Oxidized Frets on old basses- How do I clean them?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by rogerbmiller, Sep 7, 2004.

  1. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    I just bought an old Aria Pro II that I am really excited about. The bad news is that the ebay auctioner said the bass was mint but when I got it the first thing I noticed was that the frets were all oxidized (turning green/blue).

    How can I clean these frets to get them looking like metal again? What products are available for cleaning frets?

    Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

  2. slugworth

    slugworth Banned

    Jun 12, 2003
    So. Calif.
    Try some ultra fine steel wool, or maybe some "NEVERDULL"
    Metal cleaner. It comes in a can, you can find it at auto parts stores. It's like wadded up cotton impregnated with
    a metal cleaner/polish. Should do the trick.

    Good Luck
  3. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Make sure you mask off the fingerboard before you do this. And I would remove the neck from the bass as well, unless it is a neck through. If it is a neck through, completely and thoroughly cover and mask the pickups. Otherwise they will get covered and filled with metal shavings.
  4. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    It is a neck through. How should I mask? Painters tape? Is that bad for the wood? Also, yould ajax work instead of industrial chemicals?

  5. todd 4ta

    todd 4ta

    Apr 3, 2003
    I use a Dremel tool with either a brass brush or black brush, brass is the best for me. I use the brush that is the shape of a flat disk and it works great. Maybe 30 seconds per fret, a little more for heavy oxidation.

    Follow the advice for removing the neck if possible, or covering and masking the pickups. Metal dust in the pickups is a very bad thing.

    I bought a bass once that mysteriously cut in and out, later turned out a previous owner got steel wool dust in the pickups.
  6. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    The blue painter's tape is best, it won't leave as much residue behind.
  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    If you have to make a trip to buy something anyway, get one of those pads from a hardware place that is like a sponge but coated with a very fine grain to function like sandpaper.

    They work as well as steel wool without all the mess and PU issues to deal with.
  8. Ray-man

    Ray-man Guest

    Sep 10, 2005
    If you find that they're pitted, you may want to turn it over to a competant setup and repair guy. He should have special tools that can redress the frets (grind them down) evenly and smoothly.
  9. I find that for mild oxidation...just a little bit of good 'ol elbow grease does the trick...after I apply my lemon oil to the fretboard, I simply rub everything...

    If it is heavy...you can try taping the fretboard (blue masking tape is best) and then using a little bit of automotive wax (non-silicon) and using the buff pad from your dremel tool...

    If you don't already have a dremel...get one...you'll find 101 uses for it.
  10. One thing I've found that is a lot easier than using a liquid with all the mess and masking of the neck is to use a large pencil type eraser. They're just abrasive enough to remove the oxidation without damaging the frets.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I bought the Stewart-MacDonald re-fretting video that Dan Erlewine made (save your money...basically a commercial for Stew-Mac products with some knowledge thrown in---you'll learn the basics of refretting but only with their specialty tools that a lot of repair guys never use), and he polishes his frets with 0000 steel wool as a final touch. He also recommends it for polishing frets to get them to look like new again. With unfinished fingerboards, you don't really need to mask them as 0000 steel wool doesn't do anything you can't fix with a little lemon oil, but definitely mask finished and graphite fingerboards.
  12. If you use the steel wool method be sure to cover the pickups or the steel wool 'filings' will accumulate on the face of the pickups.
  13. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    Hey. Before you go to the steel wool or the Dremel, try a cloth with some vinegar. Jeez.
  14. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    When I got my p-bass special it was pitted and oxidized. Tuners were pitted and frets were disqusting. I bought a can of Gibson spray polish (orange can) sprayed it on liberally, let it soak then wiped off all pitting gunk and oxidation.