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View Full Version : Fret dressing, what a pain it is for me!



Vespa Bob
11-25-2014, 09:41 AM
Building ukuleles has become an obsession with me, filling the void left behind when I stopped building RC model aircraft. Every available moment is spent in the shop working away in an effort to get the current project done so that I can start on the next one! And, I don't even try to sell them, since so far I haven't produced one without some flaw or blemish. Nonetheless, creating these wonderful little instruments is a joyful experience, apart from certain tasks, take dressing frets, for example. Fret slotting, no problem, fret installing, no problem, leveling an beveling frets, no problem, but removing those sharp edges that remain after beveling, big problem! No matter how I try, I can't stop marring the fret board edges around the fret end. I have tried using masking tape between the frets, but it is too thin to be of any help. I've also tried those shim protectors, but they are too thick!
I'm using a small fine flat file with smooth edges and work as carefully as I can, but the edge of the file still catches on the board, driving me nuts. There's got to be a better way, since most of the ukuleles you pro's post here, have perfect fret boards, or is it just a matter of practice, practice?
I'd also like to hear from others the tasks during building that they find the least enjoyable.

Bob

Kent Chasson
11-25-2014, 10:21 AM
Try grinding a tiny bevel on the edge of the file. If the teeth stop just a few thousandths of an inch short of the corner, it is much less prone to digging in.

I also finish up the fret ends with 3M sponge backed abrasives (super-fine, ultra-fine, then micro-fine). The sponge conforms around the fret ends and rounds over the fretboard edge a bit removing small file marks and making nice transitions around all the frets. The micro-fine leaves a pretty good finish but I tape off the board and buff as a last step.

rudy
11-25-2014, 10:54 AM
Vespa, It's something everyone wrestles with initially. Here's a YouTube I posted on how to make your own spiffy combination flat / safe edge fret end finishing file and my method for finishing the ends.


http://youtu.be/Oeng_VEI-os?list=UUmGah3yJRPbSC8Z6nCmOBfw

Chris_H
11-25-2014, 11:15 AM
There is a diamond crowning file, I cannot recall who sells it, but I have one and it works well. After the flattening, and any other elevation cutting, this diamond file crowns the fret tops. Someone else here knows who sells the files. They are a little over $100. There is a thread on this forum with details of the seller, and which file it is. Get one.

Most important is to realize that every little bit of movement that whatever cutting tool makes across the tops or ends of your frets, be sure that every movement is moving you closer towards shaping the frets like you want them to be. One stroke, one cut. In terms of a paint brush, "Stroke it, don't tickle it" Every cut has intent.

As for 'least enjoyable'.... the setup of an instrument might be the very most important bits. I am just a beginner, but I know well already, that dressing frets is one of the very most important bits of creating a fine instrument. It is time to have a cup of tea, and let your most creative juices flow in search of perfection. For me, I like to think of how those strings are moving, of why I am filing frets, including the fret ends. Personally, I love 'blueprinting' the frets, and then merging that with my current understanding of what vibrating strings do, then, shaping the frets like I think they should be.

I like for my very best work to be present here, mostly because I know that there is a lot of subtlety that 'counts' that I may or may not be aware of.


Working with a hand file is a skill that takes practice. Work slowly, and with as much attention as you can muster.

Michael N.
11-25-2014, 11:23 AM
Place the file between the actual fretboard and the bottom corner of the fret. The motion of the file should be immediately upwards, towards the apex of the fret. It's done in one stroke, with a rolling action. As such the file never really touches the fretboard whilst it is in motion. All you really need to do is spoil the edge of the fret a touch.

Pete Howlett
11-25-2014, 12:04 PM
Correct Michael - you cannot get into the edge of the seated fret with a rounded edge. I use an adapted needle file and a forward rotating motion AFTER carefully placing the safe edge of the file at the corner. Just requires a bit of practice.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-25-2014, 12:22 PM
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?102382-Fretting-a-bound-fingerboard-and-semihemishperical-fret-ends-VIDEO
.

Epoxy some wood to the file for better control, or buy one

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
11-25-2014, 12:24 PM
Correct Michael - you cannot get into the edge of the seated fret with a rounded edge. I use an adapted needle file and a forward rotating motion AFTER carefully placing the safe edge of the file at the corner. Just requires a bit of practice.

