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Thread: Fret end filing

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Punta Gorda, FL
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    1,779
    I just read through this thread and it compelled me to see how my guitars have held up with humidity changes over the years. We still have the two Strats and one Ric bass. All were built in the relatively stable humidity of my basement back in Chicago and all are now in Florida where the A/C is on all summer and the house is opened up all winter. Today the humidity is 93% with temps in the 70s and it feels sticky inside.

    On one of the Strats (curly maple neck with cocobolo fretboard) I cut back the tangs and filled the tang cut in with cocobolo dust and CA glue. No measurable sign of changes due to humidity on that guitar.

    The frets on the other Strat (curly maple neck with Macassar ebony fretboard) were filed smooth and I could see the tangs are recessed a bit. The cocobolo has swelled. But the frets are still snug against the fretboard. I don't have an instrument that can accurately read the fretboard swelling but it's too small to measure with a steel ruler that reads to 64ths.

    On the bass, which has a laminated maple & Koa neck with a Macassar ebony fretboard, the same thing has occurred as above, with the frets still snug.

    I don't know how dry the air would need to be for the frets to protrude but I can see that without humidity control, the fretboard wood could eventually shrink enough to expose the ends of the fretwire. The humidity in my shop back north was around 35% when the guitars were being built, if the dehumidifier reading was accurate.

    As for filing down the protruding fretwire, I start with a file and finish with sandpaper glued to a straight edge. But that takes off some wood, too. That's not a problem for a rosewood, ebony or dark wood fretboard glued to a maple neck. But it does present a problem with a solid maple neck in that you will need to finish the newly bared wood and that may mean matching the tone of old lacquer or toned poly. If you don't apply a finish, in time the bare maple will darken with dirt and oil as it is played.

    I did a Google search for videos and found some luthiers put tape over the fretboard but I can't see how that would work. If you file down to the tape, once you take the tape off, the frets would protrude the thickness of the tape.
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  2. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Greenville, SC
    Posts
    6
    I agree 100% with what Don says. Having lived in northern Illinois for most of my life, the dry winters have caused more than one of my guitar fretboards to shrink and have the fret ends stick out. I had to file them accordingly becuase they DID hurt your fingers. I would recommend people to buy guitars with bound fretboards if they are concerned about this.

  3. #18
    Bound fretboards and/or blind fret ends are the way of top Luthiers - great point Dean. I would add the stainless steel guard trick. You can buy super thin stainless steel figerboard guards that protect the wood while filing / rounding fret ends, or you can buy those thin draftsmens eraser templates, cut fret slots in them for same effect.
    Yes, we went to the moon. Back when men were men and didn't have the computors, CAD and CYA policies.
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  4. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Asheboro,NC
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    82
    Shawn, could you offer an opinion on what causes "fret buzzing" and how to correct it?


    Jay Mullins

  5. #20
    I believe that in classical guitars a lot of it is too thin a top ,bracing that's too light ,or both. And it is widely acknowledged that the flamenco guitars, which usually have thinner tops than classical, do buzz more.

  6. #21
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Asheboro,NC
    Posts
    82
    Hi Mel, thanks for your response, the guitar that is giving me problems is an Ibenez classical guitar. I've had it about three years and no problems until recently. Started geting a fret buzz on the 2nd string and then on no. 3 and 4. Changed th strings and it stopped for aweek or so and then started up again.

    I think the next step I try is to raise the bridge with a shim or two and see if that helps. Any suggestions?

    Jay Mullins

  7. #22
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Smithfield, Va
    Posts
    328
    Suggest you look closely at the offending frets. I frequently see instruments where a fret or two, occasionally more, are starting to lift up. Sometimes it's almost imperceptible but it is just enough to cause some fret buzz.

  8. #23
    Buzzing is usually frets being out of level. Maybe one or two have popped up out of their slots a bit, but usually its fret wear that causes buzzing - you press down on a worn fret, so you press deeper, and a heavily plucked note causes the string to hit other frets that are higher.
    So fret leveling and re-crown is pretty straight forward, but you need a radius block to do it right, so get a luthier or trusted guitar tech with a radius block to do it.

    Raising the bridge saddles will definitely help in the short term. I leveled a fret board once with my 8" long japanese waterstone (after lapping it dead flat on my diamond lap). I used a black sharpie to mark the fret tops so I saw where the stone took just a few thousands off the surface of the high frets. Since the stone was not radiused, I bridged across the frets and swiped it diagonally across the fretboard. The important part is to flex the neck a tiny bit with slight backbow to level, by using straight edge to check for flat, and see high frets prior to leveling. It might be possible that your buzzing could be from your neck not adjusted at the trussrod, where you might have backbow from an overtightened truss rod. A guitar fretboard should have a slight concave plane, with slight fall off at the higher frets.
    Yes, we went to the moon. Back when men were men and didn't have the computors, CAD and CYA policies.
    Rabbit QX-80-1290 80W Laser
    twin custom made 5 x 12 ft laminating ovens
    20,000 watt (48") UV curing chamber
    480 F hot butyl gun made from a caulk gun, heat tape and a 24 oz beer can - performs like a $3000.00 system for 40 bucks, and I got to drink the beer
    Delta Unisaw, various diamond wheels for carbide, Diamond lap, Accuspray guns, and the usual assortment of cool toys / tools.

  9. #24
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Smithfield, Va
    Posts
    328
    In most cases I would agree with you however he's got a classical guitar and I have never seen any fret wear on a nylon string guitar. At least not enough to cause any fret buzz. I believe it's lifted frets or some other issue that has not been discussed such a knackered saddle perhaps.

  10. #25
    Jay, years ago I made one guitar , made repairs to a few dozen , and adjusted a bunch. In adjustments I used the nut and saddle adjustments that were in the Shearer book on playing guitar. Pretty sure they can still be found. All guitar owners found those set up numbers to be good. Some guitars buzzed others did not. Seems to me that buzz heard at same time string is plucked is a set up problem. Or string problem. Buzz heard after note is heard is a too flexing top. With the latter buzz can be stopped by having someone put a hand on the top with light pressure. I see that light pressure as being similar to a friend "holding a wobbly ladder" Right or wrong ,this is the practical expirience behind my earlier post.

  11. #26
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Yorktown, VA
    Posts
    2,316
    This was a cool video from the StewMac site. Fret filing starts at about 3:45.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_c...&v=1fDij2CWLZY

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