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  #1  
Old 08-22-2018, 05:41 PM
jonbutcheraxis jonbutcheraxis is offline
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Default Re-fretting a vintage guitar, or not

I've approached this topic not too long ago but wanted to ask it in a slightly different way. I should also add it's equally relevant to vintage acoustic guitars. Here's the hypothetical situation; you're considering buying a fairly expensive ( whatever 'expensive' is to you) 1950's vintage archtop, make not important.

The guitar in question unfortunately can't be played prior to purchase, it being in another part of the country. The description and pictures and SELLER rep all lead you to believe the purchase is secure and the description accurate, that being EXC condition and 100% original.

The guitar arrives and sure enough it's in excellent conditon, plays great and appears to be 100% original. Except. The frets, rather than being 50's vintage skinny frets are clearly newish modern Gibson medium jumbo/ Les Paul-size. The re-fret job in this situation is excellent, in fact perfect. If one didn't know what vintage fret wire looked like one might never think twice about it in this example.

You call the SELLER to lightly inquire ( remember, you love the way the guitar feels/ plays) and he/ she confirms that 'yes' the guitar had a pro re-fret, this because the frets needed replacing.

Sorry for the long set-up, here's the central question; is the guitar still 100% original to you ? Would you want/ request/ expect a rebate or partial refund given replaced frets ?

Let me say catgorically that I'm not in the hypothetical situation I've laid out but rather am curious as to how important or not frets are to you as they relate to the condition of a vintage guitar. One way of looking at is the guitar has been restored, or even made better as the result of a pro refret- what do you think ?

Last edited by jonbutcheraxis; 08-22-2018 at 05:49 PM.
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  #2  
Old 08-22-2018, 07:42 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Hi, would you reject a used car with new tyres?

Would you reject a hundred year old house with modern heating system?

I bought a 1934 Gibson L-4 ('35 "F" hole model) from a "Specialist" dealer in Seattle. They told me it had been very lightly used, but it arrived with the frets ground so low that they couldn't be profiled.

If they had told me the truth, I probably wouldn't have bought it, but couldn't return it as it had been shippied to me in the UK.

I had a luthier check out the original fret details and replaced as appropriate. Excellent work, guitar is still a '34 L-4 but happens to have great frets.

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Last edited by Silly Moustache; 08-22-2018 at 07:55 PM.
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  #3  
Old 08-22-2018, 09:03 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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I happen to like vintage-style skinny frets on vintage guitars - heck, I like them on most guitars...

FWIW during the '50s-60s manufacturers changed specs nearly as often as the auto makers of the day, as the fledgling post-war guitar market attempted to accommodate the needs of players adapting to rapidly-changing musical styles/tastes - it's not uncommon to find otherwise-identical instruments made mere months (even weeks) apart with significant differences in fretwork, control knobs, pickup specs, available finishes, etc. (viz. the '57-58 transition in Les Paul specs - P-90's to PAF's, gold-over-mahogany to darkback to cherry sunburst - all within a 9-12 month period - followed in '59 by changes in neck profile along with the adoption of "medium-jumbo" frets, and two distinct versions of the '60 model as the "Slim-Taper" neck and "reflector" knobs associated with the '61 "SG Les Paul" were phased in shortly before discontinuation)...

That said, you might want to do a little research on the specific make/model in question, and find out when/if a change in fret specifications was adopted during that time period; while fat frets are unfortunately as much the flavor-of-the-week in certain circles as OM's with 1-3/4" prewar necks are over on the General Acoustic subforum they could well be original spec for your guitar, and as such I would also put it in the same class as a brand-new set of U.S. Royal 7.50-14 wide whitewalls for your show-quality '55 Chevy - an OEM-spec restoration that insures both continued practical utility and retention of value...

By the same token, if your guitar was fitted with narrow frets on that model/year I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that a knowledgeable/ethical dealer would in fact disclose such information prior to sale - again using my '55 Chevy as an example, collectors will pay a premium for a matching-numbers car as opposed to one that's been retrofitted with a 400 HP small-block crate motor and Turbo 400 transmission (regardless of what a total hoot the latter would be to drive ); although you may in fact feel differently (as you say, you like the way the guitar plays/feels/sounds) to me it raises questions of non-disclosure, and I wouldn't have a problem calling the dealer out on it if originality is important to you. BTW, I've heard tales of a very well-known/well-regarded dealer on one of the coasts (whose name I won't disclose here) who has earned a reputation for, um, "surprises" of this type every so often; although I've had no personal experience with the outfit in question I've hesitated to take the plunge on their otherwise impressive offerings - and you might want to look into this further before you take the next step...
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Old 08-22-2018, 09:27 PM
jonbutcheraxis jonbutcheraxis is offline
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Terrific reply Steve, lots of food for thought and very much appreciated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
I happen to like vintage-style skinny frets on vintage guitars - heck, I like them on most guitars...

