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Fret sprout repair without damaging neck finish

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by zac2944, Feb 2, 2014.

  1. zac2944

    zac2944

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    I've got a Roscoe with bad fret sprout due to the dry winter environment here. Winter time means furnace heating and low humidity.

    I understand why sprout happens, and how to knock down the exposed fret ends with a flat file, but what about the neck finish? To take the fret ends down flush with the neck I'll have to kiss the finish just a bit with the file. For those who have done this before, how do you touch up the finish? Wipe on poly? Wax?

    I'm planning on finding a local luthier to do this repair, but want to understand the process and how it is normally done. I'm concerned the edge of the neck/fretboard will be bare wood and end up getting dirty and grey looking over time. This kind of mojo looks cool on some of my older basses, but this roscoe is a real looker and I'd like to keep it that way.
  2. Jefff

    Jefff

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    I angle the file so it hits multiple frets and and a slight angle to the neck.

    I use very little pressure and fine file. If I nick the edge of the fret board a little it doesn't keep me up at night.
  3. mjac28

    mjac28 50th Anniversary Ed Sullivan February 9, 1964 Gold Supporting Member

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    If it just happened this winter I wouldn't touch it and I would get a case humidifier and a room humidifier.
  4. scotch

    scotch Will play bass for fish tacos. Plus cash. Supporting Member

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    Any competent repair guy can do this job in less than an hour!

    The process is to mask the board between frets and neck edges with tape. I then use a diamond stone to "flatten" & true the board and fret edge, use the appropriate file to round over the fret ends ("dog-bone" them)and then finish up with progressively fine sandpaper until the frets shine and any possible scratches on the fingerboard edge are polished out. It takes more time on a glossy maple board, but is totally do-able!

    Sandpaper comes in grits in the thousands were you can restore a mirror finish to even the glossiest top coats!
  5. mjac28

    mjac28 50th Anniversary Ed Sullivan February 9, 1964 Gold Supporting Member

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    Hey Scotch Lost In Transition is killer been a fan since 98' love your tone.
  6. zac2944

    zac2944

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    I keep the bass in a gig bag or sometimes hanging on the wall in my basement.
    I doubt I could humidify my bag and don't have the money to humidify my basement and house. It will be this dry every winter and I'd rather not have to manage this forever. If I have the fret ends filed in this dry condition then I think it would be a one time fix and I'll be good next winter. At the moment I can't play the bass any more. Last two gigs had me bleeding. The sharp fret ends give tiny cuts. Not cool on a wedding gig.




    Thanks Scotch. I appreciate the detailed explanation. I'll ask my local guy how he plans to do it, but I want to know what to expect going in. I don't have any experience with any of my local luthiers.
  7. scotch

    scotch Will play bass for fish tacos. Plus cash. Supporting Member

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    That's very kind of you, thanks for listening!
  8. Beej

    Beej

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    It was said above, but yes, you tape off the board carefully between the frets to reduce the chance of damage...
  9. pfox14

    pfox14

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    I use a fret file especially designed for all types of fret work, but since you're taking it to a luthier, then I wouldn't bother buying one.
  10. zac2944

    zac2944

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    Any details on the file? I'm not opposed to doing my own work if it is reasonable that I can pull it off.
  11. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson

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    To file down the fret ends, you don't want to put tape on the fingerboard between the frets. The point is to file the ends flush with the wood. Putting tape on there would keep you from doing that.

    The trick to filing the fret ends without damaging the finish is to use a very fine file, that is, one with really tiny teeth. I use a 6" long #4 Swiss file. It's an essential tool on my bench; it costs about $25. Lightly stroking that file across the fret ends will cut down the ends of the frets, and leave them shiny. But the file is fine enough that it sort of skates across the finish on the sides of the fingerboard, without scratching it. If it does slightly dull the finish, it can be easily buffed back up to a gloss.
  12. scotch

    scotch Will play bass for fish tacos. Plus cash. Supporting Member

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    Bruce is absolutely right, that is an easy way to go! I just don't like the 'beveled' sharp fret ends, so I always round-over the frets (thus taping up the fretboard).

    As a player, I don't like this:

    [​IMG]

    What feels far better to me is this:

    [​IMG]

    Nice, rounded fret ends! Takes more time & care, but totally worth it to the player. This could be done without taping, but you couldn't polish the fret ends without sanding too much off the binding or fingerboard edges. To get the frets flush, I end up sanding off the tape a little bit until I just barely 'kiss' the fingerboard.

    I use this thing to do the 'rounding over': http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Shaping_and_crowning/Fret_End_Dressing_File.html
    and a simple fine diamond knife sharpening stone to knock down the sprouted frets.

    I'm a full time player, not repairman like Bruce though! He probably has 'the touch' to not scrape up the board & still get the frets polished. I use tape to prevent any 'oops'!
  13. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

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    Beautiful frets, Scotch! Thanks for the input.
  14. scotch

    scotch Will play bass for fish tacos. Plus cash. Supporting Member

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    Those are just stock photos from the web! Thats the goal, though!
  15. mongo2

    mongo2

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    Absolutely! I do the same except I use a small triangle file that I ground down on two sides to make them safe.
  16. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member

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    +1 more!

    i'm just using the stewmac 8" fret leveling file lengthwise to knock them back to flush with the finish, then their little fret-end file to round off the resulting edges.

    any slight scuffs from kissing the corner of the finish with the big file can be polished out again.

    like bruce says, no tape (it stops the fret ends from getting all the way flush, the entire point) and you very much do want to hit it now while we're in winter and the problem is manifesting; once done, you'll have no more issues when warmer, wetter seasons arrive.
  17. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

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    Fret sprout repair without damaging neck finish

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I use a dremmel tool, a small tip, and a steady hand.
  18. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member

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    yikes, i'd be scared of the dremel tool! you're trying to prune the roses by lifting up a lawnmower and holding it over them :eek:

    this is definitely a "gentle hand filing" gig.
  19. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson

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    To clarify my comment above, I use the #4 Swiss file just for trimming the "sprouts" on an instrument where the fret ends are already shaped and polished. That's what the original poster's question was, right?

    I use other tools for rounding and polishing the ends of the frets on a new fret installation.

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