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Old December 31st, 2012, 03:54 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Friggin Fret Edges

Hi All,

I tell ya, I'm comfortable with all non-invasive adjustments to a guitar but those fret edges and filing 'em....that just isn't what I'm comfortable even thinking about. On the other hand, it's really hard to find someone to trust who knows what their doing...I think. My current tech who shall remain nameless is awesome at every other single thing....just not fret edges. I'm not going to get into the details but the frets are always still a little sharp and I have to bring it back or there's damage to the wood in the immediate area around the fret corner. Is this just what comes with the territory? I'm to the point of tracking down a cheap-o used Squier that you can shave with to experiment. I just don't know where to start. I'd be willing to drop 75 -$100 to a person who will do the work perfectly but would also love to learn how it's done and buy the tools to do so. Any ideas? I'm in the Chicago land area. Thanks.

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Old December 31st, 2012, 04:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Get a cheap neck from a well-known on-line auction site and practice.
A long, fine, flat metal file should do the trick or you can buy one set in a piece of wood to maintain the correct angle if you're feeling unsure about it. Then tidy up with a small needle file.
Rosewood fingerboard might be easier as there's no finish to mess up : )
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Old December 31st, 2012, 04:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm to the point of tracking down a cheap-o used Squier that you can shave with to experiment.
Yeah, that's how the trouble starts... erm... I mean, ahhh... great idea!

You're right, the fretboard damage isn't right. The problem is this is a seemingly simple project, and really it is, but it requires some patience.

The ends of the frets are easy. Get a 12" mill bastard file. Cut the tang and the end off, and taper the ends slightly and polish the teeth of the edges with a belt sander (or buy the file...). Run it up and down the edge of the fretboard until the barbed wire feel is gone. Use a dab of Tru Oil to touch up the edge if necessary. If the neck of the guitar is still attached to the guitar, it's a good idea to mask the top of the guitar alondside the neck with several layers of masking tape to guard agains those 'whoops' moments.

The fret ends are a little more work, but only because there are so danged many of them. You're going to go over each end (and both sides) with a fine Pillar or triangular file to round them over slightly. Just go slow, and be patient. I usually mask on either side of the fret with a couple of layers of blue masking tape to avoid slipping and damaging the fretboard edges. Never leave the tape on overnight, though. Even the expensive masking tapes can leave residue that's a pain to remove. Polish things up with some 800 grit wet and dry paper wrapped on a popsicle stick, go finer until you're satisfied or insane, and you're done.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 05:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I agree with what dsutton says. One more thing--use your fingers and sense of feel to determine when the edges/ends are smoothed correctly. Like auto bodywork, your hands and fingers are more accurate than your eye. Just be careful you don't rip some skin when you do it.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 06:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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For a cheaper fix, I use a drugstore nailfile (the coarse side first) and one of those metal fret protector plates from StewMac:
http://www.stewmac.com/Shopping?actn...tector&x=0&y=0

Cost: $15. A full fretboard takes maybe 10 minutes. And yeah, practice on sump'n cheap.

Best of luck

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Old December 31st, 2012, 06:05 PM   #6 (permalink)
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At the risk of mentioning the elephant in the room, it's December, and the OP is in Illinois, so . . . it's hard not to wonder about the average humidity level for the past two weeks or so of the room where the guitar is kept.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 06:06 PM   #7 (permalink)

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It takes patience, a soft touch, and a very fine file.

The best tool I've found is the little diamond sharpening cards, like these from Woodcraft:



File a few strokes and check often. The difference between a protruding fret end and going through the finish is just a couple of thousandths of an inch, so toothed files are far too coarse for this kind of work.

A small piece of sandpaper on a small wood block is a good bet too, but it's hard to keep the surface perfectly flat, which means you're going to wind up sanding things you don't mean to.

Contrary to popular believe, by the time a neck is fully finished, the edge where the fretboard meets the shoulder is not a perfectly straight line, so a long file is not a good tool for the job. I usually angle my sharpening card so that it only spans a few frets.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 08:00 PM   #8 (permalink)
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At the risk of mentioning the elephant in the room, it's December, and the OP is in Illinois, so . . .
... It's the perfect time to address fret sprout. As a Norweigian friend once put it, if you fix it when they are the stabbiest, then they will be good the rest of the year.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 10:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
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... It's the perfect time to address fret sprout. As a Norweigian friend once put it, if you fix it when they are the stabbiest, then they will be good the rest of the year.
But the point is you should be paying attention to the humidity where your guitars are stored, so you don't get fret sprout.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 10:54 PM   #10 (permalink)
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It takes patience, a soft touch, and a very fine file.

The best tool I've found is the little diamond sharpening cards, like these from Woodcraft:



File a few strokes and check often. The difference between a protruding fret end and going through the finish is just a couple of thousandths of an inch, so toothed files are far too coarse for this kind of work.

A small piece of sandpaper on a small wood block is a good bet too, but it's hard to keep the surface perfectly flat, which means you're going to wind up sanding things you don't mean to.

Contrary to popular believe, by the time a neck is fully finished, the edge where the fretboard meets the shoulder is not a perfectly straight line, so a long file is not a good tool for the job. I usually angle my sharpening card so that it only spans a few frets.
These are cool.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 11:16 PM   #11 (permalink)
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But the point is you should be paying attention to the humidity where your guitars are stored, so you don't get fret sprout.
That's a good point as far as it goes, but it's just a guitar. If it has to be kept in a controlled environment just to keep it happy, you might as well be collecting violets or tropical fish or something. Or trying to please a woman.

In my part of the country the humidity swings from nearly zilch to downright tropical. Our friends in the Southwest know dry. The rest of us? Who knows?

