Gibson Les Paul - Rough frets??

Jabby92

Member
Messages
3,700
Hi guys,

After doing some maintenance to my 2002 LP Standard, I noticed that the frets are a little rough or almost 'sticky' feeling in some areas. I did a complete maintenance job on the guitar. Full setup, replaced the old hardware (a saddle cracked) and replaced the tailpiece. I went full alumnium and it took 0.4 pounds off the guitar (its under 9 pounds now). The old nickel hardware was heavy.

I also polished the frets to the best of my ability with 0000 steel wool (the usual). I want to mention that this guitar was unplayed and sat in its case for nearly 20 years. I bought it off a collector who simply never played it.

The frets look pretty shiny right now - but I think because the guitar has not been played at all they are just simply a bit rough on the surface due to environmental factors (oxidization, etc). I have been reading that people say the frets either need dressed or the guitar just needs played from sitting for so long. Its not unplayable, but its definitely not as smooth as new frets typically are. It simply has some resistance when bending.

What do you guys think? Should I just play it so they'll smoothen out, or should I get the frets dressed and re-polished?

Thanks
 
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AprioriMark

Gold Supporting Member
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1,432
I think you likely scratched the frets with steel wool and need to do a proper polish and possibly level them.

-Mark
 

Jabby92

Member
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3,700
I think you likely scratched the frets with steel wool and need to do a proper polish and possibly level them.

-Mark
Nah, it was a lot worse before that. I didn't rub excessively, just enough to get rid of the cloudiness. I'm not getting any scratching or anything, just a bit of resistance. It was only 0000 grade, the frets didn't get scratched.
 
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Dr. Tweedbucket

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If they are rough you'll probably have to hit them with 400 and then work your way up 600 or 800 and then to 1200 wet/dry using lemon oil. If they are barely rough, start with 800 and go to 1200 and lemon oil. If you had a buffer, that would be the finishing touch. Sand them all evenly and smoothly up and down the fret board like going over railroad posts, don't concentrate on one at a time because then you might have to re-level them.
 

Jabby92

Member
Messages
3,700
If they are rough you'll probably have to hit them with 400 and then work your way up 600 or 800 and then to 1200 wet/dry using lemon oil. If you had a buffer, that would be the finishing touch.
Thanks. Yeah, I may just try playing it for a couple weeks to see how I feel. I may end up just taking it to my tech to get a pro job done up and make it ideal. I normally don't run into this issue since I play all my guitars regularly but when its one that has been sitting for so long its a bit of an issue.
 

AprioriMark

Gold Supporting Member
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1,432
Right, you got rid of oxidation and introduced scratches that feel rough on the strings. I "fix" this often for people because the prevailing hobbyist wisdom is that steel wool is the way to go. It can be a part of the process (I prefer not to use it for reasons), but it can make frets feel like bends drag and playing a bit "rough" feeling if you don't follow all the way through and polish.

-Mark
 

RCM78

Member
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5,897
I bought a set of fret erasers from stew mac. Takes some time but the result is nice shiny frets...
 

Dave L

Member
Messages
1,284
Yeah, that 0000 wool is finer than anything and could just as well be that last step in polishing. At least from what I´ve noticed using it. Heavier steel wool I can see the issue with, though.
 

J Factor

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,266
You definitely didn't hurt them with 0000 steel wool.

I use the micromesh pads when I really need to polish frets, but before you spend the time, try hitting them with Gorgomyte. It might just do what you need.
 

Jabby92

Member
Messages
3,700
Yeah, that 0000 wool is finer than anything and could just as well be that last step in polishing. At least from what I´ve noticed using it. Heavier steel wool I can see the issue with, though.
Yeah, that was my goal, just to give it a light buffing. It got rid of the cloudiness and smoothed out the frets a lot better than before. I may just take it to my tech but I'm gonna try playing it for a couple weeks and see if the frets just need worked in a bit, like I said the guitar has been sitting in case for nearly 20 years.

You definitely didn't hurt them with 0000 steel wool.

I use the micromesh pads when I really need to polish frets, but before you spend the time, try hitting them with Gorgomyte. It might just do what you need.
Thanks, I'll take a look. I agree, I don't think I caused any harm. I only gave it a light buffing and it improved a lot from where it was. Its almost good even now, I just want it a bit smoother. The resistance is light and I think a lot of it is because the guitar has literally never been played and was in a case for so long. I'm gonna try playing it for a couple weeks and see where everything is at.
 

