Do you still remember on my guitar-project? Today I went on and executed the fretjob. Before I had studied some useful tutorials on Youtube, but as usual I experienced, that not everything works as expected.
First I inspected the frets with a long ruler and recognised some gaps. Then I adjusted the trussrod to set the neck as straight as possible.
Second I covered the complete fretboard with scratch-tape to prevent pollution and cut the tape around each fret.
I marked all frets with a permanent marker. If you do this you can easily follow the progress and inspect how much material you have already removed from the frets. I learned from a tutorial, that you have to sand until all frets show some wear.
So I took one deep breath and started to sand with the long aluminium bar, which is equipped with 240 grain sanding paper. In the tutorial a luthier said, that you have to sand just a few times without much pressure and maybe a bit more from the 12th fret up, because there is more material (This is logical, because the frets stand closer there). But when I sanded I experienced, that I had to sand much more. I guess, that my frets were not glued in at the same height. However I had to sand for a few hours I think before I could bring all frets to the same level. If you look on the third picture below you can see how much material is already removed from the left fret, while the middle fret is still not affected. I became really afraid, that my neck could be completely ruined. But I had started and I went on until I recognized wear on the last fret.
Then I marked the flattened frets again with the permanent marker and continued with a fret-file, which I had purchased for this purpose. The recrowning with the fret-file turned out faster than the sanding, but I was confused by another problem: Though I had controlled, that my frets are totally straight (you remember, my fretboard has no radius) and though I worked very carefully with the file along the whole surface of each fret, I removed more material at both ends on the frets than in the middle. Following the tutorial on Youtube the file should remove material equally on all parts of the fret until you end with a very small stripe of the permanent marker. In my case I had soon removed the permanent marker at the ends of the frets completely, while there was still a wide stripe of black color in the middle area. Maybe I have used the fret-file with a wrong technique, not touching the middle area enough, or the fret-file has an inner radius? Nobody knows. Because of this issue I decided to stop the recrowning sooner than recommended, because I did not want to experience later, that my frets would be uneven and I had to start the fretjob again. On the other hand a fret, which is too flat can cause intonation-issues. But I took the risk and completed the work on the frets.
The next tasks were easy; I polished the frets first with 600 grain sanding-paper moving back and forth across the whole fretboard and last with a special japanese fret-polishing tool. Some people recommend much more steps for polishing, but my frets became smooth too.
At last I applied fretboard-oil and wax. The oil contains natural orange-oil and smells delicious. I had done this before, but the neck felt still very raw. Therefore I used more oil this time. I could not resist to play on the guitar after the fretjob and … oh, wonder: My effort pays back. I register
- 98% of the frets seem okay now. The notes ring clearly, no drop-outs or scratches across the fretboard. On one or two of the highest frets I still register some problems, but hey, even on my Gibson-guitar I register some spots were the fretjob is not perfect.
- I can adjust the string-action better and can achieve now an action as low as on my other guitars.
- After adjusting the intonation I can also state, that the guitar can intonate as good as a factory-made guitar.
- With 9-42 string-gauge the sound is very see-through (good separation of the strings) and seems to be made for extended chords with distortion. The low E could possibly benefit from a higher string-gauge, so I will later test a 9-46 set
Minor things to improve so far:
- The Volume-control needs a knob
- I will exchange the tuners, when the new set has arrived
- I will raise the EMG again, when I will change the strings the next time, because there is still space
I will now start to exercise on the guitar daily and observe, if I can register weak spots. I am very satisfied, because I am sure now, that I will finish the project with a playable and comfortable guitar, which I would also use for recordings. You can still expect more posts about the project, because I want to calculate the costs, compare it to other guitars, talk about the unique features, but today I can say
Mission complete, I can build a guitar from scratch!
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