Fret Dressing (I already Searched)

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by doog, Dec 27, 2007.

  1. doog


    Jun 26, 2007
    So I got my SX jazz 5r a few days before christmas and I gotta say I was really impressed. The action was actually not bad. But alas I can tell the frets do need a bit of work and I was fiddling with the idea about dressing them myself.

    Now im a fairly handy guy, I do all the tech work myself thus far BUT

    I gotta say there is one thing about the dressing I dont quite understand and totally sucks out my confidence (which is a big deal for me when doing a project).

    So here it goes,

    I can understand using a flat file on radiused frets but why would I be going up and down the fret board instead of side to side? Wouldnt this take the radius off? Or atleast present itself more difficult than a side to side motion?

  2. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    The most important goal in fret dressing is leveling the frets. Filing from nut to bridge, or vice versa, is the only way to keep the frets level. Crowning frets, on the other hand, requires an end to end motion with the chosen file.
  3. doog


    Jun 26, 2007
    excuse me if I sound ignorant but this is what I pcitured in my head.

    Say you got a level, carpet taped 330 grit to the top side, not the face or the back but the side. So now you have a filing surface thats fairly thin, about an inch or less. Put it on the fretboard lengthwise spanning from 1-12. Going in a side to side motion, as to follow the radius. The higher frets would be ground down, the radius woul dbe intact and you could procede on to crowning.

    Now if I got a thick flat filing surface and went up and down it would seem to me that the radius tops would be filed off and after crowning you would be left with a flat fret instead of a curved one.

    Im really sorry for my ignorance to the subject but I would like some help in understanding if someone would take pity on me.
  4. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Basic idea: When dressing frets the entire fingerboard (all of the frets) should be leveled to create a uniform surface. Think about it. What is the most important relationship between string a frets? It is having the frets level in the lie of the strings. The only way that can be controlled is to mill the frets in the lie of the strings. A perpendicular method tends to ignore this basic idea. If a perpendicular method is chosen utilizing a block of that size the frets above F12 will be high. How do you propose to blend the fret heights together once F1-12 are level? Admittedly, it can be done but it is more work than doing it right the first time. Even if a bar that spans all of the frets is used the tendency will be to favor the ends over the middle. It is very difficult to keep even pressure on the block that way. and if the bar gets kicked at an angle out of perpendicular new high and low spots will be created instantly. Another reason is flex. The neck will tend to flex if you are not very careful with the perpendicular movement. Even if your touch is light enough, the abrasive will wear unevenly, causing more problems.

    Bottom line is it will work if you are careful enough. But the risk of screwing it up is great and will cause even more work than necessary.
  5. A bass like a SX is a great value, but the fretwork on the ones I have seen, and the one fretted i owned, was really bad. You can fix a lot of the major problems with simple tools and leave a full level and dress for the next stage. You will have a higher comfort level after making a few simple fixes.

    I suggest starting off by finding any obviously high frets and dealing with them first. I use a StewMac fret rocker level and go over the whole neck marking high spots with a sharpie. Unless it is an emergency I will pull the neck for this and use the truss to make it as straight as possible. First check for loose frets and loose/sprung fret ends. You can seat these with a soft-jaw clamp and some thin super glue. Next, you can use a jewelers file or a crowning file to knock those high spots down. Look the frets over and if you have some that are too flat, use the file to round them. Use masking tape to protect the fingerboard.

    Now you can restring and see how it feels. IME you will have enough relief from string tension alone.

    Once you see how that goes you can decide if it warrants a full fret job. If the board is solid and the frets are well installed, you can use a radiused block to do your level job, and then dress with a crowning file.

    Have fun!


    May 27, 2006
    hi i have had good luck with a kit i bought off e bay, its fairly simple to use, and dosent cost much 25 bucks and you can do several basses with it just look under fret refinishing, its called the thomas ginex method. check it out, hope it helps you. PS if you do order a kit specify its for bass. good luck.