Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by alderbody, Feb 28, 2005.
What's the best fret polishing method/technique/material?
Don't know if it's the best method but here's what I did yesterday to my PRS hollowbody. Use masking tape on both sides of each fret, then I used Micro Mesh sand paper staring with 1800 and progressing up to 6000. Just about 6 swipes with each grit will have them shining like little mirrors!
Don't forget to tape over the pickup covers or you have little metal fuzzies stuck to the poles.
Stew Mac sells a little Dremel wheel for this very purpose. I haven't tried it yet but I do plan too.
For new builds, I use an air drill with a 4" buffing wheel and 3M buffing compound. It's messy and I wouldn't try it for all guitars. I use Ipe for fretboards and polish the FB & frets at the same time. Ipe looks like rosewood, polishes like ebony and sounds like neither really. It sounds bright but pretty neutral from I can tell.
If the frets are in need of a minor polish as a matter of routine use oooo ("4OH") steel wool. Steel wool will leave marks on the fingerboard so it's wise to either create a slotted piece of posterboard that will cover the fingerboard on each side of the fret while polishing, or you can use masking tape.
If the frets are being polished after a leveling and shaping operation, the material used depends on the size of the scratches on the frets. Diamond shaping files leave finer scratches than a steel file does. If a steel file is used I start at 600 grit wet or dry sandpaper and progess through the grits 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, and finish with steel wool.
great info guys.
i was mainly familiar with the steelwool technique, and since my frets are rather new, i'll stick to this one.
thanks to all!!! :AOK
I've been doing this professionally for a long time, and here's what works best:
I have a burnishing tool that is intended for use in intaglio printing. It's just a smooth, gently curved piece of hardened steel. In intaglio you use it to "erase" lines on the etching plate.
Rubbing that on the frets creates a mirror like finish that at the same time hardens the fret surface. It is not abrasive, it basically "re-flows" the much softer fret material.
My shop secret for the day.
now that's something i've never seen before...
Very interesting! Please describe the technique. I'm wondering how much of the tool contacts the fret surface? Do you hold it parallel to the neck and go across the frets in a perpendicular motion? Do you focus on the top curved section and ignore the downward slopes of the fret?
I polish each fret perpendicular to the neck while rolling the tool parallel to the neck. You can see the tool leave a shiny line as it passes, roll it back and forth until the top of the fret is polished. Yes, I polish just the curved section where the string makes contact.
You can do this every time you change strings, you'll find your own technique with some practice.
Long time no chat, Hogy. Tanks for the tip! I remember reading, years ago, that Tom Anderson said that when frets develop dents (most notably under the B string) from use, most people have the frets dressed, thus and losing fret material this way. Anderson said he favored "rolling" the fret to re-flow the material instead, so as to extend fret life.
It seems to me like Anderson was saying something very similar to what you described, Hogy. Makes sense too.
Hi Gil, interesting story. Frankly I'm not sure what Mr. Anderson meant by that, I can't see being able to polish out serious wear this way.
However, if you do it regularly, it might not get to the point where you have noticeable grooves from string wear.
Personally, I don't seem to wear out frets for some reason, maybe it is because I burnish them regularly, maybe it's my touch. I have customers who wear down 6100 jumbo wire within a couple of years.
I came up with this idea after taking some intaglio classes in college.