Dave L

Member
Messages
1,284
You probably need to go back to some slightly rougher stuff and work up again, like with those fret erasers. Going straight to the 0000 wool there's a good chance you polished the imperfections rather than removed them.
 

hunter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,790
The Stewmac fret erasers may be a little pricy but they really work. Much preferred to steel wool or similar. Get a 4000 and an 8000. Your frets will shine.
 

Wishing Wells

Member
Messages
198
I've found that if I have a good bit of oxidation then just steel wool or gorgomite isn't enough. It'll shine them up but the oxidation builds back up.

If I go through and do a good polishing with sandpaper, going up through the grits, they seem to stay shiny and smooth a lot longer for me.
 

dspellman

Member
Messages
8,310
There are usually two likelihoods where rough frets are concerned on an "unplayed" guitar.

One you've confronted already -- you can use steel wool or the fret erasers from StewMac to take up most of the corrosion (the frets usually also get grey or a bit green) by using either of them longitudinally on the fret. Then follow up with a piece of thick leather, using the rough side on the frets for a final polish. They'll usually come up with a mirror finish if it's done properly.

The second can be tougher -- cases can often smash the strings into the frets, and some of the worst damage can happen when the guitar is dropped onto its face inside the case. You'll usually find hints of the wound strings in the frets themselves. The best way to prevent this is to put a fret protector (usually a piece of plastic) between the strings and the frets when you put away the guitar. Getting RID of the damage can require anything from the aforementioned steel wool and leather to a manual level, crown and polish, to a PLEK job.
 

Jabby92

Member
Messages
3,700
UPDATE:

The guitar is playing way better than last night. I think the neck and strings just had to settle overnight and re-adjust to the setup. The truss rod was way out of whack before. Now that everything has settled, its playing a lot better. I think the frets are good enough for now, the guitar is simply playing a lot better than it was. I'll probably take it to my tech in a few months but for now all is well.

Thanks for the help.
 

Jabby92

Member
Messages
3,700
There are usually two likelihoods where rough frets are concerned on an "unplayed" guitar.

One you've confronted already -- you can use steel wool or the fret erasers from StewMac to take up most of the corrosion (the frets usually also get grey or a bit green) by using either of them longitudinally on the fret. Then follow up with a piece of thick leather, using the rough side on the frets for a final polish. They'll usually come up with a mirror finish if it's done properly.

The second can be tougher -- cases can often smash the strings into the frets, and some of the worst damage can happen when the guitar is dropped onto its face inside the case. You'll usually find hints of the wound strings in the frets themselves. The best way to prevent this is to put a fret protector (usually a piece of plastic) between the strings and the frets when you put away the guitar. Getting RID of the damage can require anything from the aforementioned steel wool and leather to a manual level, crown and polish, to a PLEK job.
Thanks for this. I have heard of that before, where the frets get dented and stuff. Thankfully that didn't happen with this one. The frets honestly aren't super bad, at least since it was stored in its case in a closet for so long they weren't too exposed to the environment like some guitars. The light buffing with steel wool alone made a big difference. I think though at some point I will take it in for a proper polish and fret level/dress job just to make it like new again. Since I humidified the guitar and got the truss rod back in line, its a lot better at least.
 

Dave L

Member
Messages
1,284
UPDATE:

The guitar is playing way better than last night. I think the neck and strings just had to settle overnight and re-adjust to the setup. The truss rod was way out of whack before. Now that everything has settled, its playing a lot better. I think the frets are good enough for now, the guitar is simply playing a lot better than it was. I'll probably take it to my tech in a few months but for now all is well.

Thanks for the help.
Yeah, then you probably had too little relief there for a while. If it gets too flat in relation to the nut height you can really start to feel the fret behind the finger, or in some cases even get a whiff of the fret behind that one where you're supposed to have a smidge of clearance. This adds tons of drag and feels super off.
 

HoboMan

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
17,405
Gorgomyte will fix this.
I almost sold a guitar once due to the same issue. People here recommended Gorgomyte so I gave it a try.
Never used steel wool again after using it for decades.

 
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