Petillo Precision Fret™
U.S. Patent No. 4,064,779
Why a Petillo Refretting?
To answer this question,
we must first examine a conventional refretting. We ask
some very important questions. Remember that the heart
of the instrument is the frets and the fingerboard, and
if the positioning of the slots is not true to the fingerboard
scale then the instrument will play out of tune.
- Why should there be a refretting?
- What method is used to remove the old frets?
- Is the fingerboard damaged when frets are removed, including
- Are the fingerboard fret slots damaged or have they
become too wide to hold the frets into the fingerboard?
- What process is done to remove twists, humps, or wear
throughout the fingerboard?
- Are the inlays damaged, destroyed, removed, etc?
- How are the frets finished off?
- Is the action low without buzzes or dead spots?
- Do the installers guarantee that your instrument will
play in perfect tune?
- Will every note be in tune with each corresponding note
anywhere on the fingerboard?
- What experience do the people have who repair your instrument?
- Are they competent?
- Is the work done in a professional manner in a reasonable
length of time?
These are just a few questions you should ask before considering
a refretting on any of your instruments. In
my 39 years of making, repairing and altering stringed
instruments. I have seen thousands of instruments that
were altered so badly, without skill or consideration,
that they cost 3 to 4 times more than the original price
to restore the instrument back into working condition.
A conventional refretting is removing the old frets and
hammering or pressing in new frets. The problem with this
method is the frets are held in place by the friction
of the wood in the fingerboard alone. Due to climatic
changes, improper storage, perspiration from playing that
corrodes the fret alloy making it weaker, cleaning oils
that soften the wood, and poor removal of the old frets
(which widen the fingerboard slots affects the friction
join), many problems result: high frets, buzzes, dead
spots, intonation difficulties, and the edges of the frets
rising off the fingerboard (sometimes causing the high
"E" string to get caught underneath the frets
after bending or strumming).
The Petillo Precision Fret™ (Fig. 1, left) allows
the strings to rest in the center of the fingerboard slot;
in this position the strings are perfectly centered in
the middle of the fret, resulting in perfect intonation.
The conventional fret (Fig. 1, right) has a flat
top which causes the strings to rest in a wide flat area
with no accurate string placement, thus causing intonation
difficulties. The four categories below - Fret Repositioning,
Fingerboard Radius, Fret Alloy, and Micro polishing, describe
the preparation and process of a Petillo refretting.
In many cases the fret slots
which hold the frets into the fingerboard are sawn in
the wrong places. Before sawing new slots we make sure
that the fingerboard slot positioning is located properly
within the particular fingerboard scale. If repositioning
is needed new slots are plugged with the same wood species
of the fingerboard, then resawn to tolerance of .002 of
an inch. Once properly resawn to the correct slot positioning
of fingerboard scale then the Petillo frets are ready
to be installed. A lot of intonation problems come not
only from the flattened-down tops of a conventional fret,
but also from inaccurate division of the fingerboard scale.
||Petillo Precision Fret™
Sometimes if necessary, the radius of the fingerboard
is altered to fit the players hand and style, or to remove
twists, humps, and wear in the fingerboard. The flatter
the radius of the fingerboard the lower the action can
be. To accomplish this the fingerboard is planed, scraped,
and sanded to a new radius. The inlays will still be intact.
Changing the fingerboard radius is optional. If the musician
desires to keep the original radius then the fingerboard
is just clean sanded true. Many players find that by changing
the radius, they discover an optional lower action, and
greater ease in bending strings, playing chords, and overall
Most frets used in manufacturing and sold from repair
catalogs are made from a soft nickel tin alloy with flattened-down
tops. Because the alloy is made of a soft metal, its life
span is short with expected wear. The main concern with
choosing the right material is not only to make the life
span of the frets endure years of playing, but also to
improve tone, volume, and sustain with perfect intonation
throughout the fingerboard. Over the years, I have experimented
with different exotic metals for frets, such as Titanium,
Stainless Steel, Hestelloy C-22, Inconel 718, Ceramic
coated material, Zirconium Tungsten Coatings, and Cobalt
Based Super-Alloys. In the end, the best of these materials
proved to be a Stainless-Steel alloy. This material proved
to be the most effective in achieving my objectives for
superior fret performance.
|Modified Gibson Les Paul,
Modifications: Nigerian Ebony fingerboard with Abolone
block inlays, outlined with Rosewood binding. Micro Polished
Petillo Precision Frets™ and fingerboard with
Petillo size .009 strings.
To micro polish is to produce a finish on a surface of
an object, making it as smooth as possible, so that there
are no scratches or imperfections, only a smooth high-gloss
surface. The molecular structure of the Petillo fret alloy
is changed after micro polishing with a specialized coating
process which makes the surface area of the fret harder.
Each fret is done individually. What value does this have
for fretted instruments? How many times have you played
a guitar, bass, or any fretted instrument where the strings
seem to be restricted by rough frets, or when bending
the strings makes a rasping noise? Once the micro polishing
of the frets is completed, effortless string bending and
finger positioning, which give longer life to the strings
and fret alloy, results. To assure the longevity of the
frets, the fingerboard is then buffed with Petillo Fingerboard
Dressing, sealing the wood from finger oils, perspiration,
and moisture. This compound is specially designed for
dark unfinished woods such as Ebony, Rosewood, Walnut,
Tulip Wood, etc.
This fret micro polishing and fingerboard buffing process
can be applied to conventional frets, making a vast improvement
in the performance of your instrument. However, it will
not match the playability achieved with The Petillo Precision
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