Is it worth it to dress your own frets?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by thechad, May 26, 2019.

  1. thechad

    thechad Tele-Meister

    Age:
    33
    Posts:
    229
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2018
    Location:
    Kamloops
    Hey everyone, I recently got a player Tele for my birthday.
    I really like the guitar so far, the only downside to it for me is when I go from playing my USA Strat to playing the Tele, I can really feel the roughness of the frets on the neck.
    There is a luthier in town that's really good but he is generally hard pressed to find time to take on more work. I tried scheduling an appointment for him to wax pot some pickups I have in an old 60's Japanese guitar. It went on for so long trying to take it to him, I just decided to buy some wax and do it myself. It went well and was a nice little project for me.

    So the question I need to ask: If someone is inclined to learn and do it themselves, is it worth it to dress your own frets?

    I am guessing I would need to at least buy some files, which may be as much as a luthier would charge to do it?
    This is the only guitar I currently own that would need done, so barring any future purchases, I wouldn't see much return on investment in files because of repeated application.
    If it makes any difference, it is only the finishing on the ends of the frets, specifically on the bottom of the board, that I would want to smooth out.
     
  2. ppg677

    ppg677 Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    Posts:
    212
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2018
    Location:
    WI
    If you're not doing a full level/crown, you dont need to buy files. Do you just need to polish with a progression of sandpaper from 500 grit up to 2000 grit?
     
    thechad likes this.
  3. ElectricKaibutsu

    ElectricKaibutsu TDPRI Member

    Age:
    34
    Posts:
    75
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2016
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    If it's just fret roughness, you probably just need to get something like the D'Addario Fret Polishing System. I've used it before. It's cheap and works well.
     
    thechad likes this.
  4. Steve Holt

    Steve Holt Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,055
    Joined:
    May 29, 2016
    Location:
    Kansas
    http://www.tdpri.com/threads/fret-leveling-yer-tele-101.201556/

    I think it's absolutely worth it! It tends to be a fairly expensive guitar that doesn't require a y fret leveling or dressing brand new, and then after a few months and some humidity changes they might need to be dressed anyway.

    I did invest in a few tools. A leveling beam and a roll off 180 grit adhesive backed sandpaper. A crowning file, and a fret end file. Also the stewmac fret erasers Probably $150 total and I can do all my guitars, but you can find cheaper tools and other alternatives as well. And the link I posted discusses that. I'm also a sucker for stewmac tools.
     
    simoncroft likes this.
  5. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    67
    Posts:
    7,804
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2006
    Location:
    Greater Boston
  6. Papa Joe

    Papa Joe Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    89
    Posts:
    4,103
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2007
    Location:
    Swanton Ohio
    I think thechad is talking about fret sprout..If so all you need is one small mill file..Three corner is best but a flat file can be used..You would want to grind the teeth off the edges so as to not damage the fret board..
    Then after removing most of the metal, finish up using a finger nail dressing board..
    Total outlay would be $20 or less..
     
    Geo, DugT and simoncroft like this.
  7. thechad

    thechad Tele-Meister

    Age:
    33
    Posts:
    229
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2018
    Location:
    Kamloops
    Yeah, sorry. I guess my wording wasn't the best choice for what my problem is. Since the guitar is new, the frets are fine and don't need "dressing" as such. It is just the rough ends of the frets poking out of the fingerboard that are rougher then I would like as I slide my hand up/down the neck. Fret sprout would be a better term. Getting some good info though, thanks!
     
    telemnemonics likes this.
  8. simoncroft

    simoncroft TDPRI Member

    Age:
    62
    Posts:
    49
    Joined:
    May 29, 2011
    Location:
    Worthing, SE England
    I've been using an old-fashioned oil stone, such as you might sharpen a chisel on, for 40+ years to dress frets. That includes levelling the tops, and making sure they don't stick out at the sides. If you've taken much off the tops, you'll probably want to use a fret file to restore the profile of the crowns. After that, you can get the frets nice and smooth with a couple of grades of Wet & Dry paper, followed by some Brasso Cloth. Ron Kirn wrote a very good manual on this subject, which I think I still have as pdf.
     
  9. simoncroft

    simoncroft TDPRI Member

    Age:
    62
    Posts:
    49
    Joined:
    May 29, 2011
    Location:
    Worthing, SE England
    Is the board maple or rosewood? If it's rosewood, you can work along the sides of the board with some fine abrasive paper, rounding off the edges of the board a little and taking any sharp edges off frets. When the fret 'tangs' stick out of the side of the neck, that's best adressed with a leveling beam, or oil stone, so you're trimming the ends of the frets, not cutting into the neck finish. :)

    EDIT: Best you don't go rounding off the edges of a maple board, because you'll cut through the finish.
     
