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Rate my fret job

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by SammyC, Nov 21, 2020.

  1. SammyC

    SammyC Tele-Meister

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    Ok, so this is pretty horrible, but it plays a million times better than it did! :lol:


    But I want to improve so comment away!

    In terms of what I did, I had to do significant amount of leveling as the frets were all over the place. This meant some frets were very flat topped at this point.

    I then (attempted) re-crowning using a three sided file from Crimson.

    Then it was polishing using some fret rubbers.

    My thoughts are that I could possibly do a better job on the crowning? Definitely need more practice with the polishing but that is just down to time I suspect.

    What do you think?
     
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  2. Steve Holt

    Steve Holt Tele-Afflicted

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    From the picture it looks like there's still some flat spots and they look coarse. That's what I see.

    Did you use a sharpie to mark the frets at the beginning? If you did just ignore this part, but if not here goes.

    Mark all the frets with a sharpie when you level then you can easily see where you've leveled and what you have to level yet. Even more important in my opinion is marking all the fret tops again before crowning. The goal there is to crown them while trying to leave a thin thin line all the way along the fret so they remain level.

    When polishing spend a bit more time on the low grit and keep an eye out for when the scratches go away. If you go too much, you might make the fret unlevel again, but I too like to live by the idea that at least it's way better than it was!

    I like the stewmac fret erasers (rubbers). I assume that's what you're using. I recently switched to the dremel polishing wheels they sell. Those are fast and way better if you ask me. If this was your first go and you got good results then well done! Like you said it's a million times better. And your next one will be even better.
     
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  3. Ghostdriver

    Ghostdriver Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    Looks like you might need to round off the fret ends a little with a small fret dressing file to eliminate sharp ends from crowning process
     
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  4. SammyC

    SammyC Tele-Meister

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    Hey, thanks, really appreciate your comments.

    Yes, slightly flat topped still and coarse would be a good description.

    I did mark them up with a Sharpie both for leveling and crowning but I wasn't sure how thin a line to aim for when I was crowning.

    Yes, fret erasers. I agree, I think I needed more time with the coarse one before moving up in grits.

    @Ghostdriver actually the erasers seemed to sort that out for me. Which was nice!
     
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  5. Guy Guyatone

    Guy Guyatone TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    +1 on the Dremel polishing wheels, they naturally form a curved shape around the fret and work fast. I put some aluminum tape on the fret board on either side to eliminate any possible changes to the fretboard patina.
     
  6. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Tighten the crowning file work so you have a thin leveled line not flat on top.

    Use a 'fret shield' (stew mac sells them for $6, make one out of a cardboard cereal box, or an old drafting 'eraser shield' is basically what the stew mac one is modeled after).

    Use a small flat hardwood block with 400 then 600 grit on it going cross-wise of the neck, or along the frets, covering several at a time to keep it level, just enough to remove the remaining leveling beam marks.

    Polish with your fingers along the frets with a 800 and then 1500 grit papers (these are in the mid to high range of a fret polishing eraser)

    You can get a ranged set of sandpapers at an auto parts store.

    Get one of those white-foam "mr clean" or similar cleaning pads as they are effective to 3000 grit.

    Most super-polished frets get wiped out after a session of playing and note bending so I've found 1500 grit is about the top practical need for a smooth playing feel that looks good. The '12,000' mesh chase with dremel polishing wheel compounds are often just Instagram vanity.

    .
     
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  7. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'll give the job 7/10 for appearance, but 10/10 for you being fearless and going for it.

    Not a slam at all...but a good fret crowning file is worth its weight in gold, pretty much.

    I mention this because I crowned frets for years with "safed" three-corner files I made myself. It works, but it takes about 10 times longer (not kidding) to achieve the same consistent results that a fret crowning file gets you.

    If you are going to do another fret job, spend the ~$70 or so on a diamond 'knife' fret crowning file. You'll be amazed at the results you get. One like this, with two grits--150 and 300:

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Friend of Leo's

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    The file in the post above is the best there is. It's exactly what you need to finish the job -- the "crowning touch," so to speak.
     
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  9. 2manyteles

    2manyteles TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    Edit: I had assumed you had done a refret because you called it a "fret job". I'll leave what I wrote anyway in case you want to try refretting at some point.

