How to remove polishing compound from around frets?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by BFcaster, Jul 19, 2021.

  1. BFcaster

    BFcaster Tele-Meister

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    About 12 years ago or so, I stripped and re-fretted two Tele maple necks in nitro. Polished things up, did the fret work, polished them up, etc. Done. I was lazy of course...these are my Teles and I just wanted them done so I could play them.
    Now, after all these years, my lack of proper clean-up is bugging me, because around some frets I have hard-to-clean remnants of rubbing/polishing compound. Basically, thin white lines of the hard stuff.

    My usual remedy is naptha, which I did at the time but obviously I posted this so....

    Suggestions???
     
  2. JL_LI

    JL_LI Poster Extraordinaire

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    Try a tooth pick. Slightly dampen the tip in naphtha if you must.
     
  3. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Yes...naphtha.
    And maybe something soft to scrape...credit card, pick, chopstick...
     
  4. Deeve

    Deeve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Dry toothbrush
     
  5. Boreas

    Boreas Poster Extraordinaire

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    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
  6. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Friend of Leo's

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    A damp paper towel would normally be enough. A toothbrush? Sure. If it's obstinate, try more polishing compound!
     
  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'd vote for the toothbrush, if it is an unfinished board (rosewood, ebony) 0000 steel wool is very effective. If its a lacquered maple board naphtha shouldn't hurt it. A good reason why I don't use compound to polish frets.
     
  8. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's

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    I just use simple naptha & paper towel. Quick and done.
     
  9. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Holic

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    What is this ‘white hard stuff’ you used? Polishing compound usually turns a dark color, just wipes off.
    Maybe there’s metal dust in there from working on the frets?
    Naphtha is great for what it does (including cleaning polishing compound) but it’s not the best for cleaning.
    Maybe stewmac’s preservation polish? It’s good stuff.
    A plastic cleaner or an oil soap?
     
  10. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Tape it first.... You'll never get it out of the grain.... well maybe never!
     
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  11. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    The polishing compound would initially have had either a wax/oil base or an emulsion, so the first instinct is to use naphtha to dissolve the wax that's carrying the abrasive. Now that it's so dried out, however, there may be no wax or oil left.

    Have you tried something with a ph neutral detergent such as soapy water? Obviously you can't use alcohol or acetone/lacquer thinner on a nitro-finished neck.

    Also, how about one of the spray cleaners that are mislabeled "polish"? e.g. the now defunct Martin Guitar Polish made by Guardsman, or Gibson pump spray polish, or Planet Waves spray polish (not to rant, but in the finishing and detailing world, "polish" contains abrasive and these products are really just cleaners with a little wax, yet they borrow the misnomer from "furniture polish"). They might have enough of an emulsifier to remove the old compound and dried wax.

    And a toothbrush is a great tool for this because it almost allows you to control the amount of liquid that you're using and keeps the gunk wet while you're trying to loosen it.

    I save thick chopsticks (the round ones, not the cheap flat ones) and occasionally sharpen the end in a pencil sharpener for jobs like this. Won't scratch the frets but will work a bit faster than a toothbrush except it won't help soaking the dry powder.
     
  12. stratisfied

    stratisfied Tele-Afflicted

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    Dry toothbrush first, damp (not dripping wet) toothbrush if compound has hardened. Last resort is a hobby/utility knife blade (use it out of the handle, you want to be surgically precise). Hold the blade near vertical with the point down, sharp side toward the fret, back side toward the fretboard and scrape gently with very light downward pressure. Follow up with the toothbrush.
     
  13. BFcaster

    BFcaster Tele-Meister

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    Since this was 12 years ago or so, as stated in the OP, the only thing I can think of that I would have used is maybe some ScratchX or Meguiars Swirl Remover (after the usual fret finishing work). I would have used naptha and a soft tshirt with my thumb nail as the 'blunt object' behind the tshirt to clean things up. Again, I got lazy and just wanted to string them up and play.
    The white lines around the frets certainly look like dried up ScratchX, compared to some currently dried up on my bottle lid.

    Some great suggestions. Applying more of the same (probably ScratchX) would work since the solvents in the product should work to re-liquify to a degree what is hard and hard-to-get.
     
  14. stratisfied

    stratisfied Tele-Afflicted

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    Almost forgot about Merlin's Magical Elixir ... Mineral Spirits! Dip the toothbrush in odorless mineral spirits, flick the bristles to throw off the excess and brush along the frets. Mineral spirits will not harm a thing and is actually better than a toothbrush dampened with water.
     
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  15. Drak

    Drak Tele-Afflicted

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    This.
    In my experience, Naptha doesn't dissolve polishing compound, mineral spirits do.
     
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  16. BFcaster

    BFcaster Tele-Meister

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    I should know this but to be certain- any adverse effects with mineral spirits on those nitro-covered maple fretboards??
     
  17. stratisfied

    stratisfied Tele-Afflicted

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    None whatsoever.
     
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