Help needed with Walden D550

If you have a string instrument of any kind that needs fixing, a mistake you made in building a new instrument that you need to "disappear," or a question about the ethics of altering an older instrument, ask here. Please note that it will be much easier for us to help you decide on the best repair method if you post some pictures of the problem.

Help needed with Walden D550

Postby Doug Polkat » Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:36 pm

It's basically a good guitar and sadly I'm poor and can't afford anything else. I do have past experience in instrument repair (mostly violin making) and am not afraid of such work.

The problem is that the fingerboard has little radius (almost flat as a classical) and the frets are tiny (like strands of uncooked spaghetti). I have been playing for years without problems, but my big fingers cannot play this thing. Chords seem muffled and notes choke and such. It might be that my age is getting to me, but I think a smaller board radius and bigger frets would help a lot.

But before I start tearing this neck apart I wanted to get the opinion of others so let me know what you think or any questions you might have.

Doug Polkat
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Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:53 pm

Re: Help needed with Walden D550

Postby Barry Daniels » Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:11 pm

Replacing the frets and radiusing the fretboard is pretty standard stuff. You can find the tools you need at Stew-Mac or Luthiers Mercantile. I recommend getting your fretwire from the later.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Help needed with Walden D550

Postby Freeman Keller » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:15 pm

Doug, what Barry says is true, frets are replaced all the time and its pretty standard procedure to sand the f/b after the old ones have been pulled. However, unfortunately you are going to make a moderately large investment in tools to do this - hammer, several files and some sort of flat block or beam to level them, a radiused block to do the actual sanding, some way to support the neck extension while you hammer the new ones in, a fret crowing file. You will end up making a new nut and saddle with the new radius and height - that requires a set of gauged nut files and some more measuring tools. The fretwire needs to be curved to the radius of the f/b. It is a tedious enough procedure that most techs charge in the order of $150 to 250 to do a complete refret

Not saying don't do it, just go into it with open eyes.

edit to add - here is a thread about replacing the first 5 badly worn frets on an acoustic. I sanded the board to get the divots out, but not to change the radius. Also, it does not show making a new nut or saddle - the old ones were usable but they won't be for you. ... eel-refret

There are lots of other good articles, videos and other advice on refretting - just wanted to give you an idea of what you are in for
Freeman Keller
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Re: Help needed with Walden D550

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:05 am

There is a way to do this on the cheap -
Hammer - a regular claw hammer will work if the face is relatively smooth
Leveling beam - a two foot level with sandpaper glued to the face will work if you are careful
Radius block - again the two ft level. If you are doing the work for yourself it doesn't have to look perfect, only work perfectly. Sand along the path each string takes and eyeball the radius.
some way to support the neck extension - For a refret some people widen the fret slots that are over the body and glue the frets in. Maybe not the most professional way (although some pros do it) but it can work fine.
Fret crowning file - I use a triangular file with the edges made "safe", as do many professionals. It is one of the cheapest options ( $6) and with a little practice not a bad way to go.
The fretwire needs to be curved to the radius of the f/b. - I do that by dragging the fretwire through a tiny notch (big enough to hold the tang) in the edge of my bench and pulling down with a light pressure at the same time. I do it a few times until it has taken the radius I need.
a set of gauged nut files and some more measuring tools - It would be nice to have a set of nut files, but sometimes you can get by with makeshift solutions. Thin kerf hobby saws can work for the thinner gauge strings and needle files can get you close for the thicker ones. A 6 inch steel rule graduated to 1/32nd and interpolated to a 64th can give you the measurements you need.
Obviously this is not the ideal tool kit for the Professional and requires that you do the work with some lack of circumspection, but it can make an otherwise unplayable instrument playable - without breaking the bank.
If you search the archives you will find a number of discussions on alternative tools and methods for doing refrets (and some of the pitfalls).
Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Help needed with Walden D550

Postby Barry Daniels » Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:09 pm

Clay is correct. Many of us started working on guitars with whatever tools were available, long before the luthier suppliers came up with specialized tools for every operation. I built my first guitar with bargain bin hand tools that my father had in his garage.
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Barry Daniels
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