Results 1 to 22 of 22

Thread: Fret Dress or Not?

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Tangent OR
    Posts
    573

    Default Fret Dress or Not?

    Hello,

    I'm having tuners changed this week, so it would be an opportune time for fret work. Do you think the grooves in the pic warrant dressing? No buzz yet, but 6 years of frequent playing.

    Thanks!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_1806.JPG 
Views:	166 
Size:	813.0 KB 
ID:	170168  
    2012 Collings MT, Honey Amber Gloss with Tone Gard

    Kentucky KM-276 (well, I used to have just one )

    Proplec Picks

    www.the-kindreds.com

  2. #2
    Registered User slimt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Alberta
    Posts
    204

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    I think so...dressing is better than replacing.

  3. #3
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    1,940
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    In a word ... Yes. It's time. Dress once then replace. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  4. #4
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Blue Zone, California
    Posts
    911

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    Those are deep grooves. If you can imagine leveling all the frets down to the level of the lowest groove, that's a bunch of pretty low frets. Still playable maybe, but very close to marginal fret height from a tone and playability standpoint.

    So, options mentioned include to level or replace the frets. There's a 3rd option, that is to replace only the badly grooved frets and then only do a minor level and dressing. This might save you the optimum playable height of the rest of your good frets.

    I had grooves just about that deep with the original traditional thin frets on my F-9, running 3/4 of the way up the neck. I wanted "banjo width" Gold Evo frets anyway, so I took the opportunity to have a complete fret replacement done. The new frets are a dream to play. At the same time I also got my neck's deep V profile gently rounded, got the neck speed necked, got a new nut and a pro-setup. I've never been happier with my F-9.

    Good luck with your decision making!
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002
    Gibson F-9
    2016 "$199.00 solid F style" MKLFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)

  5. #5
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Manchester - Lancashire - NW England
    Posts
    13,930

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    Rob - I'd go with Don's post above. I'd play it until it started to buzz,& then have the frets replaced with EVO Gold ones. From what i've read on here,the EVO Gold frets are very hard wearing indeed & well worth the up-grade from standard Nickel frets. In fact i have 1 1/2 metres of it waiting to be used on any of my 3 when it's required,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,373

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    A simple thing I have been doing for dented frets the last couple years. Instead of leveling them and taking down good frets for nothing, or replacing the dented frets, yours aren't that bad, I simply crown the dented frets down to where the dents are still there, but barely. Since you are not buzzing the height is not a problem and it will give you a few more years then maybe a partial replacement. Or if they are not bad the same crowning again.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  7. #7
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    677

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    Ditto Pops. It will extend the usefulness of the current frets. When they can no longer be re-crowned, the grooved frets can be replaced and the rest left alone.

    Dressing all the frets down to the depth of the grooves will make the instrument harder to play.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    I've become a true believer in good fretwork, especially since I took it upon myself to learn fret leveling and crowning. Yes there are stopgap measures that will prolong the need for fretwork, but to me that is akin to buying used tires for your car. You may think your mandolin plays ok, but new frets will tell the tale.

    And if you think the work costs too much, the more I work on instruments as a hobby, the more I think someone trying to earn a living is very reasonable. When I do work for friends, I'm making minimum wage, which is about what my work is worth,LOL.

    I invested about $150 in tools and went to town. After about three guitar necks I felt like I was getting somewhere. Every fret level has been an improvement and I've done two completed fret jobs now.

    Get at least a partial fret job.
    Silverangel A
    Michael Kelly LSFTB
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  9. #9
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 pc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,604

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    Darling, do I look fret in this dress?
    sorry, no way I could pass this one up...
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  10. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,373

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Every fret level has been an improvement and I've done two completed fret jobs now.

