AKA: 10 Minute Level & Crown
It happens. You bought the guitar in a McDonald’s parking lot at night. Sure, you pulled the unwound strings aside and studied the cowboy frets but you were in a hurry and the light was dim.
You’re only paying fifty bucks, so what’s the risk? Right?
Well, you can probably only charge $99 even after a full setup, clean & polish, new strings, etc. That $50 profit starts to disappear when you notice the shallow grooves worn in the first four frets!
Fret wear! Damn! Now you gotta level and crown and lose another hour or more. You’d have made more money per hour if you’d just applied for a job at that McDonalds!
Maybe not. Let’s turn that hour+ level & crown job into a 10 minute task, shall we? ‘How?’ Well, I’m glad you asked!
Grab your fret protector, three grades of sandpaper – #400, #800 & #1200, #0000 steel wool and Naptha. Let’s get to work!
Starting at fret #1, being careful to keep even pressure and to work each fret evenly from E to e (or whatever your instrument has), use that #400 grit to work the fret top, but also the crown, so we retain the crown shape, until the wear disappears. No more than necessary, just enough to vanish the wear.
Now, keeping in mind about how much time, number of strokes, pressure, etc, work fret #2 but try to just barely stop a bit sooner than the previous fret.
Rinse and repeat until all worn frets have been “leveled”. Now continue up the fretboard (remember “up” means “down toward the guitar body” in guitar-speak!) giving every fret just a few strokes.
Follow up with #800 grit with an eye toward removing the scratch marks from the previous sanding. Then do the same with #1200 grit.
If your fretboard is a dark, unfinished wood, you won’t need your fret protector and you can use Naptha to help your #0000 steel wool clean the fretboard while it “polishes” the frets.
Finally, if you’ve got one, pull out your Dremel, a polish wheel and some rouge and polish those frets until you need sunglasses! Just kidding! In fact, you want to be careful not to spend much time on each fret with the Dremel because the heat generated by friction could loosen any glue used to hold the frets down.
I buff the frets afterward, then condition the fretboard with furniture polish. I use “Old English” with “lemon oil”. Don’t believe the malarky you’ve read on guitar forums about how bad lemon oil is for guitar fretboards.
First off, lemons don’t make an oil. Secondly, no actual lemons were harmed in the making of this polish! It’s just a chemical to give it a more pleasant odor.
After twenty minutes to allow the polish to work its way into the fretboard, buff again. Now you’re ready to restring and sell your guitar with “No visible fret wear”!
More images & info coming – I’m not quite finished writing this page