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Should I worry about these spots on the frets of my new bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Naviiin, Sep 22, 2020.

  1. So first of all: yay, NBD. It's an Ibanez SMRD205. Ordered it new online, but first impression playing it was lovely. I don't usually go for fivers, but this neck fits my hand great.

    But! I noticed some spots on around eight of the frets (photo's included). To me they look like rust, but seeing as I'm totally not a technician, I was wondering if it was something else. The question actually being: should I send this back? Thanks for your advice! 20200922_132012.jpg 20200922_132019.jpg 20200922_132045.jpg
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2020
  2. shoulderpet


    Sep 24, 2015
    Assuming you purchased it new I would return it for a replacement, if it was used I would be ok with it
  3. HalfManHalfBass


    Jan 21, 2003
    Looks just like a little tarnish to me.

    Using masking tape, tape off all the wood either side of the last fret and using just a little dab of metal polish on a soft cloth (old T shirt etc.), polish only that one fret to see if it comes off easily: leaving the fret totally smooth and shiny.

    This is something I do to all my new basses (even those with stainless steel frets) and I would happily expect to do this to any bass that I was impressed enough to have decided to keep. If there are other issues that are causing you doubt, send the bass back also listing this 'defect' to strengthen your claim for refund / replacement. I.e. don't waste your time cleaning up an instrument you don't intend keeping.
    retslock and GlennRH like this.
  4. Okay, thanks! I'll give this a try.
  5. forrestlaw

    forrestlaw Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2018
    Looks like its just a little oxidation. I had a MIM Jazz with a rosewood fingerboard that had some marks on a few frets, then when I oiled the fretboard the #0000 steel wool basically polished them up at the same time. This was the Fodera video I got the idea from... needed it as the fingerboard was starting to look kind of dry after a year or so. In fact, in the video he even specifically mentions this will polish the frets as well.

    Now I don't think you want to do this on a finished/painted maple neck like yours, but you could use painters tape around each fret to protect the finish on the fingerboard, like in the photo below and then lightly polish. I've also seen some fret specific polishes. I don't have any experience with those, though. I've also seen tools like the ones with the blue handle in the picture below that serve the same purpose as the tape, but I've never used them.
  6. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    I'd return it. If you try to fix it yourself they won't take it back.

    The frets aren't polished or finished correctly, and how old was the fret wire they used? It's tarnished and looks like it's been stored outside for a month.

    I wouldn't accept a new bass with these issues.
  7. HalfManHalfBass


    Jan 21, 2003
    All fretted instruments (apart from those fitted with stainless steel fret wire) are prone to tarnish / oxidation if left unplayed long enough in a shop. Fret wire doesn't age BEFORE installation. It's a just a mix of metals and some of these are prone to discolour. Shops should polish frets to a mirror and oil fingerboards prior to sale but many don't or can't because it takes a lot of man-hours and creates costs that if passed on to the customer, would also also increase the price of the products.

    Cleaning up an instrument, that you have been thoroughly over for other more serious defects, is all part of the initial set up -in my opinion. I have rarely bought an instrument already set up to my preferences and polishing / cleaning the frets and finger board is just part of the initial set up process and what makes an instrument truly 'mine'.
    4StringMadness, AudioTaper and Geri O like this.
  8. Yes. Start the worry immediately. Sleeping will be impossible. Seriously, I would try a careful polish with 0000 steel wool and be done with it.
    teh-slb, HardNHeavy, Mikey F and 3 others like this.
  9. fretno

    fretno Supporting Member

    May 10, 2009
    Los Angeles
    I wouldn't all of mine do it every few months , clean , polish , play .. repeat
    God's Favorite Bass and Naviiin like this.
  10. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I would not use steel wool on an electric bass. The little fragments get on the pickup magnets and are next to impossible to remove. Scotchbrite pads do the trick. I

    t does look like they left some chatter marks from the crowning files and there is some oxidation. If it pays ok, I would clean it up otherwise return it.
    OogieWaWa and Naviiin like this.
  11. Drucifer

    Drucifer Not currently practicing Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Endorsements: your name could be here, Mr. Sadowsky!
    It's a little corrosion, nothing to worry about, you can remove it with a little polishing. A little oil on the frets once polished will prevent any future oxidation.
    Naviiin likes this.
  12. aprod


    Mar 11, 2008
    Unacceptable for a brand new bass, return.
    funkinbottom likes this.
  13. AudioTaper

    AudioTaper Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2018
    Mask off the pickups and use compressed air (air compressor or even the canned stuff for dusting off your computer) works to keep the 0000 steel wool bits out of the pickups. I've done this A LOT and as long as you are careful it's not an issue.

    Tape. Buff. Air. Un-tape.

    Dont oil finished maple fingerboards. If you have ebony, rosewood, Pau Ferro you can use mineral oil like Fodera uses. I have a little bottle of Bor-Seal for clarinets (it's basically mineral oil) that I use on all my unfinished fingerboards.
    Root 5 and LightGroove like this.
  14. +1000. to the above. I would factor a number of things before considering sending it back. Ie weight, feel, sound. If all boxes get checked. Then see above. This nonsense about sending it back for the fret tarnish
    dan1952, AudioTaper and PaulReside like this.
  15. Thanks guys, maybe I did panic a bit too quick. Other than this the bass is in tiptop shape, so I'm gonna try the polish advice. Seems hard to mess up, even for a klutz like me.
    dan1952 and Root 5 like this.
  16. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    I can't find fine enough Scotchbrite pads here in NZ so I use 0000 steel wool. I just pop an old pillow case over the body to stop any fragments from getting on the body. It's worked for me for a while.

    I also use these gizmo's below so that I don't have to bother with masking tape.

  17. Just send it back. I’m betting those frets are practically “raw” with next to no dressing/crown. The fretwire most likely oxidizes at the factory where it sits in bulk to pull from during production...the blemishes are ideally removed in the final dress/crown/polish. IMO, ymmv, etc...
    Max Bogosity likes this.
  18. Yeah look it's kind of a bummer but with how hit-or-miss OTHER issues may be with a replacement....? If you are sure you like everything else about it I'd 1) do nothing and play it for a few days then 2) if still happy polish the frets and get on with my life.
  19. cxcxcx


    Mar 8, 2019
    I buy a new bass with the expectation that I won’t blow a whole afternoon going to a hardware store, buying a tube of Flitz, some masking tape, and some shop rags so I can spend the evening rolling up my sleeves and working on getting it up to the spec that it should be. Maybe I’m doing this wrong...
  20. EdwardofHuncote

    EdwardofHuncote I Still Dream of Jeannie Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Southwest Virginia
    Pencil eraser works well.
    wraub, OogieWaWa and Zooberwerx like this.

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