    Get at least a partial fret job.
    Between rcc56 and myself we probably have 50 years of instrument repair between us. If someone were to come to my shop with dents as small as yours I would replace the dented frets if they insisted on it, but in no way could I in good conscience recommend spending the amount to replace the dented frets. Yours are minimal compared to many I have seen. My frets were worse than yours and I have crowned them 3 times and they are still fine. Am looking to replace mine with EVO when I have time, but no hurry they still play fine.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  11. The following members say thank you to pops1 for this post:

    sblock 

  12. #11
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    PTC GA
    Posts
    1,007

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    I assume the OP is using this forum to get a "second opinion" since the mandolin apparently will be in the hands of someone with experience in mandolin repair and maintenance. Opinions from a photograph can't be as reliable as an in-hand evaluation. That said, I agree that a "light fret dressing", i.e. reducing but not eliminating the dents, as described above may be a good option if there is no buzzing and no intonation issue at this time. If it is the Collings (apparently it is), then replacing the frets makes sense to put a good mandolin back in top shape. To accomplish that, I would not recommend a partial fret job.
    Tom
    Haywood Music Instruments
    Facebook ; Instagram

  13. #12
    Registered User Buck's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    KY
    Posts
    278

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    I'm not a fan of "fret dressing" since it cuts good, unworn frets down to the level of the worn frets. Plus it necessitates cutting the nut slots deeper, which will ultimately force you to replace the nut when you later complete a full re-fret. Unless you want to change fret material or size, then a partial re-fret makes the most sense. You have a perfect set of full height frets and the no reason to assault the nut.

    I'm also unclear on how dressing just the worn frets helps the situation. You're not changing the level of the playing surface (the bottom of the grooves) and unless string bending is a problem, playability it unchanged. Overall you end up with various fret heights on the same board and nut slots that are too high compared to the first fret.
    Todd Yates

  14. #13

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    Fret dressing removes fret material from all frets to the level of the worst divot on the fretboard. I have not experienced any difference in playability if it was the first fret level. Yes eventually you run out of material and need new frets. As to nut issues, they can be replaced, shimmed or refilled and cut. We are talking about something that might last years. Cutting a new nut is no big deal.

    What you want is dead flat fret heights. What that gives you is the best possible action without buzzing. It is well worth the trouble.
    Silverangel A
    Michael Kelly LSFTB
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  15. #14
    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Chattanooga, TN
    Posts
    299
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    I dressed the frets on my Eastman yesterday. They are only 2.5 years old, but with wider grooves than shown. At the time time, I lowered my action because I didn't realize how much it had raised over time (or maybe I'd just gotten used to it).

    What I got was a more playable instrument with a clean and smooth fingerboard.

    In reality, like Br1ck said, it only took about an hour for a fix that'll last another 2.5 years. In your case, it sounds like you could triple that return on investment.

    To me, it's like using dull cutting tools. They'll suffice for a while, in some cases, but you'll use less effort and get better results with fresh ones.

  16. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,373

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    What rcc56 and I are talking about is not leveling only the dented frets, but simply crowning. If the level is fine with the dents since you won't take them completely out it will be the same as it is now. The dents will be tiny things in the center of the fret, but the string will still touch the fret where it now does. If you level all the frets for the problem of just these few then you will need to do a complete fret job as opposed to replacing a few frets down the line. There are many ways to do what you seek to do, some wear out the frets faster than others. What I am suggesting wears out the frets at the slowest while keeping playability.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  17. #16
    Registered User Buck's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    KY
    Posts
    278

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    What rcc56 and I are talking about is not leveling only the dented frets, but simply crowning. If the level is fine with the dents since you won't take them completely out it will be the same as it is now. The dents will be tiny things in the center of the fret, but the string will still touch the fret where it now does. If you level all the frets for the problem of just these few then you will need to do a complete fret job as opposed to replacing a few frets down the line. There are many ways to do what you seek to do, some wear out the frets faster than others. What I am suggesting wears out the frets at the slowest while keeping playability.
    Other than appearance, what have you changed by doing that? It seems like a fair amount of work for no practical benefit.
    Todd Yates

  18. #17
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    1,842

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    +1 to that. If you are not actually experiencing any serious problems fretting, and you are not yet hearing any buzzing, then why get this worked on? You would just be solving a problem that you don't have! I think the conservative advice would be to keep playing until the time come to replace the worn frets in question. And leave all the others. Your frets are not all wearing very evenly; just a few have these grooves. You don't want to take all the rest down to the lowest common denominator.