    You need to follow a process when re-fretting. It looks more like you decided to wing it.

    There's lots of info out there on how to do fret work. There's even a sticky at the top of this forum topic from Ron Kirn about fret levelling.

    I do a refret about once a week. They are all a bit different but the process is the same.

    Once the frets are removed, the board needs to be prepped, slots cleaned and cut to proper tang depth. It's also wise to true up the fretboard with a radius block and 220 grit. Fill the damaged wood.

    It's important to have the right tools as well. Never use a 3 sided file to crown a fret. Buy a crowning file and watch some tutorials. If you have a drill press you can get an adapter to use it as a fret press. That said, if the slots are well prepped, you can tap them in fairly easily.

    Anyway, I've done hundreds of fret jobs so I have a bit of experience here. But, even my first one followed a process.

    As a general rule, the more time you spend to prep the fretboard, the less levelling and post-fretting work you'll need to do.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2020
  10. Boreas

    Boreas Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    95% of the population couldn't do what you just did! Be proud and say it loud!

    That being said, I have seen better refrets, but I have seen WORSE first refrets!! I am assuming this wasn't a vintage pre-CBS guitar, if it was, well......may Leo have mercy on your soul.....

    As others have mentioned above, there is more to a refret than pulling out frets and pounding in new ones. In order to improve your outcomes, you need to improve your knowledge of the process. Miss one step in the process, and you may really foul things up. StewMac has great videos and information on details. They also sell great media that show you step-by-step procedures and details you need to pay attention to for good results. There are 1000 different YouTube videos showing variations and varying quality of fretwork. I would avoid most of them. Not that Dan Erlewine at S/M has the best instruction, but it is solid. And their videos also detail many of the tools they use and their benefits.

    One tool I would advise is a rounded crowning file. These can be cheap or pricey, but if you think you are going to be doing more refrets in the future, buy the best one you can afford - you aren't likely to ever wear it out! S/M sells some nice fretting kits that have most of the tools you will need.

    You will find that with this effort, you are going to have playability issues. The good thing is this neck likely has another refret left in it. If it is a guitar you love, do more research, add a few more tools to your arsenal, and have at it again. Perhaps the results on the next go will be something you will be more comfortable with.
     
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  11. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Holic

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    +1 It will make progress happen so much easier in the future.

    Give the frets a good polish after all the rest of the work is done too.
     
  12. SammyC

    SammyC Tele-Meister

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    Sorry, a little misunderstanding going on here, I only leveled and reshaped the frets. I didn't remove old frets or anything. It's a very cheap neck from a kit that was horrendous to play so I thought that I've got nothing to lose, couldn't make it worse, and it's a good place to practice before working on a guitar that I do care about!

    @2manyteles I appreciate you taking the time to comment and help me improve, but in return I've got some advice for you, honestly your delivery could do with some work! I'm trying to learn and improve but telling someone what a mess they've made, how good you are, and then not really offering much advice beyond follow a process (which you don't give) is not all that helpful. Sorry. No offense intended, and none taken by me :)

    So, in terms of process that I used, I followed the tutorial on a Texas Toast video (didn't just wing it!). I first set the neck to straight, then taped it up, then marked up the frets, then levelled until all were being touched, then marked it up again, and then (attempted) to recrown with the three side file, and then (attempted) to polish with the erasers.

    One question that I do have is why not a three sided file? I'm pretty sure I've seen people using them in the many many videos I watched before attempting (to wing) this?

    :)
     
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  13. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

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    The three sided file with safe edges is how it was done in the old days. You want to get a fret crowning file, and as stated, blacken first and then file until there's only a tiny sliver of black remaining. A fret crowning file gives you a consistently curved crown. 300 grit diamond files leave you much less sanding to deal with. For the ends, StewMac makes this tiny file designed for the job. It has two safe edges so you can round off the angle without carving grooves in the edge of your fret board.

