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View Full Version : I Hate Sharp Frets... Normal? How to Fix?



molinee
04-03-2009, 02:16 PM
I have bought quite a few $180-$250 Concert and Tenor ukuleles that have arrived with sharp fret edges that cut into my index finger when playing. :mad: Should a buyer expect sharp frets in this price range? Also, is it possible for me to go ahead and file them out or will I scratch the heck out of the neck and fretboard? The ukuleles that I have had in this price range were Kala and Lanikai..... I have even read the some of some of the $300 ones still have sharp frets (Koa Pili Koko was named as one) ... Acceptable or Not? Thanks

hoosierhiver
04-05-2009, 03:46 PM
I wouldn't say it's acceptable, but it's not unheard of. You can file them with out too much trouble. Use masking tape to protect the wood around the fret and neck when you file it.

GrumpyCoyote
04-05-2009, 05:08 PM
Or if your nervous or tool impaired any good guitar repair place can do it... cheap too. Common job.

dirk.li
04-05-2009, 06:41 PM
I had the same problem with my Samick UK-70 Uke (which I really love, even though it's a cheap uke and made of plywood). I like the mellow and full sound of it, so I gave her a full treatment: filed out the sharp frets and also built in a passive pickup (man, it really hurt me to drill the 12 mm hole in the body of this fragile 4-stringed friend of mine!!!). I also oiled the fretboard with olive oil (there's probably some better agent on the market for this purpose???) - but olive oil did the job alright.
I think, if you love your uke, it's a pleasure to give it some cosmetic fixup, isn't it?
On the other hand, if you're talking about a more expensive uke, I wouldn't accept sharp frets. For example, if I received a Pono with sharp frets I would send her back immediately. But in case of the Samick, I even enjoyed doing some little work on my own... because it's such a cutie! (Hope you don't think I'm crazy now...)

buddhuu
04-05-2009, 10:00 PM
If you mean protruding sharp fret ends then I'd say it's not acceptable, even on low end ukes. In fact, in the past I have actually cut myself on protruding frets on guitars.

If you mean sharp as in they have been filed to about the right shape but then not dressed, smoothed and polished properly, then it's annoying, but not uncommon - and by no means confined to cheap instruments.

If it's the latter then you shouldn't need to file. Progressively fine grits of emery or wet&dry paper should do the trick. Mask off the fretboard and neck withe tape and then wrap the paper around two or three fingers and whiz it up and down the edge of the fretboard at an angle similar to that of the fret-end bevel. You're probably looking at an angle of about 45 degrees, but often you'll feel through the paper when you're at the correct angle. do a few whizzes tilted sightly further in each direction - steeper and shallower angle.

Don't use too coarse paper in a bid to do the job more quickly. That just introduces risk of removing too much material and scratching everything up.

As always, if you're nervous or clumsy don't risk damaging your uke. Seek advice from a pro or an experienced tweaker.

molinee
04-06-2009, 11:13 AM
Thanks to All... Really appreciate the help. The problem is that the frets themselves are sticking out beyond the neck on the sides which makes it difficult to sand with out marring the side of the neck. I think this is the condition you get when the neck shrinks due to low humidity. The top of the frets appears to be fine. If I ran a file along the sides of the neck to remove the excess frets I do believe I will take off some wood and finish for sure. I guess what bothers me most is that a new ukulele should arrive with decent frets and then it's up to the owner to keep it humidified... or not.

Jimmy
04-06-2009, 12:44 PM
On my new Pete Howlett uke the frets are pretty steep at the sides so when you slide with a bar chord it hurts a little. Didn't have this with my Kala. Don't mind to much though.

dirk.li
04-06-2009, 11:21 PM
If you mean protruding sharp fret ends then I'd say it's not acceptable, even on low end ukes. In fact, in the past I have actually cut myself on protruding frets on guitars.

If you mean sharp as in they have been filed to about the right shape but then not dressed, smoothed and polished properly, then it's annoying, but not uncommon - and by no means confined to cheap instruments.

