We Refret Eric’s 1956 Fender Stratocaster

What were you doing in 1956?..Quick calculation….Yes, that’s 60 years ago! That’s when the guitar currently on my bench was moving along the production line at Fullarton, California in Leo Fender’s guitar factory.

This was scarcely 5 years after Leo Fender had brought the Telecaster and Precision Bass in to the world.
Elvis was in the UK charts with 2 hits:Heartbreak Hotel and Hound Dog

Buddy Holly wouldn’t pick up his first strat for another 2 years!…and Tefal introduced the non-stick frying pan.

A good customer who we will call Eric (because that’s his name) phoned me up. Can I refret a strat for him? Now I’ve carried out a lot of work for Eric over the years and I know the guitar he’ll bring me will be interesting but I wasn’t prepared for how intriguing the instrument would be . In the event I was busy when the guitar came into the workshop… I simply booked it into our system and I put it to one side. The next day I put the strat on the bench and with a quick glance I first of all noticed the new decal…then the sympathetic refin…good job I think to myself… Hats off to the guy who restored this…
Too often I have seen beautiful and valuable instruments ruined by inexpert tinkering. It seems everyone is a guitar repair expert these days. They’ll proudly wave their certificates indicating 2 years of training and experience at www.fixingguitarsfordummies.com or wherever. Anyway I digress….back to the story.
The frets on the instrument were in quite good condition – in fact I’m not sure if I would refret the instrument the way it stood…but Eric wanted a higher fret so he could get more flesh under the string. He really wanted to effortlessly hit those full ‘tone and a half’ blues bends up the top of the neck… Like we all do. So I carried on appraising the guitar looking ever closer as I did so !

Hang on..I think to myself… this is original! The decal is original, the finish is original vintage cellulose lacquer and the frets are the identical frets fitted way back in 1954. This guitar is virtually untouched. It’s practically a museum piece! OK first things first…do I really want to touch this guitar? I’ve never, in my…. coming up for 40 years making, repairing and restoring guitars, …came across such an early example of a Fender which is in such good condition!

So I called Eric.

“Eric…” I say “…do you really want to refret this strat?”

So I tell him all about it yapping like an excited puppy. I point out it’s scarcity..it’s possible value… in fact everything I’ve told you so far, I told Eric.

Eric pauses…”I’ll phone my dealer” he says. “But what about the guy who sold you the guitar?” I innocently interjected…. It was dramatic.

The dealer Eric bought the guitar from lives in California. His business is wheeling and dealing in priceless rare guitars to people from your normal guy in the bar to bona fide rock stars as seen on many a teenage kids bedroom wall.

So Eric talks to the dealer and the dealer tells it like it is and gives Eric his opinion. Eric comes back to me.

“Jimmy, I love the strat..but I want to play it. The existing factory frets I just can’t get on with…I’ll take the hit on the valuation… According to my dealer your refret is not going to devalue it… especially as I know the quality of the job you’re going to do for me. I need your advice on a higher , perhaps larger fret with more mass. You’re the only guy I’d trust with this …please go ahead.”

Ego fulfilled I put the phone down and started the task as instructed.

We carried out the work taking just as much care as we take with any of our customers guitars be it a $100,000 1956 Fender Stratocaster or a £199 Squire Strat replica. Everything was measured and logged…except this time we photographed the progess and the processes involved. So here are the pics for you to enjoy. The job turned out great..amazing in fact. We installed Jim Dunlop 6105 hard nickel silver wire. We used our amazing Erlewine Neck Jig in the process just exactly as we do when we refret your guitar. As always we utilised the extra advantage of our combined 50+ years of experience. This truly is an amazing looking and sounding instrument… The neck is to die for. Thanks for the privilege Eric!