Tag Archives: Strat

Sharp Fret Ends

I live in Phoenix, AZ. It’s extremely dry here and if you live in a dry climate you have most certainly picked up a guitar with an unbound fretboard and found the frets sharp and uncomfortable due to the neck shrinking. This is such a common problem, especially on Fender guitars, ¬†that I’ve done nearly 20 of these jobs in the last 2 months. I figured I’d share my method because it’s extremely easy. I would not use this exact method on a very valuable guitar, for those I will tape off the fretboard and generally be far more careful with finish and even the final shape of the fret ends, but since most guitars are “players”, this is the most common method I use…This example is a MIM Strat with really sharp frets…

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The frets are protruding and the bottom corners are very sharp…The first step is to tape off the side of the neck with blue masking tape right below the bottom of the fret tang…

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This not only protects the finish, but it will provide a “stop” when you begin sanding. The tape will keep you from taking off more than just the protruding frets. You’ll hit the finish just a tad, but we’ll remedy that later…Once the neck is taped off, get a hard, flat sanding block. I use a small piece of maple, sanded flat. ¬†Attach 400grit paper to the flat side and sand the edge of the neck (the fret ends) with the block, perpendicular to the board…

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Do this until you can no longer feel the frets underneath the block…in other words, once the block glides smoothly along the edge of the neck STOP and move on to the other side. It will usually take 2 pieces of sandpaper. Once the tangs are sanded smooth, tilt the block in to match the bevel of the fret ends and sand lightly…

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Now the frets should be more comfortable BUT you’re gonna need to take care of the bottom of the fret ends. Use a 3-corner file to lightly file the bottom corners. 2 quick, light swipes on both sides will be sufficient…

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Now you’ll want to clean up the file marks and the sanding you’ve done. The best option is Micro Mesh.

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Go thru each grit, concentrating on the fret ends but also hitting the edge of the neck above the tape…this will polish up any sanding marks on the finish. One cool side effect of this method is that the fretboard edges will get just slightly rolled like an old vintage guitar. Before moving on to the next grits it’s a good idea to gently hit the top of the frets, and even the board, just a tad to clean them up. This is a few quick swipes up and down the board with each grit…

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Once you’re thru all the grits the fret ends should be nice and polished. Clean and oil the board, and it’s all done…

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Cheers!

 

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The Project

I work with, and sometimes at, a guitar shop in Scottsdale called Guitar Gallery, I have since I was 15 years old. Occasionally we get people bringing in some beautiful classic guitars. One day a lady came in with 8 instruments. There was a ’57 Gibson Switchmaster, a ’78 LP Jr, a ’52 reissue tele…great guitars. The last one she showed us was in her words, “some ugly piece of junk”. At first glance, she was right. Strat style body with a terrible spray paint refin. But, I immediately noticed the neck, a well aged Lake Placid blue Jazzmaster neck with the transition headstock, so mid ’60’s. Having worked in this business for 20+ years I knew there was something to this guitar, ugly as it may have been. So I told her I would investigate what was up. She was prepared to give it to me, but I couldn’t in good conscience take it, not with the feeling and vibe it was giving off. So I began…

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The neck was indeed a ’65 Jazzmaster neck with schaller tuners on it, an ill advised mod on an old Fender because to function correctly more string trees are needed, and this had them…so the neck’s value was pretty much shot. The Fender neck plate dated to 1972 and I began to piece together a theory. Perhaps sometime around 1972 a Strat had suffered an unfortunate accident? Perhaps, since at that time a ’65 Jazzmaster wasn’t valuable, the neck had been replaced…hmmm. Well, the body WAS something special. My first clue was the tremolo, a wonderfully aged, but relatively clean Strat trem with “Pat. Pend.” stamped saddles, SCORE! With the pickguard removed I was able to completely date everything, body, pots, switch, cap, and the pickups to 1960. This was a gem, not a terribly valuable vintage guitar (besides the pickguard, of course), but a dream for a player. So I thought “I’m a player, and even after 30+ builds, I’ve never built a guitar for myself”. I called the lady and proposed that I buy the body and neck, and broker the sale of the very valuable 1960 pickguard assembly, which she agreed to quite ecstatically, having believed that this was a junk guitar. It was now my future guitar.

I immediately got to work stripping the finish.

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I quickly found the signs of the original guitar’s, and it’s neck’s, unfortunate demise.

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Since this part of the guitar isn’t actually very structurally important, this was an easy fix with a flood of superglue and some wood putty. Upon further inspection, I also discover it’s original color behind the tremolo claw, Fiesta Red.

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She must have been a beauty.

As I prepared to lacquer the body, I decided to not use the Jazzy neck on my finished instrument. The tight 7.25″ radius just didn’t fit my playing style. I wanted a compound radius, 7.25″ to 10″. So, I made a new neck, one piece birdseye maple.

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I chose to lacquer the guitar in black and with that neck, and for a Pink Floyd fan, there was only one option for the rest of the hardware and pickguard, right? So I made a pickguard of 1/8″ black acrylic, rounded the edges, collected the parchment parts together along with some Tone-Pros vintage style Kluson tuners, and with the lacquer cured, set to putting together my new instrument.

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I loaded up the pickguard with Curtis Novak’s vintage Strat pickups, Mojo CTS pots, a vintage NOS Russian military capacitor, and traditional cloth wiring.

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Then I assembled my new instrument. Here she is…

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She’s light weight, plays like a dream, and sounds fantastic. I am a happy man, a happy man who plays a vintage 1960 Strat…almost!