Happy 2013! I have a few posts leftover from the tail end of 2012 that will go up here before I do my "New Year's" post.
Here's a '79 Strat from my boy DaveO from a few weeks ago ...
Strats and other guitars in the single - single - humbucker pickup configuration have always reminded me of the 80's. I'm not sure exactly why or who in particular, but most of those hair bands seemed to require a humbucker in the bridge as a minimum requirement. Nothing wrong with that, just an observation.
The owner of this 1979 Strat bought it with the humbucker already installed. Luckily the original pickup was included in the case. He brought it in to have the guitar returned to the stock bridge pickup, along with new frets and a bone nut. Another consideration is that he wanted to keep the guitar looking as original as possible, so this meant maintaining the character of the original fingerboard's finish.
So here's the plan of attack:
1. Remove the neck and secure the tuner bushings.
2. Remove the frets and nut.
3. Preserve the original fingerboard finish and fill any finish chip-outs and finish sand / buff neck.
4. Install new frets and dress.
5. Make a new bone nut.
6. Swap out old pickguard with the humbucker and install new pickguard with stock pickups.
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Here we go!
From Dan Erlewine's book, The Guitar Player Repair Guide, Fender guitars prior to 1982 were fretted sideways. This means that the frets were installed by sliding the frets in from the side of the neck as opposed to pressing or hammering them in to the face of the fingerboard. Some recommend that you need to remove these frets by tapping out the frets sideways with a hammer and a small punch so you do not chip out the fingerboard. In particular, slab-sawn rosewood fingerboards from this era can chip out substantially when not tapped out sideways (so I've heard). 1970's Fender Maple fingerboards have a thick polyester finish that really builds up around the frets. This heavy finish deterred me from sliding the frets out sideways. My thoughts are if I scored the finish around each fret, I could minimize damage to the fingerboard and finish, and be able to remove them with the standard flush-ground end nipper method. I may try the "sideways" fret removal on my next pre-1982 Fender fret job, but this one went fairly well despite the heavy fingerboard finish.