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FRETS - Polishing rough frets

Pat Therien

Member
Messages
408
I think that i have bad luck with frets and i'm picky about it so it doesn't help...

So i have 2 Guitar and they both have a rough feeling when bending/vibrato

everytime i change strings i polish them with steel wool and they look shiny but after i put new strings on them and play it still isn't smooth or worse.... and it's the 3th time...

i think i will never use wool steel again because i begin to wonder if the frets just doesn't like that..

maybe i need to do a bigger job like sanding with a soft grit or maybe i need a leveling/crowning even if the frets are not very flat...

please help and tell me what do you do to take care of your frets ? Thank you !
 

T Dizz

Member
Messages
20,803
Here is what I do. Tape off the fretboard, got to the local Target or Walgreen beauty department. They make these nail file/buffer foam blocks that are 4 sided. each side has a different grit on it. Start on the lowest grit side and rub the fret a few seconds and continue on the 3 other sides.
 

jvin248

Member
Messages
4,895
.

Steel wool bits break off and then find their way inside pickups due to the magnets and then deteriorate the bobbin wires and short the pickups out.

Get a small and flat block of wood that spans a couple of frets at a time, start with 600 grit (if you need to remove scratches that are parallel to the strings), then 800 grit otherwise, and sand across or perpendicular to the strings on each fret. Then go to 1500 grit to polish.

If you are putting lines in the frets perpendicular to the strings due to string bending, you'll eventually need to get stainless frets installed. If pot-hole like divots in the most used frets you are just wearing them down and need a fret level, recrown, polish.

Maybe post some pictures of what your frets look like before you steel wool them (and don't use steel wool).

.
 

Bryan T

guitar owner
Messages
19,956
I use the micro mesh kit. I think it ranges from a few hundred grit to 12,000 or so. It leaves the frets looking like jewelry.

I have found that all fretwire isn’t created equal, but this will get things as smooth as I can.
 

Gevalt

Member
Messages
1,925
I second Bryan T on micromesh. I bought some Dunlop fret cloths (8000) and stepped up to a few grits from philadelphia luthier tools, which sells them by the sheet. I use 4000 if it's rough then 6/8/12000
 

blondestrat

Member
Messages
490
I think that i have bad luck with frets and i'm picky about it so it doesn't help...

So i have 2 Guitar and they both have a rough feeling when bending/vibrato

everytime i change strings i polish them with steel wool and they look shiny but after i put new strings on them and play it still isn't smooth or worse.... and it's the 3th time...

i think i will never use wool steel again because i begin to wonder if the frets just doesn't like that..

maybe i need to do a bigger job like sanding with a soft grit or maybe i need a leveling/crowning even if the frets are not very flat...

please help and tell me what do you do to take care of your frets ? Thank you !
You need to sand the frets with sandpaper to remove the scratches or roughness. Polishing won’t solve the problem. After sanding and removing the deep scratches, then tou can polish. Try 400-600 grit. After that you van polish. If tou eant them very smooth, remove all deep scrathes before you move on to a smoother grit. Basically after 800 grit you’re basically polishing. But you need to fully remove previous scratches. Let us know how it gors removing the rougher scratches, then we can talk polishing, as there’s many techniques. I polish with either flexible polishing papers or polishing compound.
 

testing1two

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,477
Even though it's tedious compared to machine buffing I am also a big proponent of Micromesh. You can either go through multiple grits up to 12000 (if there are deep scratches) or, if you're just polishing, start with 000 steel wool, then 0000 steel wool then go straight to 12000 Micromesh. I clean the fingerboard with naphtha and then mask it off before using Micromesh as it will leave tiny scratches in the fingerboard at the base of the frets.

