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bileshake

Alternative to wool.

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Hey guys, I usually use steel wool to clean my frets when cleaning my guitars but I'm not a fan of the debris. Any new tricks that work as well or better that steel wool?

Cheers

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have you tried Micromesh pads or similar? Also, a neodymium magnet is useful for removing the debris left by steel wool ;-)

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have you tried Micromesh pads or similar? Also, a neodymium magnet is useful for removing the debris left by steel wool ;-)

Also really good to stuff the magnets in your pickups!

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When i use steel wool, i will hold a magnet inside the wool. It keeps it together with no mess.

For polishing, you can use a rotary tool with buffing pads and a nice metal polish. Works unbelievably well, but defi itely leaves a mess!

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I just use a piece of 2000 grit sandpaper rolled up or in a square. Then i put some liquid buffing compound on a cloth and buff it really fast. No mess, and it comes out just as nice as other methods.

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I just use a piece of 2000 grit sandpaper rolled up or in a square. Then i put some liquid buffing compound on a cloth and buff it really fast. No mess, and it comes out just as nice as other methods.

This is how its done. Steel wool leaves micro scratches which promote string wear, and then fret wear.

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I feel like I have to expand on that somewhat Perry because some people might see it as misleading thinking that steel wool is a bad thing....I see where you are coming from on this though since settling for "just good" is just not acceptable. Steel wool can be imperfect if used exclusively but it does have its uses during the process of polishing or cleaning frets when used armed with understanding.

On its own steel wool "feels" like it leaves frets how they would be after sanding in the high hundreds in terms of grit, however this is not the case and is analogous to trying to polish out rust on a car. The tinworms (in this case, scratches) are still there and can re-propagate further down the line. Fine steel wool (000 - 00000) has the property of burnishing materials which abrasive papers and pads do not....at least in grits of the order of low hundreds. Coarser grades can still scratch however the yielding nature of the finer filaments hardly do this.

Quite simply they're two different styles of product with differing methods of action - the abrasive particles on papers are of themselves extremely hard in comparison to the surfaces they abrade, plus many are specifically chosen for their brittle nature and are expected to fracture in use producing new sharp angular cutting edges ideal for continuing to slice wood fibres or create thousands of new less-deep scratches.

On more or less homogeneous materials like metals and hard plastics, particle-based abrasives will create new scratches whereas the softer yielding action of steel wool affects the hard sharp corners of existing scratches more than creating new ones in larger flatter bearing surfaces than particles would. Steel wool still scratches of course.

Steel wool leaves scratches behind - albeit softer in profile - by merely burnishing their sharper edges and making them less visible. Used in the wrong order, steel wool can leave frets looking polished but less-visibly containing the scratches you refer to. I've seen evidence of factories rushing through from hard cutting grits straight to burnishing and skipping through to buffing/polishing. It certainly leaves the fret surfaces looking deceptively bright - which most people would think is good, and in general is just "not bad" - but not uniform or smooth. A chatter mark from a coarse file can be polished up to blend in with the surroundings and unless you examine the reflections over the material you can easily miss that a chunk of metal is missing!

Not saying that you are not aware of this Perry but some people might misunderstand where you are coming from.

------

Re-thinking the OP's question, I guess I should clarify whether you are actually cleaning your frets (removing junk, oxidation, etc.) or polishing them. If the frets are in good condition and just need a cleaning then a metal polish such as that used for chrome (Autosol, white "blizzard" compound) on a cloth is sufficient. This does create a lot of its own mess though, which you say you are not a fan of. In that case, perhaps buffing the frets with a coarser fabric (denim or even burlap) with a little mild solvent (Napthalene lighter fluid) does most of the work fairly cleanly. Anything beyond that and debris becomes a fact of life.

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Also really good to stuff the magnets in your pickups!

Steel wool itself can cause incredible damage to guitar pickups... just ask me. :P

Ever try an microabrasive impregnated rubber 'electric motor commutator cleaner stick' for cleaning frets? It works great.

If you are using steel wool and *aren't* working near pickups, try putting a magnet in a bag and use this to pick up all the steel wool fragments. When you're done, just go to the nearest garbage can with the bag, hold the bag over the can, and remove the magnet from the bag. The steel wool that was stuck to the bag will fall into the can.

ken

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You mean,except for static built up in the bag?

If you were to do that,it might be worthwhile to turn the bag inside out first so instead of trying to shake off all of the tiny steel pieces you just wrap them with the bag itself...like people do with dog poo.Of course steel wool embeds itself so deeply on the wood that a magnet isn't going to get it all.Compressed air works better,but it is still a chore.