If it's the latter then you shouldn't need to file. Progressively fine grits of emery or wet&dry paper should do the trick. Mask off the fretboard and neck withe tape and then wrap the paper around two or three fingers and whiz it up and down the edge of the fretboard at an angle similar to that of the fret-end bevel. You're probably looking at an angle of about 45 degrees, but often you'll feel through the paper when you're at the correct angle. do a few whizzes tilted sightly further in each direction - steeper and shallower angle.

Don't use too coarse paper in a bid to do the job more quickly. That just introduces risk of removing too much material and scratching everything up.

As always, if you're nervous or clumsy don't risk damaging your uke. Seek advice from a pro or an experienced tweaker.

Man, you are thorough!! (Are you a real German perhaps??) I could never muster the patience and energy to do all this... I just used an ordinary key file. It served the purpose quite well. :D

khrome
04-07-2009, 08:06 AM
Sadly, and suprisingly, my Pono has sharp fret ends at the higher frets. It hasn't bothered me yet since I don't play in that area much but eventually I'm going to fix them. So thanks for asking the question, and thanks for the answers!

GrumpyCoyote
04-07-2009, 08:26 PM
Sadly, and suprisingly, my Pono has sharp fret ends at the higher frets. It hasn't bothered me yet since I don't play in that area much but eventually I'm going to fix them. So thanks for asking the question, and thanks for the answers!

Yep - my Pono is like that too. They got lazy with the higher frets. It's not severe (I played some Portuguese brand this summer that actually broke skin) but just a little sloppy. Easy fix when I bother to get around to it.

buddhuu
04-07-2009, 10:30 PM
Man, you are thorough!! (Are you a real German perhaps??) I could never muster the patience and energy to do all this... I just used an ordinary key file. It served the purpose quite well. :D

:biglaugh: LOL.

Not German so far as I know!

The key file's fine too! :D

The reason I tend to post long-winded stuff and emphasise certain methods and tools is that I am used to doing setups and things for friends on their instruments. I have a morbid fear of wrecking someone else's beloved instrument. Where I might take shortcuts with my own, I daren't take risks with other people's - and I suppose that extends to suggestions offered here.

You're right about the patience thing. I always want the job done yesterday, and I curse solidly throughout whichever long, tedious process may be involved... :D

JTY
04-07-2009, 10:55 PM
My Pono had a few too, so I used a drafting metal eraser shield similar to this: http://www.duall.com/store/product/104739.104739/eraser-shield-template.html

masking tape the neck first, then carefully tape or hold the shield down firmly with the fret end poking thru a hole or slot, and then used a small jewelers file to dress the protruding fret(s) flush.

I have no idea how its to be properly done, but this worked for me. :shaka:

khrome
04-07-2009, 11:12 PM
My Pono had a few too, so I used a drafting metal eraser shield similar to this: http://www.duall.com/store/product/104739.104739/eraser-shield-template.html

masking tape the neck first, then carefully tape or hold the shield down firmly with the fret end poking thru a hole or slot, and then used a small jewelers file to dress the protruding fret(s) flush.

I have no idea how its to be properly done, but this worked for me. :shaka:

OOH I have one of those somewhere!! Thanks for the tip!

scooterguitar
04-08-2009, 03:31 AM
Also keep in mind...dry conditions, like 3/4 of the USA in the winter use forced heating in homes, unless the instrument is properly humidified the wood actually shrinks in dry conditions, thus the fret tangs/ends might hang over a wee causing it to feel sharper than it really is. Make sure you get it up to proper humidity level for a few days before messing with them. Yes, even on laminate woods, etc, the fretboard is usually solid wood.
I leave my main player electrics out year round, even though they are excellent instruments they still do this when too dry, just an fyi.

ichadwick
04-10-2009, 02:40 AM
Sadly, and suprisingly, my Pono has sharp fret ends at the higher frets. It hasn't bothered me yet since I don't play in that area much but eventually I'm going to fix them. So thanks for asking the question, and thanks for the answers!
I had the same problem with two Ponos. My tenor/cedar top was worse, but the fret ends on the mango were also rougher than I thought acceptable for a higher-end uke. certainly MUCH rougher than any other uke I've bought - Kala, Ohana, Mainland, Eleuke, Republic, etc.

