Time for a fret job! As with all older guitars, when removing the frets you want to go slow and gently pry out the old frets. Rushing may result in chipping the fretboard. It's always a good idea to heat up the frets with a solder iron, which will melt any glue in the fret slots. Lay the tip of the soldering iron on the fret and coax the wire out of the slot from one side of the fret to the other.
If you do this slowly, you should have no problem pulling out the old frets. I use Fret Nippers to not only pull out the old frets but also cut the fretwire- they work great!
Once you remove all the frets, take a leveling bar or file with sandpaper and plane out the board. This will help remove debris as well as level out any inconsistencies. After the planing out the fingerboard, carefully clean out the fret slots with an exacto-knife or specialty fret slot tool.
To install new frets properly, the fret slots must be free of debris and old glue remains- so take your time cleaning them out right. Once that step is done, installing should be a breeze (hopefully). I like to hammer mine in but pressing them is an alternative. Bend the wire just slightly over the curve of the fretboard radius. Cut them to size, and hammer them in. The frets should be seated firmly, showing no gap underneath. If you can get a slip of paper under the fret- it's NOT seated. Once installed, file down the excess.
After installing all the frets, often a very light leveling, crowning and polish is required. You may also need a new nut to accommodate the change in setup with your new frets. Dress the fret ends and polish them up to a mirror-like shine!
This strat has been well played! See those deep divots?! ThIs is now affecting it's play-ability creating off-sounding notes, dead notes. In this case, we can level them right out, so that's what we did! Recrowned and polished- looks good!
Although difficult to see because of the lighting, these frets have big, deep divots from many hours of playing all over the neck. Wear like this will produce poor tone, possibly buzzy frets, and poor intonation as well. Frets eventually wear out and that's when your bring your guitar in for some fret work!
One way to minimize this is to clean your strings regularly. You don't need any fancy string cleaner in a bottle, a cloth does the trick immediately after your done playing. Another good way, if you spend many hours practicing, is to get some fine steel wool and pinch the string with it while rubbing up and down to clean it right up. Be sure to get the underside, as it is that oxidized crud which builds up there that does so much damage to your frets.
This particular guitar will get away with a fret level, where a file is taken to the tops of the frets making them all level again. All the divots are filed out and what is left is shiny new fret! If it was much worse, than a refret may have been in order. A refret is where some or all of the frets are removed and new ones replaced. Sounds easy enough, but is a fairly big job and each guitar will be different to work with.
Once the frets are uniformly level, they are then re-rounded, and polished. In the polishing stage all the scratches from the filing process are removed and what is left looks like new frets. The guitar is then restrung, and setup according to the frets new height on the board. This guitar particularly finished up real nice.