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Coming to the stage where I'm gonna start my first fret job.

Question though?

To what grit do you sand the fretboard before installing the frets. Do you polish it all the way to 2000 grit, or do you sand till 400 grit and do later polishing with frets installed.

I now have sanded board to 320-400 grit.



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Based on everything I read, here's what I did, and it worked out well (this was a cocobolo board):

Radius (I used a router with a jig)


Glue to neck


Inlay dots

File inlays nearly flush (careful not to mar the board too much)

Sand w/ radius block (220, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 2000)

Check slot depths, cut deeper if necessary (I had to deepen all my fret slots at this point)

Bevel fret slots slightly with small triangular file (for better fret seating)

Install frets

Nip fret ends as close to fretboard edge as possible

File fret end bevel (I went to about 45 degrees, will use lesser angle next time)

Level frets

Shape fret ends

Crown frets

Polish frets

Clean up fretboard edge (I made some marks during fretting)

Couple of things I learned that I missed the first time but that seem obvious now:

Knock down the sharp edges of the fretboard sides before installing the frets (much tougher to do after the frets are in)

Nip the tang off both sides of the fret, maybe an eighth of an inch on each side, before installing the frets (I didn't, and it led to the fret ends not seating as well as they could have...will probably have to glue and caul-clamp them now)

Also, be sure to over-radius the fretwire a fair bit before you cut the frets.

I'm sure there are other ways and other orders in which to do this, but this is based on my (limited) experience and worked.

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What kind of wood is the fb? Maple usually gets a clearcoat of lacquer or poly where rosewood and ebony are left natural. You don't really need to sand finer than 400 grit regardless of what type of wood is used.

Edited by Southpa
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I normally sand to 1500grit. Sometimes i even get the micromesh out and sand up to 12000, mainly if it s a particularly impressive fretboard. OK, i know its daft, but its a nice feeling when you see that beautifully shiny fretboard ready for frets - like mattia says, it doesnt last long once you are playing.

Whenever i have taught anyone how to make guitars they have always insisted on going with the super shiny fretboard, i think its just satisfying.

I sometimes use danish oil on mine but i would first give the board a liberal coating- buff it off. Then wet sand with the danish oil and the 1000-1500 wet & dry paper - then buff off again

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1200 grit for me if it is an ebony board. RW gets maybe 800 grit or sometimes 1200. I always oil the board after sanding. It is such a rewarding feeling to see it shine.

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The benchmark for me is in Brian's fretting tutorial, where you can see his neighbor's house in the reflection :D I'm not going that high myself. I think the highest grit I have down the cellar is 600, so it looks like my problem's solved, haha. If all goes well I'm going to do my first fret job this weekend. I got me a beautiful piece of rosewood from LMI, really impressive, arrow-straight grain, lovely coloring. I just hope I don't mar it too bad, I hear stainless steel fretwire is a cruel mistress.

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400 grit then install. I'm still a newb at fretting and am afraid I might tap the board wrong and end up with a small dent (I've done this twice now).

I've used nothing but stainless steel and will be using some LMI gold fretwire on an upcoming friends project. Definitely have the right tools for the stuff, or you might break something!

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I think standard nippers would be fine, although I don't have a pair yet. They may wear down your bevel file - I use a thick bastard file that probably cost $2-5, so it's an easy replacement if it ever gets worn down (which I doubt). For clipping the ends, you will probably break your average cutters, or wear them down incredibly fast. I struggled using a nicer old pair that was definitely not made for the metal. I use a set of very strong dikes(sp?) for clipping the ends now, they work wonders for stainless steel. For crowning, I'm now using the 150 grit offset diamond fret file made by Stewmac. I'm thinking the 300 grit one might get worn down more quickly on this metal. For sanding up to higher grits, I tape sandpaper to my very small 6" ruler until I hit 1000 grit then work my way up to 12,000 grit using a stewmac touch-up stick. Then I use some type of sponge fingernail file that's even a finer abrasive than 12,000, somewhere inbetween 15,000 and 20,000. I get an amazing shine out of it.

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Nice consistant answers.

It's an ebony board, so probably will go from 400 to 2000 and then install the frets. It ain't gonna hurt going to higher grits, I guess.

Thanks guys!

Are there inlays in the ebony? The reason I ask is that if you inlaid anything and had to use any filler (ebony dust and CA for example) for small gaps (like I had to), it will shine differently from the ebony if you go too high on the sanding grit and be much more obvious. I found this out from experience. So, I sand ebony to no more than 400 grit if it has inlay.

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