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dressed frets?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Larry99, Dec 14, 2005.

  1. Larry99


    Aug 17, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    I've searched this and couldn't come up with anything. What does it mean exactly to have frets "dressed" ? I know it has somthing to do with leveling but what exactly is done and how?

    I have a 10 yr old Yamaha TRB5 that needs a fret job. I figure I need to completely replace the frets but maybe they can be overhauled somehow. I dunno? There are significant indentations on the frets where the string touches the crown. I haven't really noticed anything in playability, buzzing, etc but it looks kinda bad.
  2. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Dressing would be what is done after fret levelling. First, all of the frets are brought to the same level. In your case it would be to where the divots from the string wear ends. Then they are recrowned and polished. It could also involve reshaping the fret ends.

    In your case the fret wear probably makes a level and dress not worth it. You would spend a lot on that work when the extra cost for a refret isn't that much more. Maybe $150 for a level and dress on a bad set of frets, and $200 and up for a complete refret. Those are ballpark numbers but I think that they are reasonable.
  3. Larry99


    Aug 17, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    thanks for the reply! So what you're saying is a luthier will basically file down the frets to the lowest point of the divot? ...yea, don't think that's gonna work for my Yammie.

    btw, do they remove the frets from the fingerboard during dressing and then re-install? I would guess not, but then how is it done without damaging the wood?
  4. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    My method of dressing frets is somewhat crude, but it seems to work. If you've never done this before I recommend trying this a couple times on old guitars / basses that you don't much care about. Here's how I do it:

    1. I use a flat file (about 3/4 inch wide by 12 inches long) epoxied to a wood block (a 1 x 2 about 12 inches long).
    2. I adjust the truss rod till the neck is perfectly flat / straight and remove the nut.
    3. I mask the pickups and fretboard with masking tape, leaving the frets exposed.
    4. I use black marker to color each fret black.
    5. Using a long, smooth strokes (the length of the neck) I draw the file across the tops of the frets, with even pressure.
    6. I shift the file over (1 file width) and repeat.
    7. The black coloring should disappear evenly. It will give an indication of any low spots, and areas that need more filing. Once the marker disappears, the frets may need to be colored again depending on the depth of the indents.
    8. Once I'm satsified the frets are level, and the indents are removed, I shape the frets.
    9. I run a small triangular file parallell with each side of each fret to give the frets a round shape.
    10. I take a little off the end of each fret, again to make a rounded shape.
    11. I use sandpaper and steel wool to further smooth any rough edges.

    Pictures would describe this procedure much better. It really isn't difficult or complicated, but it is time consuming and "finnicky". It is very important that the neck is straight. There are probably better / more correct ways to perform a "fret-job" but this is how I do it.
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Bass, you left out the part where you should say in big bold letters: THIS IS NOT A JOB FOR AMATEURS!!!

    Larry, for a fret dressing, they leave the frets in. However, if your bass is beyond a fret dressing, you can get a full refret where they do take the frets out and replace them with new ones. It's a fairly common procedure. Luthiers have special tools to take the frets out without damaging the wood, but sometimes accidents do happen. Fortunately, since they're luthiers, they can usually fix any damage without you ever knowing there was any.
  6. Larry99


    Aug 17, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    hey guys, thanks for the replys. I think I pretty much get it now.

    Jimmy, yea I had an old 4001 Rickenbacker refretted years ago, I was just unsure of what was done for a dressing, exactly. Like I said, I think my TRB needs them replaced.
  7. fenderx55


    Jan 15, 2005
    My MIA Fender J has rounded edges on the fretboard, but in the past couple of days the fret ends have started kind of poking through and are pretty sharp. Also, the finish around the frets under the strings is chipping. It's hard to explain, but as soon as my roommate wakes up I'll steal his camera.

    The question is, would this qualify for a dressing? I've been adjusting stuff myself for a while, so I figure around spring break-ish I'm gonna take this badboy in for a full set up.