  10. thechad

    thechad Tele-Meister

    Age:
    33
    Posts:
    229
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2018
    Location:
    Kamloops
    The board is maple. I definitely don’t want to ruin the finish on it. I think I have an oil stone in my tool box so might be worth a try.
     
  11. TimTam

    TimTam Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    519
    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2010
    Location:
    Melbourne
    It depends somewhat on the extent of the sprout, but as it sounds like it's the type that you can still play but just catches sometimes, a fret end dressing file should be enough to do the job properly ..
    https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Onli..._fret_ends_that_stick_out_in_dry_weather.html
    https://www.stewmac.com/Fretting_supplies/Shaping_and_crowning/Fret_End_Dressing_File.html
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B013ZHK4DM/?tag=tdpri-20

    Those special files have 'safe edges' to protect the board. But since you haven't done it before and it's a maple board, I would recommend taping the board on each side of the frets you need to file, to protect it some more.
     
    Piggy Stu likes this.
  12. jrblue

    jrblue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,148
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2010
    Location:
    Santa Barbara
    It's easy to find information about how to do this kind of maintenance/repair work. I find that the real question is whether you do or do not have the patience and focus to do a good job. Most people do not, and most home repairs are cruddy -- not because the work is all that hard, but because a lot of people just do fast, crappy work. Being able to do excellent fret work, including fixing protruding ends, is very, very valuable -- it's not as though there are loads of good techs out there -- and I totally recommend learning to do this stuff -- only if you have the restraint and patience to do it well. If you're someone who rushes or can't follow procedures carefully, that's too bad.
     
    Piggy Stu and thechad like this.
  13. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    21,320
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2009
    Location:
    Coolum Beach,Australia
    You could buy a cheap pawn shop guitar and practice a fret job on that.... if you're not confident working on your own neck yet... :)
     
    simoncroft and Piggy Stu like this.
  14. mtjo62

    mtjo62 Tele-Holic

    Age:
    56
    Posts:
    758
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Location:
    StatesVegas, NC
    I bought a similar bag of these nail dressing files. They work great for basic fret dressing when you don't need to take material off, just tough up. I have some of the fret erasers and they work well, but you can flatten the frets if not careful.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0037O2J7I/?tag=tdpri-20
     
  15. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    Posts:
    15,328
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    Location:
    Maine
    You can do all your fret filing with tools from the local hardware store.
    Luthiers used to use and modify normal files because there were no fret specific files available.

    For fret sprout all you need is a fine single cut file.
    If you need to file above the tang you'll need a thin triangle file as well, but you don't really want to take that much fret material off.
    Better to do something about the lack of humidity that caused the neck to shrink!
     
    rangercaster and Piggy Stu like this.
  16. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,285
    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    It's worth it if you're great at it.

    It's worth paying a professional if you aren't.

    It's almost always worth doing or having done, even on expensive, well made guitars.
     
  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    Posts:
    15,328
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    Location:
    Maine
    I would not grab an oil stone from the tool box to file off fret sprout on a maple board.
    You want dead flat, a sharp cutting edge, clean, and a clear view, so when the file just touches the maple, it barely dulls the finish at all.
    A clean diamond sharpening "stone" would be fine, but oil and stone are not pretty on lacquered maple, and a used stone is generally not flat.
     
    4pickupguy likes this.
  18. kbold

    kbold Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    262
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2015
    Location:
    Australia
    If it's fret sprout on the ends, it may be worthwhlie to re-humidify the guitar before griding away at the frets.
    The wood can shrink in low humidity.
    With a maple neck, I wouldn't do it myself.
    See if you can get a luthier to check it out.
     
    rangercaster and thechad like this.
  19. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,998
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2018
    Location:
    In space with Ziggy
    All work that's required on your guitar is better done by yourself if saving money and having a better understanding of your instrument is important to you.
     
  20. thechad

    thechad Tele-Meister

    Age:
    33
    Posts:
    229
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2018
    Location:
    Kamloops
    Thanks for all the info guys. It’s not a bad case of fret sprout really, if I look along the board they are flush. They just feel a bit rough. I think I’ll call the luthier in town first. I can live with it for a while if need be. On the plus side I’ve learned a bunch about dressing frets. For what it is, I don’t think a full re-dress is needed. If the luthier doesn’t have time to take it on, maybe he can at least have a look. I think they just need a bit of a polish to smooth them up.
     
    simoncroft likes this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.