street from where I often rehearse. He is very good as well, but my guitar was not ready when he said it would be and I had to rent a guitar for a rehearsal. Good luck and keep me informed...

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Once the frets are worn, I think you just have to bite the bullet and lose the nibs. I had my '67 ES-335 refretted by Mark Simon in NJ. Nibs gone - a negligible visual change, IMO - and the guitar played soooo much better.

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Your guitar may or may not need re-fretting. The style of frets you have are very flat, wide, and low to start with. You need to look at the frets all up and down the neck to see if they all look about the same. Generally, frets wear primarily directly under each string, so that you get grooves in the frets that are most commonly used, which will be a function of your playing style.

 

I have a 1968 ES 335 whose frets look exactly like yours, and it plays just fine--no fretting-out or buzz anywhere. You may just need a setup, with the neck adjusted to give a little relief and/or the bridge height raised. This is a job for a knowledgeable guitar technician--not necessarily a luthier.

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Once the frets are worn, I think you just have to bite the bullet and lose the nibs. I had my '67 ES-335 refretted by Mark Simon in NJ. Nibs gone - a negligible visual change, IMO - and the guitar played soooo much better.

 

That is something I would never do. If a luthier can't reinstall the nibs I would just go to someone who can (and there are people who can do it). It does cost more - quite a bit more - but it is one of those things that make a Gibson guitar something wonderful.

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That is something I would never do. If a luthier can't reinstall the nibs I would just go to someone who can (and there are people who can do it). It does cost more - quite a bit more - but it is one of those things that make a Gibson guitar something wonderful.

 

Interesting... I didn't even think it was an option. I don't recall if it came up in my conversations with Mark. Surely, the new frets he put on were considerably taller than the worn out "fretless wonder" ones he replaced, so that makes me think the nibs wouldn't be able to cover the fret ends.

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That is something I would never do. If a luthier can't reinstall the nibs I would just go to someone who can (and there are people who can do it). It does cost more - quite a bit more - but it is one of those things that make a Gibson guitar something wonderful.

 

Interesting... I didn't even think it was an option. I don't recall if it came up in my conversations with Mark. Surely, the new frets he put on were considerably taller than the worn out "fretless wonder" ones he replaced, so that makes me think the nibs wouldn't be able to cover the fret ends.

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Man, those frets are toast..... A setup isn't going to help ..... Re-fret that thing... I personally could care less about the binding ... I had a 73 les paul re-fretted and I didn't replace the binding... Trust me it doesn't make the guitar look any different...

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Man, those frets are toast..... A setup isn't going to help ..... Re-fret that thing... I personally could care less about the binding ... I had a 73 les paul re-fretted and I didn't replace the binding... Trust me it doesn't make the guitar look any different...

 

Well, I would disagree but it is true that you have to really look. But more important, it feels different.

 

And to answer spitball. The issue is not just refretting - if you refret alone then it is true you can't replace the nibs (as someone said above - you can't "grow" them). To replace the nibs the fingerboard has to be rebound and well as refretted. What happens is the fingerboard is refretted first and then rebound with the binding in between the frets filed down (actually is is scraped down and file finished) to fingerboard level leaving a proud "nib" against the end of each fret. It is obviously a lot more work (and cost) which is why most players don't bother when they get their axes refretted and also why some luthiers never get to learn the art of doing it.

 

But I think it is one of those things that make the top end Gibson's stand out as guitars. I prefer bound neck guitars over unbound necks and I much prefer the feel of a bound Gibson neck (always has nibs when new) to the feel of any other guitar maker's neck. To me, the Gibson guitar (bound neck) stands head and shoulders over everything else.

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Well, I would disagree but it is true that you have to really look. But more important, it feels different.

 

And to answer spitball. The issue is not just refretting - if you refret alone then it is true you can't replace the nibs (as someone said above - you can't "grow" them). To replace the nibs the fingerboard has to be rebound and well as refretted. What happens is the fingerboard is refretted first and then rebound with the binding in between the frets filed down (actually is is scraped down and file finished) to fingerboard level leaving a proud "nib" against the end of each fret. It is obviously a lot more work (and cost) which is why most players don't bother when they get their axes refretted and also why some luthiers never get to learn the art of doing it.

 

But I think it is one of those things that make the top end Gibson's stand out as guitars. I prefer bound neck guitars over unbound necks and I much prefer the feel of a bound Gibson neck (always has nibs when new) to the feel of any other guitar maker's neck. To me, the Gibson guitar (bound neck) stands head and shoulders over everything else.

 

Yes, I agree 100%. The way the binding is done with the nibs is one of the main differences between the feel of an Epiphone guitar and a Gibson guitar. Yes, it is true that you probably can not get the Jumbo high frets but a lot of luthiers will be able to re-bind the guitar with the nibs. And just for the record, with me, it is not about what the guitar looks like, it is what it feels like. For me, the difference between the ES-335 Satin unbound and the cheaper ES-333 bound with nibs was very big as it relates to feel. I bought the ES-333 because of the feel.

 

Also, after many years of Tele's and Strats, no matter how well made and expensive, those rolled edges ultimately start to stick out and you can feel them when you play. I recall having the luthier roll the edges every time I had a set up done. I even bought a file so I could do it myself (which did not work out very well, Ha, Ha). I don't doubt that the re-fretted Gibson sounds and looks great without the nibs but I don't see how it could possibly feel the same. Just my 2 cents...

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I have never had a good experience having a Gibson refretted by removing the binding to retain the "nibs". This is historically the way Gibson did refrets at the factory, and the way they recommended their certified techs do it. It requires respraying the neck, because of that the best jobs looked bad to me. Frankly the nibs weren't worth saving. I have the frets laid over the binding. The jobs look great and the guitars play great. YMMV, of course.

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Frankly the nibs weren't worth saving. I have the frets laid over the binding. The jobs look great and the guitars play great. YMMV, of course.

 

This really is the most practical solution. It is a bit of extra work for the guy doing the re-fret, but it looks just fine at the end of the day. I have a 1968 ES 335 whose original frets were done that way, with no nibs.

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From your picture it looks like the fretboard really shrank and fret tang cracked the binding.

 

If you can afford it, why not have the binding with nibs done...it's part of the Gibson tradition. [thumbup]

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