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  1. #1
    Eruption AFU's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:03 AM
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    Default Anyone know how to "dress" frets?

    I know I posted I ruined this guitar when the body cracked during the Floyd install. I just ignored the crack and finished the guitar. While trying to get the neck right, shim, truss rod, etc, I kept trying to eliminate a buzz, mostly b string. Well long story short, it's a Warmoth neck and they say you may need to dress the frets as thay do not do this. B string buzzes on the first fret, even with really high action. Plus I can feel the frets fighting me as I move chords up or down the neck.

    Anybody know how to dress frets? I prefer to do it myself as most repair shops don't seem to do much better than I do, and charge way too much. Thanks.

  2. #2
    5150 A&Z Guitar Repair's Avatar
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    03.24.17 @ 08:25 AM
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    Donor

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    A "fret dress", "Grind and Polish", "fret crown", are all terms that describe certain frets "alternative lifestyles". Some frets just want to be different. In order for them to feel normal, you have to introduce some surgery.

    All kidding aside, the terms all refer to getting your frets leveled so they are the same height up/down the fretboard. Sometimes you may have 1 or 2 frets that are a little high and you'll need to remove material to get them level with the rest of the frets. Dressing them can be levelling, crowning, polishing, etc. Your goal is to have them level on a straight neck so notes don't choke out. If you're not comfortable with this, have a tech do it. Warmoth fret jobs, as a rule, are pretty good.

    Is your buzzing on the B string at the open position or when fretted at the first fret? If it's at the open position, your nut slot may be cut too deep. Cut a small piece of .009 string and slip it into the nut slot. Replace the B string and retune making sure the .009 string stays in the slot. If your buzzing is stopped, you know the nut is the problem. A sliver of business card will work as well if you don't have any .008-.009 string lying around.

    If you want to tackle the fret dress/grind polish and other guitar work, check out the GUITAR PLAYER REPAIR GUIDE and HOW TO MAKE YOUR ELECTRIC GUITAR PLAY GREAT both are written by Dan Erlewine.

    Good luck with your project.

    Scott Eivins
    A&Z Guitar Repair
    Scott Eivins
    A&Z Guitar Repair

  3. #3
    Good Enough
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    12.19.16 @ 05:15 PM
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    Donor

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    I learned by doing other people's guitars. The shop owner had some files and we got in a heavily played Gibson SG. Frets were basically flat but still had enough left for one last dressing. Needless to say I'm a better salesman than fret dresser but it is a patience/time thing. I learned a lot working on other peoples' guitars.
    As scary as this sounds, everybody left the shop happy. Folks around here charge approx. $100 for a dressing. Decent files/tools will set ya back half that so it can become a question of economics.
    Good luck and always ask yourself "how can I mess this up?" before even picking up a tool.

  4. #4
    Romeo Delight
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    12.22.09 @ 08:02 AM
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    Default

    Hey Mike. I don't do fret work that often, so the quickest way of doing it isn't always the method I choose. The radius block method of levelling will work fine for you, although it's always helpful to have a levelling file too. I'm certainly not a professional luthier, but I decided to learn to do fretwork myself. My Hamer needed a refret, and I decided I would spend the money to buy my own tools rather than just paying a tech to do it. I've found that the less experienced you are, the more tools you need to get the job done right. Someone who is highly experienced with fret work can get away with using a minimal amount of tools, and still get great results. If you're just starting out, it's much easier if you have some extra tools to make certain tasks easier.

    Before you start working on your guitar, I highly recommend buying a cheap Squire neck to practice on. That way, you can get a feel for the tools and the procedure before trying it on the real thing. As far as the tools you'll need for a complete refret, here's what I would consider the bare minimum...

    fret pulling/nipping pliers
    radius gauges
    fret bending pliers
    fretting hammer
    medium viscosity super glue or cyanoacrylate
    radius block to match the neck radius
    various grades of sandpaper
    crowning file
    end bevelling file or 3 corner file
    micromesh finishing sandpaper
    accurate straightedge

    The following are not totally necessary, but very useful...

    fret bending machine
    handheld fret press system
    diamond crowning/levelling files (instead of the standard ones)
    Dremel rotary tool with cutting blade

    I know you said you were only doing a dressing, but if you're going to invest in some fretting tools, I think it's worthwhile to spend a little more on the tools required for a full refret. But if you just want to do a fret level/crown/polish, you can skip the fret pullers/nippers, bending pliers, fretting hammer, and glue.

    I'll continue this in another message, as I'm rapidly approaching the maximum character limit for a PM.
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  5. #5
    Romeo Delight
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    12.22.09 @ 08:02 AM
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    As far as the fallaway on the upper frets, you may need a levelling file to do that properly. Radius blocks are useful for getting a consistent height and radius. If you want to file in a fallaway, a levelling file would be a better choice for those frets. I know some people like to do that so that they can get super low action without running into buzzing problems on the higher frets, but I've never needed to do that, as I don't typically set the action as low as it can possibly go. Unless you want super low action, this step isn't usually necessary.

    I would start by darkening the tops of all the frets with a black marker, then attach some sandpaper to a radius block and sand until the marker is removed from all the frets. If you do it correctly, this method insures that all the frets are at the same height, while removing the minimum amount of metal necessary. Next, darken the fret tops with a marker again, and go over each fret one at a time with a crowning file until the marker is removed from the fret crown. This is a bit trickier, but you should be fine as long as you're careful not to overdo it and remove too much. That's why I like the marker trick, it lets you know when you've removed enough of the fret top. If you overdo it on a certain fret, you may have problems with that fret being lower than the rest, so it's very important to go slowly and get this step right. A straightedge comes in very handy here, as you can quickly identify any frets that are too high or too low. For this purpose, I like the fret rocker tool StewMac sells. If you are filing the upper frets a bit lower, you'll need to take that into consideration during the levelling process. File in the fallaway a little at a time until you have it correct. Once you're done with the levelling and crowning, all that's left is to touch up the fret ends and then polish. I like to use the 3 corner files from Stewart MacDonald for this purpose. Make sure that you can comfortably slide your fingers up and down the side of the neck without noticing any fret ends sticking out. After touching up the ends of the frets, use the micromesh paper to polish the frets. Micromesh is special sandpaper that is much less abrasive, so it works well for polishing out any rough patches without messing up the height. Once again, you don't want to overdo it on this step. Just polish each fret a little bit using a series of micromesh grades. Off the top of my head, I can't remember which grades are recommended for this, but StewMac probably has that information on their site. You can also finish with a metal polishing compound if you like

    Hopefully this helps you out, let me know if you have any other questions. Keep in mind that everyone has their favorite methods for fretwork, so I may not describe everything exactly as it's done in the video. I like this method because I think it's the most foolproof way to go about the task, even if it's not as fast as doing it another way.

    Ryan
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  6. #6
    Romeo Delight
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    12.22.09 @ 08:02 AM
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    Default

    The last two posts were pm's from a friend at the duncan forum that I found really helpful.

  7. #7
    Eruption AFU's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:03 AM
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    Default

    Thanks guys. You were very helpful. Gonna try the nut thing to be sure I have a fret problem, though if I try to lower the action to Wolfgang standards, all the strings buzz on the first fret before the action is even close to where I want it. Still, maybe Warmoth cut the nut too low. Thanks again guys!

 

 

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