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View Full Version : Dry fretboard with sharp fret ends: how to fix?


Armchair Bronco
04-21-2009, 12:48 AM
I've been keeping my Squier Jagmaster in my office at work. When I bought the guitar 3 years ago, the fret ends were perfect. But since then, the fretboard seems to have shrunk and now the frets hang out over the edge, making the guitar uncomfortable to play.

My office has a forced air duct that runs quietly 24/7 and my guess is that the room (and probably the whole hallway) is bone dry.

How can I fix my guitar? I'm afraid that I may have to do a combination of rehydration combined with some fret filing. How do I do this properly? :messedup

testing1two
04-21-2009, 01:30 AM
It's definitely time to oil your fingerboard. There are many opinions on the subject, but the top 3 recommendations on TGP are:

1. Fret Doctor (www.beafifer.com)
2. Gerlitz Guitar Honey (www.gerlitzusa.com)
3. Bore Oil (used for the ebony on woodwind instruments)

I've used all 3 and I prefer Fret Doctor. Regardless of which one you choose, you'll want to oil/rehydrate the board over the course of a few days and if you're lucky the fret issue will mostly resolve itself.

Mike9
04-21-2009, 07:07 AM
Yes you need some humidity for that thing. It's so dry at the college I run a humidifier over night and bring any necks I'm working on home on the weekend.

Rob Sharer
04-21-2009, 07:34 AM
Wait, wait, wait. Before you humidify, do something more permanent about the fret ends; otherwise they'll just protrude again the next time the guitar gets dry. This is an opportunity! If you have the ends re-beveled and polished now, then they'll be ever-so-slightly inside the edge of the board with the guitar at proper humidity, which is a good thing, since even properly rounded ends can have uncomfortably sharp corners if they're sticking out past the edge.

This should be an inexpensive job at your favorite luthier's shop. Certain times of the year, it seems like every other job I do is one of these. It happens frequently on new guitars, since the wood may still be drying out and may never return to the exact dimensions it had at the time of the build unless the humidity goes abnormally high. Hope this helps. Cheers,

Rob

Phoebe
04-21-2009, 10:24 AM
Oil will do nothing. It's necessary to keep it relatively close to the humidity level is was born in. Usually in the 40% range. Let it spend some serious time, open case too, in a bathroom after someone has showered. It can take a long time to come beck to spec. I'd also advise against dressing the fret ends. It will come back but you'll need as much as a few months of patience and humidification.

9fingers
04-21-2009, 09:33 PM
I'm with Rob- do the fret ends at their worst & be done with it for the life of those frets. There is no real structural reason other than fret ends to keep a solidbldy humidified. Why fight with the problem over & over?

Redhouse-Blues
04-21-2009, 09:43 PM
According to Dan Erlewines and other pro's I know, even guitar shop's strongly believe in keeping the room guitars are in, between 45 & 50% humidity, if you get the room back to that, after a few day's the neck will go back to normal. Another thing you can do is place the guitar back in it's case with a small dish with a sponge and some water and it will do the trick. Guitar necks and bodies can crack from being to dry. If the fret's were not a problem in the first place, why screw with them??? All it is, is the neck shrinking from being to dry.

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2009/Mar/How_Humidity_Affects_Your_Guitar.aspx

Rob Sharer
04-21-2009, 10:23 PM
Oil will do nothing. It's necessary to keep it relatively close to the humidity level is was born in. Usually in the 40% range. Let it spend some serious time, open case too, in a bathroom after someone has showered. It can take a long time to come beck to spec. I'd also advise against dressing the fret ends. It will come back but you'll need as much as a few months of patience and humidification.

Erm...why not dress the fret ends? What earthly purpose are they serving out there beyond the edges of the board, and where's the guarantee that re-hydrating will take things all the way back to where they should be? Why suffer for the patient months of humidification?

Rob

tfaith08
04-23-2009, 12:32 AM
A guitar should be like a vehicle, rather than a pet. Perform maintenance as needed, not tend to it every day.

Dress the fret ends first. I always put tape on the fretboard where i dont want to scratch it, then take a file and file them down very slowly. Take the tape away, and you have solved that problem. Then, apply oil before humidity treating so that as the humidity soaks in, it will pull the oil in with it.

Just make sure you dont put it in a humid environment, then dry, then humid....

uOpt
04-23-2009, 10:17 AM
I use one of these:

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Shaping_and_crowning/Fret_End_Dressing_File.html

Rob Sharer
04-23-2009, 10:58 AM
However one accomplishes the filing, I doubt that the file-fresh ends will be pleasing to the hand. In fact, they might end up sharp enough to break the skin! Some softening of the corners and sanding with fine wet-or-dry is usually called for to finish off the job.

Rob

Zero
04-23-2009, 11:24 AM
I went nuts on my guitars this winter when they were dried out and the fret ends all sticking out, made them all flush with the wood. sanding sponges are good after filing to unsharpen them.

uOpt
04-23-2009, 11:31 AM
However one accomplishes the filing, I doubt that the file-fresh ends will be pleasing to the hand. In fact, they might end up sharp enough to break the skin! Some softening of the corners and sanding with fine wet-or-dry is usually called for to finish off the job.

Rob

That file I linked to is pretty fine, definitely no skin breaking afterwards.

I polish afterwards, though.

Rob Sharer
04-24-2009, 09:10 AM
All well and good, but let's look at the process a bit closer. Even assuming you had the finest file in the world, one which left a mirror-bright surface, what you would have after running the file down the edge of the board would be fret ends that are perfect little parabolas, with super-sharp edges (and if the fingerboard were to shrink further, brutal corners). The next step is not sanding or polishing, neither of which will do much to the sharp edges, but rather to go back with some kind of fine file and re-round the ends, to your or the player's taste of course. Polishing follows, which also completes the rounding process. This is standard practice in both building and repair circles, though some builders seem to use a pair of quick, angular file-strokes rather than a rounding motion.

I like my ends sharpish and fairly vertical (the other choice during the filing process which we haven't discussed), but many like a smoother feel. Personally, I really dislike the ones you see occasionally that look like little bullet noses, the result of a too-heavy hand with the needle file. Cheers,

Rob

sidehatch
04-24-2009, 10:25 AM
I have never used Rob but he know what he's talking about.

He nailed it on post #1.

To re-cap. Fix those frets for life.

For the guys that decided to let humidity take its course, what if you start gigging and traveling. One change in humidity and you will have a nightmare gig.

Suppose you decide to do any sessions or anything related. Nobody cares if your frert ends are sticking out and cutting your hands up. They'll say shut up and play it.

However, if you heed rob's advice and dress those fret ends and oil the fret board , you will start to train that guitar to do its job for many year to come.

I like the pet analogy that someone else brought up but would add this: If you start training your animal now then you'll have well behaved pet(lol) for the rest of its life.

I have seen the greats like SRV and gatten beat the crap out of their guitars and they always tuned right up and worked right.

I have a 91 PRSs that I toured extensively with since 91 . For the first few years it was always something-frets first thenthis and that, adjusting the truss rod every few weeks. Now, I haven't touched the truss rod in 10 years. Its in need of a refret but it still plays great and I never have to worry about it.

Now, if I can just get my warmoth strat to settle down I'll be in business.