Fret Polish (necessary?)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by trucks, Aug 19, 2005.


  1. trucks

    trucks Member

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    I just got a setup on my guitar and the tech did a rather amazing job on leveling to board and ultra-low, buzz-free action. However, he left faint scratches on the frets. He mentioned that he does not like to use the dremel on the leveled frets and it would smooth out after a few bends. Is this correct? It seems to me some 0000 steel wool or micro mesh would not take any more material off the frets and polish it nicely. What do you think?

    Update Posted Further Down

    It turned out to not be an amazing job :rolleyes:, but it did show how forgiving a guitar can be...
     
  2. monstermike

    monstermike Member

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    0000 steel wool WILL remove fret material, so be careful about how long you spend polishing...

    I love the feel of freshly polished frets, though...
     
  3. trucks

    trucks Member

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    Yes, Steel Wool will remove some material (otherwise it wouldn't get rid of scratches ;) ). I guess my question is should I live with the slightly rougher frets thinking they will smooth out or polish a little. What are the chances of a careful polish affecting things?

    Also, I guess I worry the frets were just leveled and now are flatter than they should be. Can someone more experienced with the tech side tell me how to check?
     
  4. unclej54

    unclej54 Guest

    well, i guess every tech has his own way of doing things so i'm not going to bad mouth yours but buffing out the frets is easy and makes the guitar play so smooth it's like glass. i just finished a fret level and re-crown on an old fender bullet and of course buffed them out and the customer pretty much raved about how easy it played.


    as far as how to check whether the frets are too flat the best way to tell is look at them. are they literally flat or are they crowned? if they really are flat then and it was my guitar i'd take it back and have them crowned.. if the frets are both flat and not buffed the guitar certainly won't play as well as it could.
     
  5. trucks

    trucks Member

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    This was my quest for a new tech. :mad:

    I should have stuck with my gut and sent it for a plek. :Spank

    At this point, I contacted Philtone. Phil suggest it be scanned and then we'll know what it needs.
     
  6. Soapbarstrat

    Soapbarstrat Senior Member

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    I've read at least once that the Plek machine does not do the final polish ; that's still hand-work that a person has to do.

    Perhaps the latest version of Plek can do the final polishing as well, I don't know.

    If your neck was already leveled properly, to get the low action you want, but maybe needs the frets re-crowned better, then what is a Plek scan going to tell you that you don't already know ?

    There's usually nothing wrong with steel-wooling the frets just to get rid of oxidation and make them shine. Just don't use it to try to remove scratches that should be taken out with something more coarse. If you can "feel" the scratches when the string slides over them, then you know they are the type of scratches that steel-wool won't work on.
     
  7. trucks

    trucks Member

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    I think enough doubt has been cast on the original work (also the intonation was off). The guitar seems very ready for single lead lines and harder to play chords cleanly. What does this say? Is that the low action, lack of crown, too much material taken off? I don't know.

    Phil will not do the plek if not needed - only the scan. He will do the final polish and whatever finishing work needed by hand. He is a very skilled luthier so I am sure he will know what to do when he sees it.

    So, I the plek scan will give me two things:

    1) peace of mind.

    2) a reference scan for any future work.
     
  8. tommyfobia

    tommyfobia Member

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    I've used T-cut original finish restorer on frets in the past, which works great, but it can get a little messy.

    If you don't get every single trace of the stuff off the board and frets after you've polished up, you end up with either black fingers every time you play the guitar, or a white residue on your fingerboard.

    I now use 0000 grade wire wool instead, which is much less hassle than t-cut.

    I still use T-cut for polishing out surface scratches on the body of my guitars, or for cleaning up nicotine stained binding.:p

    I agree though. Playing a guitar with newly polished frets is a great feeling!
     
  9. trucks

    trucks Member

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    Update:

    Frets were not level. I was fooled because of the lack of buzz. I knew something was not right and thought it was flattened crowns. I took the guitar to Philtone and had it plek'd. His analysis clearly showed the uneven job. And, it turned out that the frets were not just unpolished, the striation marks were left.

    Phil did an amazing job and now the frets shine and reflect the strings (he does a multi-step process including micro mesh). I have never seen this before, but the real test is that it plays awesome. No scratch or fight when I bend.

    The thing I missed before when considering a plek is that it does a lot of analysis before any leveling. The leveling is a final stage after the luthier has read the data and decided if a leveling is needed and, if so, the optimal leveling for the specific player (at least the way Phil uses his). It was amazing to see the effect of a truss rod tweak quantified.

    Thankfully no irreversible damage was done by the original job I had done locally. I learned a lot along the way.
     

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