I do one additional step after I reach 12000 and that's to apply a metal polish (usually Flitz) as it helps prevent oxidation. You can apply this by hand with a polishing cloth or with a polishing disc on a rotary tool (Dremel) or even a buffing wheel if you have such things at your disposal.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
31,896
every time i change strings i polish them with steel wool and they look shiny but after i put new strings on them and play it still isn't smooth or worse.... and it's the 3rd time
Does not make sense to me.
Typically frets do not need to be polished if the guitar has been in use as the string motion keeps the surface clean.
After some time a polish removes tarnishing, or marks after leveling, but if nothing is visible I do not feel it, either. 0000 is pretty shiny, imo.
 

larry1096

Member
Messages
1,350
After going through either Micro-Mesh or Wet or Dry to about 3000k, I take a hard block (about 4" x 5") faced with the grain side of a piece of 9oz vegetable tanned leather. I run Happich Simicrome polish into the leather, and polish the frets with a side to side motion. Leaves absolute shine with less risk and mess than a Dremel, and only takes a couple minutes to do an entire fretboard.

Larry
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
31,896
Where's the point at which you start polishing the polish and it has no discernible effect on playability, sound, or even appearance, as only modest use and a few days pass after which the super duper polishing job has lost its sheen no matter what?
 

blondestrat

Member
Messages
490
I think that i have bad luck with frets and i'm picky about it so it doesn't help...

So i have 2 Guitar and they both have a rough feeling when bending/vibrato

everytime i change strings i polish them with steel wool and they look shiny but after i put new strings on them and play it still isn't smooth or worse.... and it's the 3th time...

i think i will never use wool steel again because i begin to wonder if the frets just doesn't like that..

maybe i need to do a bigger job like sanding with a soft grit or maybe i need a leveling/crowning even if the frets are not very flat...

please help and tell me what do you do to take care of your frets ? Thank you !
To clear things up, sometimes a particular guitar will have rough frets or even rusty frets and can render the guitar barely playable. Sandpaper is required to debur and or remove rust or oxidizing. Getting the hang of treating these situations is very valuable, for tour guitars and also for selling guitars. We’ll teach you how. You’ll need some 400, 600 and 800 grit sandpaper. As for polishing, the string will burnish the frets, however you can take it a step further by using the polishing techniques mentioned, but sandpaper is needed in your case. I trained as a guitar tech and a machinist, this is the way you debur metal and prep for polishing. Even prepping for nickle plating and anodizing.
 

Pat Therien

Member
Messages
408
Thank you very much for the very good info here !!! I will try that this weekend with good hopes !

as for the fret quality... does the frets on a MIM Strat are the same as on an American ? Also, does stainless frets are worth it ?
( i was thinking about a Warmoth neck maybe )
 

Pat Therien

Member
Messages
408
i also have a theory that as soon the fret is a little flat, the strings will rub against the edge of the (flat) fret when bending/vibrato and that result of an annoying friction even if the fret is shiny ....

maybe crowing is something to do more often then we think....

let me know your thoughts on that ...
 

JeffreyET

Member
Messages
97
As a general proposition, more finely polished metal is more resistant to corrosion - this is because at a microscopic level, coarser abrasives leave scratches that multiply the exposed surface area. This translates directly to the need for progressing through 600, 800, 1000, 1200 grit then to buffing. My routine is 300 grit diamond fret files followed by fine sanding. I save used sanding discs from finishing to re-use on metal (like frets). I have pieces of 1/4" Plexiglas with the edges hollow ground using chainsaw files, to use as sanding blocks for fret crowns. For final polish I use the little plastic wheels from Stew-Mac with a Dremel tool.
 

Tony Done

Member
Messages
5,754
I've seen my mate at the music store use an ordinary domestic stainless steel scouring pad. I mostly use fine abrasive paper with the crowning file as support. I finish with a drum made of hard leather and loaded with white grade polishing compound, in the dremel. I have also used the nail buffing pads mentioned above, and I make masks from aluminium drink cans.
 

Warlag

Member
Messages
306
I believe there is a musicnomad product for polishing your frets.. anyone ever try them? If so what do you think of them?
 




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