Exactly what I do and with the same needle file with one edge ground "safe". The motion is "push and roll" (push away from the fret and roll toward the it). It only takes one swipe, maybe two to round those fret ends.

DennisK
11-25-2014, 12:25 PM
I like bound fretboards and spherical fret ends, which avoids the problem entirely if you shape the frets before installing them. Pretty time consuming, and tough on the fingers, but the result is great. And has the added benefit that you can make the frets just a touch narrower than the board to ensure that you'll never snag fingernails on the ends, even in low humidity when they'd normally poke out.

Here's my process:
1. Cut frets to length, as close to exact as possible.

2. Cut the tang off at the ends. One stroke with a specialized tang nipper, or two strokes using the flush ground nippers that I cut them to length with. Either way, there's some amount of bur left on the bottom of the fret.
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3. File the bur off, until the bottom of the fret crown is flat and shiny.
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4. Few strokes on the extra-extra-coarse dia-sharp stone to round the end of the fret, as seen from above. Also a few strokes to finalize the length at this stage.
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5. Couple more strokes to round it, as seen from the side.
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6. Lots of strokes on a fine diamond stone to complete the 3-dimensional rounding, followed by a quick rub on various grits of sandpaper and micromesh to shine it up.
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Doesn't take that long to do it once, but two ends per fret and 19 frets gets pretty tiresome.

Vespa Bob
11-25-2014, 05:52 PM
Wow, you guys are awesome! Your advice and videos have been such a help. What I learned most was that my methods were similar to those shown here, demonstrating that cleaning up fret ends is just a time consuming job, no matter who does it!
Dennis, your method of finishing the fret ends first certainly has some merit as there is little likelihood of damaging the fret board that way, but must be extremely time consuming!
Pete and Michael, what you describe is what I attempt to do, but obviously need more practice! I notice that you file from the inside of the fret board outwards, while I have been filing from the outside inwards, if you know what I mean.
Beau, thanks so much for the explanatory video, most helpful.
Chris_H, I have a crowning file and use it, but it is the cleaning up of the fret ends where I have trouble.
Rudy and Kent, your advice was also very useful. I'm sure that my next fretting job will turn out a lot better!
Thanks, again for giving up your time and knowledge!

Bob

DennisK
11-25-2014, 08:49 PM
Dennis, your method of finishing the fret ends first certainly has some merit as there is little likelihood of damaging the fret board that way, but must be extremely time consuming!
Yes and no. It does take a long time, but I used to do it the same way as Beau's video, and it was about the same. Just no scuffing of the board edge this way, so I prefer it. I might actually be able to make it faster, by using a crowning file to do the rounding instead of the diamond stones. I'll be trying that on my next one...

VegasGeorge
11-26-2014, 02:20 AM
I bought two Ukuleles that came with really bad fret ends, sharp and scratchy. They were tearing the skin on my fingers. So, I bought one of these:http://www.ebay.com/itm/Hiroshima-Files-Uo-Chikyu-Fret-End-Dressing-File/111449127795?_trksid=p2047675.c100011.m1850&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%2 6asc%3D25214%26meid%3Ddb210ad79b2f4e1a94be758cdcf1 1534%26pid%3D100011%26prg%3D10628%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3 D10%26sd%3D121336103516

It has one rounded edge, and one smooth flat edge. When it arrived, I sat down and carefully dressed my fret ends. It only took about twenty minutes for both Ukes. Now they are perfect. And, there was no hint of any damage to the fretboards, none. So, I think that using a file like the one I have is a perfect solution.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-26-2014, 05:55 AM
Yes and no. It does take a long time, but I used to do it the same way as Beau's video, and it was about the same. Just no scuffing of the board edge this way, so I prefer it. I might actually be able to make it faster, by using a crowning file to do the rounding instead of the diamond stones. I'll be trying that on my next one...

I always have to come in with a razor blade and scrape the edges clean then i wipe ca glue over it all.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-26-2014, 11:02 AM
I've semi semihemified this fretboard :)

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and a new video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTVYHHTzl6M&feature=youtu.be