Or you could try synthetic steel wool pads.No steel in those.I don't use any of that on frets though.

http://www.amazon.com/3M-10119NA-Steel-Wool-Grade/dp/B00004Z4AE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384517147&sr=8-1&keywords=synthetic+steel+wool

I use those sometimes on more "natural" finishes.I use a dremel with polishing compounds to polish frets.BTW if you "put a magnet in steel wool to hold it together"(another gem from "Bob"),the magnet will scratch everything it scrapes across.

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If you were to do that,it might be worthwhile to turn the bag inside out first so instead of trying to shake off all of the tiny steel pieces you just wrap them with the bag itself...like people do with dog poo.

This is a really good idea.

I won't let compressed air anywhere near steel wool... ever since I watched a coworker spend all day cleaning a dirty machine tool with steel wool and mineral spirits. At the end of his shift, dummkoff blew the machine dry with shop air, and got a face full of wet steel wool bits for his trouble. He went to the hospital for bits in both eyes. There is no emoticon known for how stupid this man was... and no, it wasn't me.

ken

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You should at least be wearing some sort of protective glasses when working with steel wool at all.I frequently skip the safety measures,but I don't blame the tools for the problems when I do.

Obviously when you use compressed air to clean a guitar(which everyone here does),you don't put your face near areas that can blow back.I either turn the entire body away from me when blowing out cavities or if I have the guitar laying on a surface I use my hand to shield against blowback.Most wood dust can be just as bad in your eyes as steel wool.Oak is terrible(No I don't use that trash in my guitars,but I build other stuff too)

Regardless of the things that can happen if you are careless,compressed air is still one of the most effective ways to clean off wood dust on your guitar,clean your sandpaper to get more use out of it,or get those stubborn pieces of steel wool out of the crevices they embed themselves in.

A good vacuum cleaner works best to get the bulk off,but after that it takes compressed air or tedious cleaning with static cloths or similar to get the rest...and if you don't blow out all of the bridge holes,screw holes,under fret edges,etc. it will come out at the worst possible time and ruin your finishing work.

You are better off not even using steel wool.It is too invasive.But you will have the same problems with wood dust if you don't clean it out.

The magnet/bag thing is not going to be effective...I just mentioned the bag inside out thing as an improvement over shaking out a static-y bag.

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The coworker was inside a CNC vertical milling machine, preparing it for repainting by cleaning out the enclosed workspace (where the work is done), and he pointed the air nozzle at an lower corner of the area... while keeping his head close enough to the corner and using enough air pressure to knock his safety glasses off his face with the reflected blast. :( He should have used a lowpressure air nozzle with a long extension nozzle and a lexan faceshield, but it would have even better for him to brush out the collected steel wool with a paintbrush. The moral to me was that if it's not flying through the air it can't hurt you... much.

Regardless of the things that can happen if you are careless,compressed air is still one of the most effective ways to clean off wood dust on your guitar,clean your sandpaper to get more use out of it,or get those stubborn pieces of steel wool out of the crevices they embed themselves in.

Compressed air works great, as long as you use it safely. I use an air nozzle in one hand, and a shopvac hose in the other.

The magnet/bag thing is not going to be effective...I just mentioned the bag inside out thing as an improvement over shaking out a static-y bag.

I tried your inside out bag idea this AM, with a quarter sized neo magnet inside a corner of a plastic shopping bag. It worked OK.

It wasn't perfect, but it was better than picking all the steel wool bits off the naked magnet.

ken

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Cool.Like I say though,the best method I have found is vacuum cleaner followed by compressed air...don't use it at more than about 60 psi or you can damage your work...I can't see 60 psi blowing back all that much unless you have your face buried in it.

When I used to hurt myself doing stuff as a kid,my Grandpa never said "Don't do that",he just showed me how to do it with minimal risk,like moving your head out of the line of debris..I think people have gone soft since his day.

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In the shop area I was in the air pressure was 100 PSI due to lots of airpowered tools. The next morning, everyone in the building was issued 'OSHA compliant' low pressure nozzles whether they needed them or not. ;)

Grandpa was right. It wasn't that anyone got 'soft' it's that common sense is really, really uncommon nowadays.

ken

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I'll use steel wool sparingly, often, as a 1st pass after general levelling and crowning. After that, its grits up to 1000 and then, polishing on a dremel buffing wheel.

When I use it, always cover the pickups with tape.

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....it might be worthwhile to turn the bag inside out first so instead of trying to shake off all of the tiny steel pieces you just wrap them with the bag itself...like people do with dog poo.

Dog poo isn't attracted to magnets. Ask me how I know.

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