Dan Erlewine's Mod Squad(5)

If you were with us last month, you know that the Mod Squad is trying to break a wild Mustang. Mod Squadder Max had the job of cleaning up the frets and the string nut, and he surprised me several times by coming up with solutions I didn’t realize he knew. As a result, he earned his first Mod Squad Merit Badge: the “Pay Attention and You Might Learn Something” award
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Max demonstrates the “for experts only” method of neck removal.

The Mustang’s frets needed more than a cleanup. The first two frets were pitted, and worn lower (.028") than the remaining frets, which hovered at about .030" high. A difference of .002" to .003" means a buzz. Max pulled these two offending frets—first steaming them with a damp rag and a hot soldering iron, and then prying them up and out with Fret Pullers.

The nut slots were worn way too low, and buzzing on the first fret, so Max removed the nut before starting the fretwork to get it out of the way. He earned points for clean work by gently slipping a sharp blade between the bottom of the nut and the nut slot to see if the nut would move. It loosened enough for Max to gently pry the nut free with his fingernail. He later shimmed the nut up higher using a piece from a guitar-string envelope, as the customer didn’t want to pay for a new nut.

After cleaning the fret slots with Naphtha, and using his Action Gauge to measure the depth of the fret slots (to be sure that they were deep enough), Max was ready to shape and install the two new frets—which he made from a selection of used fretwire. Max nipped and filed the fret ends so that there would be little, if any, overhang along the fretboard, lessening any chance of having to file into the finish or wood.

To install the frets, I told Max he could use any tool he felt comfortable with, as long as the fret tops were perfectly flush to the remaining frets. Max chose a Jaws-III fret-pressing tool, and I couldn’t find a gap between the original frets and the two replacement frets. Bravo!