Fixing fret ends that stick out in dry weather

Issue 13 January 18, 2007

File back those pesky fret ends!


When the weather gets dry, our customers call me crying, “OUCH! The frets are sticking out on the sides of my guitar neck!” So this is what I tell ’em...

Taming unruly fret ends is quick and easy

Yep, dry weather does strange things to guitars. Their wood contracts, so they crack and warp. They even shrink: when the fingerboard dries out, it shrinks back so the metal fret ends stick out. Sometimes they’re sharp enough to tear up your hands.

Fret before filing

Protect the body

With bolt-on necks, it’s a good idea to take the neck off before filing. That way, you can’t slip and nick the body with your file. If the neck’s staying on, protect the body by masking it with index cards and low-tack tape.

Protect the body

File the frets back

Carefully file the fret ends so they’re flush with the fingerboard edge. I use my large three-corner file (also called a cant saw file). Be careful to file the metal only, stopping just as the file comes in contact with the finish. A fret leveling file is also good for this job; I just happen to prefer the finer cut of the three-corner file.

I like to use a 3-corner file...

File the fret back

... a more common fret file is ok, too.

Use a file cleaning brush frequently, to get rid of gritty filings that could scratch the fret ends or finish.

Round the ends

A light touch with a fret end dressing file removes any remaining sharp edges, leaving smooth and rounded fret ends that won’t slice your fingers.

Round the ends

Last step: polish to shine

If you want to show off, buff the fret ends with micro-mesh pads! You can get a mirror finish with these. Minor file scratches on the fingerboard will disappear, too.

Fret after polishing

You’re ready to start playing again — as soon as your cuts heal from those fret ends!

Too dry?

When the humidity gets too low, a room humidifier is a great idea. You can get one in a discount store for under $40.

0386 Acoustic Guitar Humidifier

A soundhole humidifier is a good idea (keep your guitar in a case to keep it humidified).

Related items