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Fret dressing


Zuma

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My previous thread was getting rather long so to get to the point:

 

My bass has never had any fret work done and it needs so now! Is fret dressing or leveling something I can do or is it best left to a pro? If I give it a stab does anyone want to share their techniques with me?

 

From what I've read when Googling the subject I'm thinking let a pro do it.

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Dressing recipe:

 

Stale french bread cut into cubes, chopped celery, onions, sage, butter, chicken broth, pepper.

 

Saute the onions in the butter. Put the cooked onions in a bowl with all the other ingredients. Mix.

 

Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 oven.

 

Sorry, still have Thanksgiving on my mind. Turkey dressing is a do-it-yourself project.

 

Go to a professional for fret dressing.

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I've tried it, but I found it very difficult to tie the tie and have it stay on the neck where I wanted it. And forget about getting the arms through the shirtsleeves.

 

But seriously folks.....

 

I had mine done by someone (Jimmy at Bass Boutique). I'm fine doing set-ups, but that seemed more than I wanted to tackle.

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Don't pay any attention to those other guys. They probably hire someone to do all their repairs.

You can do fret dressing yourself. First time I did it I took an electric belt sander to it. That is not the way.

Contact The Stuart MacDonald Co. 800-848-2273 or stewmac.com

 

They have all the tools and instructions to do it right.

 

Basiclly, you want to adjust your neck (without strings) to be as flat as possible. Use a long 10" to 12" flat sanding block and sanding media, (automotive wet or dry sand paper 180 or 320 grit) block sand the frets lengthwise to remove any high spots and then polish.

 

That is an over simple explanation.

If you need more detailed info, PM me.

Rocky

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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I'm with Rocky on this one. There's no reason a person who's reasonably competent with tools can't dress frets. It is worthwhile investing in a few tools to do it right, though. I use a flat file with the tang ground off, glued to a block of wood, as Dan Erlewine describes in his Guitar Repair book. I think the hardest part is restoring the "crown" at the top of each fret, after you flatten them off. If I was going to do it again I might invest in one of the fancy files they sell for that purpose in the StewMac catalog.

 

Before you start filing/sanding, it is good to carefully inspect for frets that have worked out of their slots and are high. It's better to reseat them than it is to try to remove all that metal.

 

But I would recommend that you get a book or something. Or PM me or Rocky!

 

Ed

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I think, as a fairly competent handy guy, I could learn fret dressing. Or bow rehair. Or micro-surgery.

 

When I was young and poor with an old car that wasn't running good, I took off the carborator and rebuilt it. It didn't run any better or worse.

 

I also rebuilt the engine in my VW bus twice; each rebuild lasted for 50,000 miles. Eventually, though, some simple thing I didn't know about caused the rebuild failure.

 

For example, on the original engines, the head bolts back out of the case, allowing the heads to loosen. This has a tendency to melt pistons. I learned that you have to have steel inserts installed in the manganese case to prevent this. Now I know, one engine too late.

 

I would probably redress frets on my old Yamaha guitar; only paid $35 for it in 1975. It's not in regular rotation.

 

But on my main gigging bass, the Warwick, I'd let a professional take the responsibility for it.

 

Ditto with microsurgery, by the way.

 

You know, you could get a Warwick with bell brass frets. They just don't ever need dressing.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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Originally posted by Dave Brown:

 

I also rebuilt the engine in my VW bus twice; each rebuild lasted for 50,000 miles. Eventually, though, some simple thing I didn't know about caused the rebuild failure.

 

Dave, You never cease to amaze me. I too cut my teeth on VW engines. My first relationship with "Case Inserts" was a real learning experience.

 

I totally agree with you that someone should not learn the art of "Fret Dressing" on their best bass.

You can make mistakes and you can ruin the neck.

 

We still need to get together and "Pigout" on Mexican food.

 

Rocky

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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Originally posted by Zuma:

I'll take this to a pro guys! I don't want to ruin my beloved '62 (reissue).

 

Have you guys heard of this? It's kind of expensive but for what they do I might just take the plunge (they are local for me):

 

FretTek

That's pretty interesting. It seems like a really good application of CNC machining. I'm a bit skeptical about their claims about "zero mistake tolerancing." I've worked around machine shops for 30+ years, and I've seen some very expensive parts turned into scrap metal by some very expensive machines. Usually it's not the machine that screws up, it's the sleepy guy programming the machine that does it.

 

There are a few things that they don't say on the web site; it sounds like the fret dressing is done by the CNC machine, but I'm guessing that the other work is done by hand, like changes in the nut height-- that means that it's subject to the same errors as any luthier would make.

 

In general, I think it's a very good concept, though. I think that making good measurements is the key to making good adjustments on a guitar, to see what needs to be done and then if it was done right, and FretTek is using a touch-trigger probe on a CNC machine to do the measurements. If they know what they're doing, that is a very good way to make measurements.

 

Ed

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Originally posted by jeremy c:

That looks extremely expensive. It shouldn't have to cost that much. I'm sure there are dozens of people in L.A. that can do the work.

 

By the way, when I started learning how to adjust truss rods, I started on clunker instruments before I tried it on one of my good instruments.

I agree that it's expensive for fret dressing, but it's pretty inexpensive for CNC machining. The places I deal with get about $150/hour just for making the measurements, not to mention doing the machining. I've got to think that it takes a couple of hours minimum to get set up, make the measurements, determine what cut to make, then run the program. It sounds like it is an iterative process-- measure, cut, remeasure, recut, etc., so it's got to take some time. And the equipment must be pretty expensive.

 

Ed

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Not to mention the time it takes to make the jig and get everything set up and programmed. It's not the machine time that is expensive. Like everything else that needs to be done right - it's the prep.

 

I have never dressed frets but coming from a tool and die background I think it would require a lot of scraping and endless amounts of straight edge checking.

Bottom line: If you don't have the proper tools take it to someone who does.

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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