FWIW during the '50s-60s manufacturers changed specs nearly as often as the auto makers of the day, as the fledgling post-war guitar market attempted to accommodate the needs of players adapting to rapidly-changing musical styles/tastes - it's not uncommon to find otherwise-identical instruments made mere months (even weeks) apart with significant differences in fretwork, control knobs, pickup specs, available finishes, etc. (viz. the '57-58 transition in Les Paul specs - P-90's to PAF's, gold-over-mahogany to darkback to cherry sunburst - all within a 9-12 month period - followed in '59 by changes in neck profile along with the adoption of "medium-jumbo" frets, and two distinct versions of the '60 model as the "Slim-Taper" neck and "reflector" knobs associated with the '61 "SG Les Paul" were phased in shortly before discontinuation)...

That said, you might want to do a little research on the specific make/model in question, and find out when/if a change in fret specifications was adopted during that time period; while fat frets are unfortunately as much the flavor-of-the-week in certain circles as OM's with 1-3/4" prewar necks are over on the General Acoustic subforum they could well be original spec for your guitar, and as such I would also put it in the same class as a brand-new set of U.S. Royal 7.50-14 wide whitewalls for your show-quality '55 Chevy - an OEM-spec restoration that insures both continued practical utility and retention of value...

By the same token, if your guitar was fitted with narrow frets on that model/year I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that a knowledgeable/ethical dealer would in fact disclose such information prior to sale - again using my '55 Chevy as an example, collectors will pay a premium for a matching-numbers car as opposed to one that's been retrofitted with a 400 HP small-block crate motor and Turbo 400 transmission (regardless of what a total hoot the latter would be to drive ); although you may in fact feel differently (as you say, you like the way the guitar plays/feels/sounds) to me it raises questions of non-disclosure, and I wouldn't have a problem calling the dealer out on it if originality is important to you. BTW, I've heard tales of a very well-known/well-regarded dealer on one of the coasts (whose name I won't disclose here) who has earned a reputation for, um, "surprises" of this type every so often; although I've had no personal experience with the outfit in question I've hesitated to take the plunge on their otherwise impressive offerings - and you might want to look into this further before you take the next step...
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Old 08-23-2018, 07:23 AM
Wuchak Wuchak is offline
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I'd be upset that the seller knew the guitar had been refretted but claimed 100% originality. I would think anyone who paid for a refret job, which is not cheap, would disclose it as a selling point. As payback for not disclosing it I'd take the guitar and a wall of Roland microcubes, and play an out of tune, hours long, medley of Smoke on the Water and Stairway to Heaven outside the seller's bedroom window at 3 AM.
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Old 08-24-2018, 08:23 AM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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I think refretting and neck resets are facts of life for instruments of a certain age. If I was selling a guitar with what I thought were original frets I might disclose that - but honestly, how would you tell if they were truly original? If I had done a neck reset and a refret on an old guitar, I would disclose that as selling points. But to think that you can certify any 50, 60 year, or even older, guitar as "100% original" is sheer folly.
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Old 08-24-2018, 12:42 PM
Big Band Guitar Big Band Guitar is offline
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First you have to decide if you want a great players instrument or a investment collectors item that will be put away and never played.

Once you decide that then you will have your answer.


Personally I wouldn't care as long as it played well.
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  #8  
Old 11-02-2018, 05:02 PM
heavy_picker heavy_picker is offline
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Default Fret job on vintage guitars

I would prefer a guitar that plays well over one with original worn out frets. I purchased a 1948 Southern Jumbo in 1995, it needed a fret job. I had a great luthier refret it with the same small (narrow) frets that Gibson used in 1948. Well it played great after the fret job, but those narrow frets didn't last as long as wider frets would have. Now I need another fret job. I might go with the wider late 1950's style frets.
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Old 11-04-2018, 10:25 PM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonbutcheraxis View Post
Sorry for the long set-up, here's the central question; is the guitar still 100% original to you ? Would you want/ request/ expect a rebate or partial refund given replaced frets ?
Let me ask you a question. If the strings with which the guitar was originally fitted had been replaced, is the guitar still 100% original?

Strings, like frets, are "consumables". They wear out and need to be replaced. Ideally, they would be replaced, expertly and "in kind" if one wanted to be "authentic".
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  #10  
Old 11-06-2018, 12:10 PM
Big Band Guitar Big Band Guitar is offline
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Default Consumables

Frets, strings, nuts, saddles are, in my world, consumables and have no effect on value.

Any other claim is just another method to beat you down on the price.

Scratches, finish wear, cracks, and repairs are another story.

Don't collect them...…… play them.
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  #11  
Old 11-22-2018, 06:11 PM
M Hayden M Hayden is offline
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Frets wear, so lack of replacement is more of an issue (as a player).

It’s easy enough to have it regretted with original-size wire that I think it doesn’t matter.
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