Fret filing

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by JWC, Jan 25, 2001.

  1. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    On my newer P-Bass the frets are not filed. I was told by someone that filing the frets makes the bass easier to play. My frets are not filed down and if I play a string hard it buzzes really loudly and also the string feels really strange and uncomfortable like its gonna pop or something. SHould I take it to get filed? What is filing suppoded to do?
  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    How "newer" is it, JWC? I'd be at one of the 10 jillion authorized Fender dealers having a hissy fit! Even if it's a MIM.
  3. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    Got it a few months ago but you didn't answer the question? :)
  4. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    Fret Dressing is an art. A new bass 'should' have a reasonable fret job from the factory. I bought a new P-bass last fall and there were a couple of burrs that hurt my little hands when shifting positions and I fixed those with an Emory board, but I would not mess with the tops of the frets personally. It might behoove you to pick up a book on guitar repair. Last time I looked, it seemed pretty involved.

    A fret job gets all the fret tops in line with the same plane. Actually it's a warped plane, and that’s why its tricky. It takes special files as well. It's best to get a guy who does this every day to take a look at it. But a new bass should be close. A sign of a problem might be if one fret buzzes more than another one.

    I had some fret buzz with my new bass to, but decided to let the strings and time shave the metal some before I pay somebody (by shaving them down) to hasten the need refret. That’s when you replace them because they are too close to the wood.

    This was doubly tough for me as I have played fretless for years and never really learned how to use my hands to limit the buzz thing. I did however lessen the problem by putting on Dean Markley Ground Wound mediums. This gives enough crunch when you need it without the constant grinding. I raised the action some too.

    A lot can be done with the hands. I spend a lot more time on the fretted bass working on muting just right or having my LH fingers closer to the fret. It's all about touch. :)

    There is some leeway here in what people do with frets. I have a 63 Jaguar with frets that are worn down almost to the wood and it plays like butter. I understand Lee Skalar (sp) had mandolin frets put in his bass.

    The short answer its to take it to the shop you bought it from and ask them to take a look. If you still have the stock fender strings you may want to try something new. I bet flatwounds would not do this at all.
  5. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Fender P's are renowned for having a dead spot or a buzzing fret or two. However, from what you said, it sounds like the entire fretboard and that is totally unacceptable. Either the boys in quality control were about to go on strike or a new load of Columbia's finest hit town. I think your problem is more than mere fret filing if we're talking about any string anywhere on the neck. I suspect a neck problem. This isn't like the shipping dept. decided to jam on their lunch break and screwed it up, this is a production problem.

    Either get to your retailer, your Fender authorized dealer, or contact them at and raise some hell with the folks in Scottsdale if you have to. Your problem is unacceptable for an instrument with that name on it. Whomever, handles it, the repair or replacement should be at Fender's expense unless the retailer sold you a lemon that someone else returned. And production line instruments do have lemons, which is why I tell people, don't assume all individual basses for a given model are created equal.

  6. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Fascinating topic.

    Moved to "Setup"

    Will C.:cool:
  7. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    JWC, With all due respect to Rockinjc, There is no art involved with fret dressing. All that fret dressing (filing) consists of is holding the figerboard plane in a dead flat position and then filing the tops of the frets to a perfectly flat plane.

    If you don't have access to a neck jig, DON'T TRY IT! chances are about a thousand to one that you wont be succsesful.

    So far as using mandolin frets goes, there is no difference between mandolin fretwire and bass or acoustic guitar fret wire. It all comes in a roll that you specify the specs for when you order the wire. It comes in a lot of different configurations.

    Fret height problems are more often frets that aren't seated properly. They should be pressed into place but even at the factory they are often hammered into place. The way to tell if a fret is seated properly is to listen to the sound of the hammer blow as the fret seats into the fret slot. A properly seated fret has a dead sound and a sort of ringing sound if it's not seated all the way.

    Notches from string wear always indicate a need for fret dressing.

    Fret dressing is one area that seperates the amateurs from the pro luthiers. Amateurs almost never have a neck jig.

    There are a lot of good repair/setup tips in the Stew-Mac catologues. You can obtain a copy on the net. Order one and check out the neck jigs. They are free and they have a lot of useful info.