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Sharp fret ends

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by cdaniel, Dec 9, 2003.

  1. cdaniel


    Nov 29, 2003
    I just bought a Jackson 5 string new. The frets have very sharp ends where they meet the fret board on the edge of the neck. Thus my fingers are getting caught sliding down the neck. What's a good method of knocking the edges of without messing up the wood?:confused:
  2. Do a google search on Fret Dressing, this will give you an idea what needs to be done.

    If your frets need dressing, it's a luthiers job - or it may be a simple truss rod adjustment, bridge height, string gauge - in fact it could be one of many things, but fret dressing is NOT to be taken on by an amateur.

  3. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    The reason the frets protrude past the edge is because the neck has shrunk slightly.

    I agree with Treena that fret dressing is beyond the skill level of most amateurs. However, end dressing is a very simple job for most anyone. The two main cautions are not to file into the finish and dont file the top of the fret.

    Use the finest bastard cut file or a triangular shaped handsaw file and maintain the original angle on the fret ends. Expect to spend an hour or more so breaking the job up into more than one sitting may be a good idea. A magnifying glass is a good idea if you don't have very good eyesight.

    As with any setup work, go slow and you'll be O.K.

    Hope this helps you.
  4. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    I'm sorry Treena, but I don't quite understand how the truss rod or bridge height etc. could even remotely have anything to do with protruding fret ends.

    Would you care to elaborate?
  5. Sure, I am speaking in general about fret dressing, it has nothing to do with just the ends.

    Sometimes wood will change thus leaving a tross rod, or saddle adjustment when redressing the frets.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  6. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    From the desk of luthier Karl Hoyt...

    Dressing Fret Ends;

    With the drastic changes in humidity which accompany life in many regions of the country, there are times when the fingerboard will dry out and shrink, causing the ends of the frets to protrude. The remedy is pretty simple. All you need are very basic hand tools and a bit of patience.

    1. I have done quickie fret dressings with the strings left on: but it is better to at least loosen them and move them out of the way.
    2. You will need a smooth, flat file and a small triangular or needle file. You will also need some masking tape.
    3. Hold the file so that it is parallel with the fingerboard edge: slowly and carefully file the fret ends following the fingerboard with the file until they’re no longer protruding. You are done with this step if it feels as though you are riding on the wood rather than cutting metal. Don’t be concerned about the file taking finish away. Since you are using a file with very fine teeth, you won’t be affecting the finish too much. NOTE! Do not file the fret ends in an up and down fashion, this can potentially cause a fret to become loose.
    4. Next, tilt the file to mimic the bevel of the fret ends: and again file parallel to the fingerboard until it feels like you are riding on wood.
    5. The frets should be trimmed pretty well now. But you must check to see if the filing caused the fret ends to be sharp. If this is the case: follow these steps.
    6. Tape off the fingerboard right up close to the frets. You will be carefully filing the fret ends to remove any sharp burrs but this is a place where you can dig into the fingerboard if not careful. The tape will help prevent this.
    7. Holding the fine triangular file perpendicular to the fingerboard and at about a 20 degree angle to the fret end, lightly file each side of the fret to remove any sharpness. Check it frequently with the pad of your finger to ensure that the fret end is no longer sharp.
    8. Once the fret ends are trimmed, you may remove the tape and buff the fret ends with a small piece of 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper (used dry) to remove any mill marks. It’s not necessary but you may polish the fret end with 600 grit paper once you have done the 400.
    9. you can touch up the finish (you probably won’t need to ) by taking a dab of thinned polyurethane on a rag and briskly rubbing into the affected area. This is only usually necessary if you tried to hurry the job or didn’t tape off the fingerboard prior to trimming the fret ends. Tiny scratches can be hidden by applying another coat of Minwax finishing paste wax to the fingerboard.

    NOTE: you can use 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a flat block of wood to trim the fret ends if you don’t own a small file. Likewise, a fingernail emery board will work to clean up the fret ends. However, the cost of tools to do this project is only around ten dollars. The sandpaper may mar the neck finish easier than a file will, so be advised of this.
  7. cdaniel


    Nov 29, 2003
    Cool! thanks this is just the sort of info I was looking for. I've got the tools, just needed a good known method.
  8. Great post Billy.....you rock!


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