I've got one expensive acoustic that has a case humidifier in it, just because it's an expensive guitar. I've got another that is cranky and old, and it also gets a humidifier. The rest don't seem to mind the humidity and temperature swings. Some guitars just sprout, others don't.

Regardless of environmental factors, the time to address sprout is when it's happening. It does no harm to dehorn the guitar when it's prickly. If it's one of those that moves with the seasons, I doubt anyone would ever pick it up when it's well hydrated and say, "Gee, I miss those callouses on the sides of my thumb and forefinger!"
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Old January 1st, 2013, 08:08 AM   #12 (permalink)
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sharp edges on frets and nuts/bridges just don't make for comfortable playing. These three tools may be just what your looking for, they make remving the burrs off fret ends a piece-o-cake. The cost of all these tools is about 75.00
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Old January 1st, 2013, 08:14 AM   #13 (permalink)
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That's a good point as far as it goes, but it's just a guitar. If it has to be kept in a controlled environment just to keep it happy, you might as well be collecting violets or tropical fish or something. Or trying to please a woman.
I think that actually, it's the other way around. Guitars never need controlled environments. People do.

If you're comfortable in the environment, your guitar will also be comfortable. If your skin, hair, etc. are dry, your guitar is dry too, and if you're too cold, too hot or whatever, it's the same for your guitar. That's all there is to it.

So when you combine cold temps, low humidity, and dry heat (especially forced air gas), your skin and hair dries out a bit, and so does your guitar, and with the guitar, you get fret sprout.
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Old January 1st, 2013, 09:35 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I recommend Music Solutions in Bolingbrook, I have had them do the frets on several guitars and ukuleles. Mid-winter seems to be the peak time (the wood dries out and the fretwire remains the same size), most of my instruments seem to be made in more humid climates than northern Illinois.
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Old January 1st, 2013, 10:37 AM   #15 (permalink)
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It takes patience, a soft touch, and a very fine file.

The best tool I've found is the little diamond sharpening cards, like these from Woodcraft:



File a few strokes and check often. The difference between a protruding fret end and going through the finish is just a couple of thousandths of an inch, so toothed files are far too coarse for this kind of work.

A small piece of sandpaper on a small wood block is a good bet too, but it's hard to keep the surface perfectly flat, which means you're going to wind up sanding things you don't mean to.

Contrary to popular believe, by the time a neck is fully finished, the edge where the fretboard meets the shoulder is not a perfectly straight line, so a long file is not a good tool for the job. I usually angle my sharpening card so that it only spans a few frets.
So you could easily make a wooden holder for those diamond thingies or sandpaper that would keep it at 30-35 degrees in relation to the fretboard.

So you are saying start with a (relatively short) file and end with the sandpaper or diamond sharpeners.
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Old January 1st, 2013, 12:52 PM   #16 (permalink)

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So you are saying start with a (relatively short) file and end with the sandpaper or diamond sharpeners.
No, I'm saying only use these cards or a very small sanding block for fret sprout.

I only use files on a refret and get the ends down to about 5 thousandths away from the surface of the finish, and then finish with the diamond card.

I also use files on a raw, unfinished neck, but that's a different ball game.

Frets ends on a finished neck is meticulous work and requires meticulous tools. A toothed file is too coarse for this kind of work.
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Old January 1st, 2013, 03:13 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I found an old post by Ron Kirn http://www.tdpri.com/forum/2282024-post3.html . I had some minor
fret sprout (I'm in Texas). I used the sanding block and really smoothed it up. I gave it a quick polish with #7 meguiers and there are no finish issues. I made a diy humidifier for my tele and my epiphone acoustic. Hopefully, this will take care of the issue.
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Old January 1st, 2013, 04:42 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Thanks :)

Hi All,

Thanks for all the comments, I'm a little apprehensive of attempting this myself, I'm just too clumsy. If I see a cheap guitar with sharp frets I'll give 'er a try.

Regarding the humidity levels, this is the time of year the frets stick out and why I'd like to get this done before the winter ends. The guitar-in-question was just right when I received it a few weeks ago....then the frets just started to poke through although not terrible, just not super smooth. Strangely, my American Tele fret edges are still smooth! Oh well, I love the Classic 50's MIM Fenders, they sound and play great for the money. I'll tolerate the fret issues and get 'em figured out eventually :)
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Old January 1st, 2013, 11:10 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I think that actually, it's the other way around. Guitars never need controlled environments. People do.

If you're comfortable in the environment, your guitar will also be comfortable. If your skin, hair, etc. are dry, your guitar is dry too, and if you're too cold, too hot or whatever, it's the same for your guitar. That's all there is to it.
I disagree. I'm perfectly comfortable in 35 degree humidity in a heated house in the wintertime, but that's not safe for a guitar.
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Old January 2nd, 2013, 01:13 PM   #20 (permalink)
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It takes patience, a soft touch, and a very fine file.

The best tool I've found is the little diamond sharpening cards, like these from Woodcraft:



File a few strokes and check often. The difference between a protruding fret end and going through the finish is just a couple of thousandths of an inch, so toothed files are far too coarse for this kind of work.

A small piece of sandpaper on a small wood block is a good bet too, but it's hard to keep the surface perfectly flat, which means you're going to wind up sanding things you don't mean to.

Contrary to popular believe, by the time a neck is fully finished, the edge where the fretboard meets the shoulder is not a perfectly straight line, so a long file is not a good tool for the job. I usually angle my sharpening card so that it only spans a few frets.
Thanks Kokotele- this is what I have been looking for- good thread, OP! (I want to make all my teles feel like my American Standard and American Special- nice fret edges)
Koko- do you use the extrafine cards?
Thanks
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