Fret dressing file

Vespa Bob

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My least favorite task in uke construction is dressing the fret ends. I can never get them to even vaguely look alike, nor can I avoid gauging out chunks of the fretboard no matter how I try. I have the best results using a four sided tool, of which two sides are toothed and two are "safe". However, the teeth on this particular file are fairly course, leaving the fret ends a little on the rough side, requiring further dressing and opportunities for more wood gauging!
Enter the Fret Guru Ultimate Fret End File 2, which I discovered on Amazon, of all places! The teeth on this file are really fine and although I'm yet to try it out, I'm sure it will produce great results. I still have to work on avoiding filing the surrounding wood!

Bob
 
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sequoia

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I know exactly what you are talking about. I feel your pain. I've never been able to get that little sharp bit on the fret tangs rounded without a little gouging of the wood. Will be interested to see how this miraculous file works.

frets.jpg

Ultimate fret end file
 

dwizum

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I use a plain old fine-cut flat file with a smooth edge. I've tried a few of the purpose-sold files and haven't found them any better. Even the "safest" file will gouge the fretboard if used wrongly - the technique is really the trick as much as the tool. Practice at a slow speed until you get the feel. When I show people how to do this in person, the two common mistakes I see are people who push way too hard, and people who push in the wrong direction, if that makes sense. The file should need very little pressure - after all, the object you're trying to cut is a nearly pinpoint-small bit of very soft metal - a good sharp file will almost cut with it's own weight. And the file really needs to be guided along so the pressure is sideways, against the fret end, and not downwards, towards the fretboard. I twist my wrist as the file runs along the corner of the fret, so the file starts out almost parallel to the fret and ends up almost parallel to the edge of the fretboard. That produces a nice rounded shape in maybe 3 or 4 swipes per corner. Get in a good rhythm and it's maybe 10 minutes for the whole fretboard.
 

resoman

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I use a triangular file with the edges ground off. Like dwizum said, any file will leave marks if used improperly
 
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painter's tape butted up against the frets lying on the board helps some.
I file mine like dwizum with just a nail file.
I'm not doing fine work, just cleaning up frets on cheaper ukes.
 
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Timbuck

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I don’t use one ..I do it another way...never had a complaint.
 

dwizum

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I know some bass guitar builders who just buzz the whole edge of the fretboard with a special flap disk that alternates sandpaper and scotchbrite style flaps. It seems like the most foolproof and effective method but those wheels are pricey, so I haven't tried it yet.
 

Vespa Bob

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I also have used an old ignition points file (remember those?). It's small and flat and fine toothed. I have to wait until I remove the masking tape from my current project's fretboard before I'm able to give the new one a try.

Bob
 

sequoia

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Another trick I learned from a Mya-Moe video was after you fret the fretboard, take a random orbital sander with fine grit and quickly make two passes (no more!) at a 30 degree angle on the fret ends. This gives you a consistent bevel on the fret ends and leaves a tiny shelf on the edge of the fretboard giving good access to the tang edges. Of course the fret ends still need to be dressed as usual, but the consistent bevel eliminates filing the fret end bevel on each fret making it a faster process. It looks good too. The trick is not overdoing it. Zip zip, zip zip and you are done. Gotta live power tools.