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Fret Dress Polishing

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  I have been building guitars for years and found I struggle to get the best results after leveling and polishing frets. After crowning, I've gone from 320/400 to 600, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000. I have some Stew Mac polishing papers that go up to about 8000. For some reason,  I find that there are scratches left when I go on to the above 1000 grits. I cut off little squares for each grit about 1" b 3" and they cut aggressively for about 5 frets and it seems like they get dull and don't remove all the scratches. Is it best to just keep using new sandpaper every 3-5 frets? Every increase in grit I sand 90 degrees or perpendicular to the last.

When I finally get done criss crossing through all the grits up to 2000, I have no idea what grit the scratches that are still there are.. It's hard to tell as there is smoothness as well. I've tried looking with a magnifier.. It is a tedious process and feel like there is a better way. Anyone have any pointers?

Thanks guys,


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I've found an occasional scratch on my builds as well but they've definitely been left because of poor crowning, gouging along a fret with the end corner of the cheap chinese crowning file or something like that. Sloppy workmanship, that is...

For what it's worth, I start by taping the fretboard before crowning. I then take a dry piece of wet'n'dry and roll it to a flexible semi-sturdy tool - a couple of layers is enough. I run that tool along the fretboard, across the frets, to smoothen the file marks. After that I usually take a nail polishing block! My favourite is the appr. 1" x 3 " cheap one as there's plenty of surface. The first grit (for leveling tha nail) is too rough so I start at #2 and go through the grits along each fret. That's it. I may slap across the frets with a 6000 foam based abrasive which is actually meant for polishing lacquer but basically the nail polishing block is good enough.

As you mentioned, the papers get dull. The blocks I use suffer from the same but they're easy to control so that you can use a clean spot for every fret. On the bright coloured surface the metal residue is highly visible so it's easy to see which areas are clogged.

As mentioned, I only go across the frets right after crowning. I do that mostly for rounding any corners left from the triangular file. It should also take care of any longitudinal scratches but as I mentioned the ones I've had are from using a poor tool in a sloppy manner. I have a bunch of different crowning files and some are not that well finished. Anyhow, after that first run with the rolled paper I do the polishing along the fret. If that leaves scratches, they're a) very small and more importantly b) they're in the same direction as string bending happens. Scratches across a fret are a nightmere when bending, don't you think? Snap-snap-snap...

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