The way I play made me feel these rough fret edges every time I picked the uks up, so I stopped playing them in favour of other smoother-edged ukes. But they're too nice to leave in a case, so I decided to fix them myself.

Simple solution: buy a micro-file set from any hardware or tool store. They run $10-$20 locally and have several small files. They're also called 'hobbyist' files. One of these will be two-sided, flat and about 1/4" wide. That's the one I used.

Here's what I did:

Loosen or remove the E string first.

Gently lay the file on the frets at the rough side, parallel to the edge of the fret board, but slightly tilted towards the centre of the fretboard so the fret ends will get a bevel. It shouldn't be touching the wood, just the fret edges.

Lightly move the file up and down a few times - two, three times, four at most. Remove, test. Still rough? Repeat. Smooth? Stop.

It took five minutes and the result was a MUCH more playable uke.

dirk.li
04-11-2009, 03:23 AM
:biglaugh: LOL.

Not German so far as I know!

The key file's fine too! :D

The reason I tend to post long-winded stuff and emphasise certain methods and tools is that I am used to doing setups and things for friends on their instruments. I have a morbid fear of wrecking someone else's beloved instrument. Where I might take shortcuts with my own, I daren't take risks with other people's - and I suppose that extends to suggestions offered here.

You're right about the patience thing. I always want the job done yesterday, and I curse solidly throughout whichever long, tedious process may be involved... :D

I wouldn't dare to do any work on a friend's instrument. Btw. Yesterday I disassembled my Jonson Resonator uke, which is - fankly speaking - a peace of junk. Inside it looks pretty much like a junkyard, lots of glue used, some screws, rusty metal and a coarse lath keeping the thing together. Some Chinese scribbled symbols on the lath even. *lol* I was quite shocked! :eek: The nut had come loose, that's why I disassembled the thing and when I saw the general condition of it, I decided to just use Loctite to glue the nut back on. And it seems to be quite solid now. First I thought about selling the thing again, but then again, I can't sell it to noone without a bad conscience, so I decided to keep it and just make the best of it... It looks acceptable from the outside and sounds ok.

ichadwick
04-12-2009, 03:04 AM
Yesterday I disassembled my Jonson Resonator uke, which is - fankly speaking - a peace of junk.
I had a Republic - which is almost a clone of the Johnson - and took it apart. I found it clean and well-kept inside, no rust, no glue spots. I had no complaints about the build aside from the saddle, which was more a choice of materials than construction. Republics are apparently set up in the USA, which may explain the difference. The sole reason I sold it was because I greatly prefer tenor scale to concert.

If this is the same company that makes Johnson harmonicas, then the lack of quality control is found across the company.

dirk.li
04-12-2009, 08:17 AM
I had a Republic - which is almost a clone of the Johnson - and took it apart. I found it clean and well-kept inside, no rust, no glue spots. I had no complaints about the build aside from the saddle, which was more a choice of materials than construction. Republics are apparently set up in the USA, which may explain the difference. The sole reason I sold it was because I greatly prefer tenor scale to concert.

If this is the same company that makes Johnson harmonicas, then the lack of quality control is found across the company.

Hi! Well, I think you really can't compare a Republic (which is an established brand with quite a reputation) with a Johnson, company founded 1993, made in China. I've only seen a Republic on YouTube videos so far and I could imagine that the Johnson is a replica of the Republic. Btw, I also prefer tenor scale to concert. On a concert scale instrument I have difficulties placing three fingers next to each other (for example to play a D major chord) without touching any other strings. I prefer the tenor scale because the frets are spaced farther from each other. :)

pdxuke
03-08-2010, 06:03 PM
On a personal buying note, I don't think either scenario is acceptable. If I pay to have a uke setup, or if proper setup is advertised as part of the service, then I expect that the uke will have frets that are not sharp, or undressed. As a customer, I expect that as part of set-up.

