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Old 07-30-2014, 01:33 AM   #1
jmacphee9
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cheap fret dressing for cheap guitars

i'm by no means a luthier at any level, and i don't think this is a method you should use with a nice Gibson or whatnot but i found it to be extremely useful for my rather mint epiphone dot(other then the frets being squared off and slightly uneven at the thick strings.) this method may not be as useful for severe cases either, but i do think it can help someone with a little fret buzz without raising their action to the ceiling.

first i made sure my neck was as straight as an arrow

second i made a quick trip to home depot and purchased a sanding stone for 10$, 500/1000 grit sandpaper, a sharp knife, and a sharpie. cost about 15$. here is a link for the stone, i recommend it as it worked perfectly.
http://www.homedepot.com/p/QEP-Tile-Sanding-and-Rubbing-Stone-with-Dual-Grit-Surfaces-10022Q/100037081

you will also need a straightedge and an old credit card or something similar, paper will probably be too thin.

from here on out i followed the directions i found all over the internet, the procedure is pretty consistent from what i saw but here is a quick overview.

1) sharpie the frets, be careful not to touch the board or use your homemade fret protector i will get to in 1 sec.

2) slowly and carefully run the stone over the frets until the sharpie is gone. you can do it twice if you aren't taking much off but i found it to be perfect. remember you cant put the material back on, and i only recommend this method for guitars that re-fretting makes no financial sense.

3) carefully vacuum the shavings.

4) take a ruler and use your straight edge to cut out a fret sized slot, this will protect the board while we finish the frets.

5) use a small .5x.5in piece of 500 grit sand paper, and use the tip of your finger to sand the frets, repeat with 1000. by now you should have no sharpie remaining, your frets will even be rounded and almost shiny even (i was quite surprised at how effective this part was.)

6) vacuum up again, restring, tune and enjoy hopefully lol.

ill insert the standard disclaimer here, if you mess up your guitar that is on you. i have used this on 2 guitars now with success, but this is just a cheap alternative to proper fret dressing from trained professionals.
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Old 07-30-2014, 09:11 AM   #2
Acϵ♠
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I've always just put painter's tape or masking tape on the fretboard in between the frets and then used steel wool to gently file the frets until they're baby-ass smooth. Works like a pro job most of the time if you put some care into it.
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Old 07-30-2014, 07:51 PM   #3
dspellman
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I took my B-stock Agile AL-2000 Floyd (which cost me under $200 with case,delivered, and which had at least one flyer fret above the 16th fret) in to have a PLEK job done. At the time this was running (with the rest of the setup) around $200. It made no financial sense at the time.

The results were spectacular -- and they remain so. I've used this thing as one of my two main bar guitars over the last year and a half, and it's been flawless. The other "main bar guitar" is an AL-3100 Floyd that also cost me $200 (no case, and used), and as soon as it walked in the door, it was driven to the PLEK shop.

WAY more expensive (aside from your time) than your method, so it's really not comparable, but it's really nice having great frets, innit?
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Old 08-01-2014, 02:04 AM   #4
cdouglas
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I did this with my Epi es-339 today. I only used 600 grit and 0000 steel wool after the stone and that was not good enough even though it felt smooth with my finger. Once I got it strung, the strings against the frets was very rough. Luckily doing bends on all strings on all frets eventually smoothed it out, but I would recommend getting the 1000 grit, which you can't get a Home Depot. I also put painters tape over the board before I started anything.

After that, it was a great improvement over what it was. I was able to lower the action to where I prefer which I could not do before due to the uneven frets from the factory.

Last edited by cdouglas : 08-01-2014 at 02:08 AM.
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Old 08-01-2014, 11:48 PM   #5
phank
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For those who haven't tried this, note that it takes only a very light touch with the stone or sanding block. And that it doesn't work well with stainless steel frets. The whole procedure probably takes about 20 minutes, and does a wonderful job of eliminating buzzes and dead spots, turning a cheap guitar into a regular player.
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Old 08-02-2014, 06:35 PM   #6
cdouglas
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I posted above about my 339. I just did my epi Les Paul and it worked out better after I got 1000 and 1500 grit paper. I tested my work by rubbing the high e string before restringing and had to go back again to do more polishing.

Like last guy said, you don't push down on the stone at all. Just slowly slide across the frets. I think it took me about 45 mins total from start to end that included taping off the entire board and polishing the frets.

I spent about $15 on the stone and sandpaper to do two guitars which would have costed me $300 and a week without them for someone else to do it. And I have 2 more to do.

Last edited by cdouglas : 08-02-2014 at 06:42 PM.
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Old 08-02-2014, 07:36 PM   #7
Tony Done
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A few comments based on my fret dressing expereinces;

I've found I don't need to mark the frets, because I can see clearly where the stone has cut and where it hasn't.

Since cheap diamond hones became common I've started using one of these, as it cuts faster and cleaner than a stone. Mine came stuck to a thin plastic sheet, so I put a wooden backing on it to stiffen it up. The backing also acts as a handle for when I use it to sharpen the ******* knives. If the hone peels off the backing (as the cheapos are prone to), it can be stuck firmly back on with double-sided adhesive tape.

I make fret masks from brass shim metal and aluminium drink cans, both of which can be cut with ordinary scissors.

I personally wouldn't polish the levelled frets without crowning them properly first. Flat tops on the frets might affect intonation and make bending difficult. Also, if you polish/sand them hard enough to make a crown, you might also be unlevelling them again. I have done it with a ordinary file with the corners ground off, but I'm very glad I invested in this, I reckon it cuts the time to about 1/3 of using an ordinary file:

Crowning file

This version is fairly expensive, but, being diamond, it cuts fast and doesn't clog.

When crowning, I'm careful only to go until the levelling file marks are just erased, no more, otherwise it might unlevel the frets again.

I also wrap the abrasive paper around the crowing file for polishing.

Total cost for these tools was about $90
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Old 08-02-2014, 10:40 PM   #8
stormin1155
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I am owner/operator of a guitar repair shop, and the procedure I use to do fret jobs isn't that different from what the OP describes. I have crowning files and a few other specialty tools, but you can do a pretty good fret job using very simple tools.
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Old 08-02-2014, 11:16 PM   #9
Tony Done
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stormin1155
I am owner/operator of a guitar repair shop, and the procedure I use to do fret jobs isn't that different from what the OP describes. I have crowning files and a few other specialty tools, but you can do a pretty good fret job using very simple tools.


Do you sand/polish the levelled frets without crowing them first?
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Old 08-03-2014, 08:21 AM   #10
cdouglas
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One thing I did and failed to mention was make my own crowning file by placing a piece of sandpaper face up on a untouched fret and sanding a groove into a piece if wood. Then after filing the frets, wrap sandpaper around the wooden file to recrown them. There is a YouTube video of someone showing this as well.
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