    After the file comes sanding. I start with 600 grit and sand along the length of each fret to remove the scratches. I then go to 1200 (doesn't take nearly as long). This will leave you with a really nice fret surface. If you like you can then polish. I use the little felt wheels on a Dremel with some jeweler's rouge but there are plenty of metal polishes out there. Here's some dressed EVO frets I just put in
    frets.jpg fret ends.jpg
     
  14. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    It's all over the place, but it's a good start.
    It's clearly a cheapo neck judging by the wood, so that's a good place to start, too.
    I did these with a flat file before owning a crowning file.
    I have one with a safe edge ground/polished/buffed that slides on the fretboard without causing damage.
    The fact that it's flat and 1" wide helps to eyeball the angle its at and keep things uniform.
    I thing a 3-corner file would be too hard to keep at a constant angle with less flat surface to eyeball.
    It's the same file I used on the fret ends...tilt it and run it up and down the edge of the fretboard.
    I now have an oak block with a file sunk in it that keeps the angle uniform.
    These tools with set curvature (fret file) and angle (fret end file) still have a learning curve (!!) and my first couple fret jobs with them might not have been as good as the last couple with the old tools.
     
  15. SammyC

    SammyC Tele-Meister

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    Ah, that's amazing @telepraise very helpful.

    I've just redone one of the frets from above.
    The original photo:


    Reworked right fret:

    Much better crowning and polishing although not easy to see due to different light conditions.

    I polished with 600 grit paper before the erasers as that was the finest I have.

    I was worried that it would ruin the levelling work but I couldn't detect anything with my rocker.

    Any better?
     
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  16. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    It will work, but it requires a lot of additional concentration because unless you take your time, the width of the frets' crowns will not be consistent. People use them because they don't want to spend the "alot of money" for a specialty fret file. Yes, it is expensive for a dumb tool that probably should cost a whole lot less. I did fretwork with a three-corner file for years; when finally I sprung for the fret file, I kicked myself for being a cheapskate because the fret file is such a huge time saver.

    A three-corner file requires you to use multiple operations on each fret and lateral pressure to remove material. This is the reason you have some frets with wide, flat tops and others with narrower tops.

    A fret crowning file is shaped like the top of a fret (in cross section) so it's a simple matter of filing straight downward (single operation) onto the fret wire to achieve a consistent crown on all frets.
     
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  17. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Holic

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    There is a tutorial by Ron Kirn up here I think in the DIY forum somewhere. He does a good job of describing and showing a textbook approach to leveling, crowning, polishing (using the permanent marker for reference at leveling and crowing stages). If you follow that approach, you can't go wrong.
     
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  18. Boreas

    Boreas Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    There you go!

    Crowning done properly should not effect the level job. You mark the top of the fret and round the sides UP TO the apex of the fret, which you do not touch. But you DO have to be careful with sanding and polishing because that removes material as well. I use micromesh sanding sticks that are stiff foam when doing anything on frets beyond rough filing. The handiest are the 3-grit sticks that cover just about anything you want to do, including wet-sanding if you wish. I like them because you do not concentrate pressure in a small area when sanding. They also do an excellent job of polishing!


    micro-mesh-touch-up-stick.jpg
     
  19. 2manyteles

    2manyteles TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    My apologies for being too harsh- a bit cranky these days. It's good that you are trying to figure it out. I thought I did give you some helpful advice. My main point was about starting with a well prepped fretboard and after that follow Ron's process for levelling and crowning.
    Tools; fret nippers, radius block, fret slotting saw with depth gauge or a mini slot cleaning saw (stewmac), crowning file. Buy the best tools you can afford.
    To make sure the slot is deep enough, cut a piece of fret, file through the tang, bend it to 45 degrees or more at that point. File the barbs off the tang so that the tang goes into the slot without getting stuck. That way you can see if you've got enough depth to seat the fret all the way.
     
  20. SammyC

    SammyC Tele-Meister

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    Hey, no problem. I don't think I'm ready for replacing frets at the moment. My other guitar that I've had since my teenage years is looking pretty worn but I'm hoping that there's enough metal left to support one more leveling...

    I've redone the whole lot now, taking all your advice, and it's a significantly improved job. Thank you all.

    I see what you mean about effort and the triangle file, it's a lot more effort.

    I think I'm going to look at decent crowning files, any recommendations? I've also heard about Z files?!
     
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