SweetWaterBlue
03-08-2010, 07:10 PM
I have not yet had the luxury of buying a uke that was set up properly (my plastic fretboard Flea being the exception). Either that, or they dried out and created sharp frets before I got them. None were advertised as set up, so I knew it was a crap shoot when I bought them, and one was a gift. On all of them I watched some of the excellent videos on YouTube about fixing sharp frets on guitars, got myself a nail file with a smooth edge, some masking tape and sandpaper, some super glue, a small hard rubber hammer, and went to work fixing them. It takes time, but its not rocket science.

I have found 3 distinct problems that I have had to fix:

1. Some frets jut out beyond the width of the fretboard (probably due to drying out of the wood). Those need to be filed down at roughly a 45 degree angle to meet the fretboard again. If you don't tape the fretboard first, you will most likely mar it up.

2. Most frets on cheap (under $200) ukuleles have never been properly rounded after the fret wire was cut off. They have very sharp corners. To fix them, you need a file with a smooth side on the narrow edge. You can then lay that side on the tape next to the fret and proceed to round the fret. There is a good YT vid on this HERE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw_ufo-COIs).

3. Some frets are just up too high on the edge because they were not properly set, or they popped up. Many can be pused back down and a small drop of super glue will hold them. A real luthier would probably remove them and reseat them. Some I have just put a drop of super glue on the edge to fill the gap. Then, I sanded it down with very fine sandpaper.

I understand that sometimes a minor sharp fret problem can be fixed just by re-humidifying the neck, but I have not run across one that easy yet.

If I ever buy a new expensive ukulele and it has fret problems, I am gonna be pissed.

luvdat
03-09-2010, 12:23 AM
Overall the best fretwork on the $200 or something (and even less expensive models) I have tried out have been on Kalas.

Skrik
03-09-2010, 04:57 AM
This is the reason all my future purchases will be going through businesses that set up their ukuleles: MGM, Mainland, etc.

fhorndog
03-16-2010, 03:52 PM
....... I also oiled the fretboard with olive oil (there's probably some better agent on the market for this purpose???) - but olive oil did the job alright.
...)
That would be lemon oil. I picked up a bottle yesterday from a music store. Good stuff!

thistle3585
03-17-2010, 08:16 AM
This is the reason all my future purchases will be going through businesses that set up their ukuleles: MGM, Mainland, etc.

The setup wont matter much if the instrument was built in 45% relative humidity and your home has less humidity.

I think the setup issues that are related to factory instruments have to do with the rate in which they are pushed through the system. I noticed on my own instruments early on that I needed to allow for more dry time after gluing on the fretboard. I believe the moisture from the glue swells the fretboard and if you fret and dress it too soon then the board will shrink as the glue cures thus exposing the fret ends. I think this is one reason why manufacturers rely on their dealers to do setups at the time the instrument is put on dispaly. Unfortunately, not all stores are capable or willing to do it. I don't see it being a quality control issue at the factory but one of customer service at the store.

UkuEroll
03-17-2010, 01:18 PM
My Pono had a few too, so I used a drafting metal eraser shield similar to this: http://www.duall.com/store/product/104739.104739/eraser-shield-template.html

masking tape the neck first, then carefully tape or hold the shield down firmly with the fret end poking thru a hole or slot, and then used a small jewelers file to dress the protruding fret(s) flush.

I have no idea how its to be properly done, but this worked for me. :shaka:
Thanks for the heads up on that, went on ebay and found one for just 2.50 it works perfect, I was wanting to file the frets on my Mainland but didn't want to damage it but with this its a doddle.