  19. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Driftwood, Texas, USA
    Posts
    255

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    You've got a good range of opinions here. I'll add some more.

    I believe that it's really worth finding a luthier who's great at what he or she does and really taking their advise and letting them do what's best for your instrument.

    If you've got big flat spots on your frets, even if you're not experiencing buzzing, your mandolin won't play in tune. It just won't -- because when you fret you're now effectively shortening the string at the front edge of the fret, which will make that note a bit sharp. That may not be enough to notice on an electric bass or even a guitar but a mandolin scale is much shorter and that little bit of fret width makes a big difference.

    If I was paying for fret dressing I'd want it done properly, that is completely -- not leaving any flat spots. A good luthier will know how to do this without taking off extra metal beyond what's needed.

    That said, not every luthier does great fret work. I think it's worth paying for someone who's really good at their craft -- and mandolins are smaller, so precision seems to matter more.

    Thanks for listening. Good luck,

    Paul
    Paul Glasse
    Driftwood, Texas
    http://paulglasse.com

  20. #19
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    677

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    One thing that I have learned that still does not seem to be well understood among either players or repairmen is that every thousandth of an inch that you reduce the height of frets beyond .035" on mandolins and .040" on guitars makes an instrument harder to play. This is because the fingertips start to bump into the fretboard before the string is firmly seated across the fret. The lower the frets, the harder you have to push, and the more likely it is that you will start to dig divots in the fretboard.

    I generally re-crown lightly grooved frets with good results unless the customer wants them replaced. If the frets are severely grooved, they absolutely should be replaced. Even if they are not buzzing, they will, as Paul has stated, note sharp. I do not believe in dressing 20 frets down because 5 of them are grooved.

    Those who wish to debate endlessly about this are certainly free to do so. But I will recommend to owners that they get their advice from experienced repair persons, and take the advice of armchair theorists with a grain a salt.

  21. The following members say thank you to rcc56 for this post:

    pops1 

  22. #20
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,373

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    What rcc56 and I are talking about is crowning to simply bring where the string touches back to the center of the fret without disturbing anything else. It is much cheaper than a fret level, leaves the height, and works beautifully.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  23. #21

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    I guess where I'm coming from is that now I'm comfortable with the process and can do my own work, I'm not so concerned with cost or time, being that I'm retired. I have had pro players play my new build and like the action and overall playability. So if I shorten fret life, I'll just do a refret.

    I will however recrown next time and evaluate the results and go from there.

    I had a guitar refretted once that was fine for many years. One day it became unplayable.Just like that.
    Silverangel A
    Michael Kelly LSFTB
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  24. The following members say thank you to Br1ck for this post:

    pops1 

  25. #22
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Tangent OR
    Posts
    573

    Default Re: Fret Dress or Not?

    Thanks for all the input everyone! The repair tech recommended not doing anything since there was no buzzing. He didn't want to level the frets if there were no symptoms, although he would have gladly done so had I insisted; I was indeed looking for second opinions. This is a great collective of experience!! I decided to wait for now and see how it goes. I still don't detect any issues with new strings. I do like the sound of the EVO fret wire - I think there will be some in my future.

    Cheers,

    Rob
    2012 Collings MT, Honey Amber Gloss with Tone Gard

    Kentucky KM-276 (well, I used to have just one )

    Proplec Picks

    www.the-kindreds.com

  26. The following members say thank you to RobP for this post:

    sblock 

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •