Fret-ends are killing me

mw13068

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jul 29, 2009
6,950
Ithaca, NY
No, not literally. I've Loved strats for many years, and I have a favorite, that I never play anymore. Why? Because my $200 SX-335 with a set bound neck feels so much better.

I'm done with feeling the fret ends on my maple fingerboard strat neck. It doesn't bother some people, but it bugs the hell out of me.

Are there bound strat necks out there with maple fingerboards?
 

mw13068

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jul 29, 2009
6,950
Ithaca, NY
Why not fix the fret ends? If you do that now, in the season of low humidity, you'll never have a problem with them again.

But you can get a bound maple neck from Warmoth, etc.. The fret ends still show though.

I've got Stewmac fret end files, I've watched videos, I've worked on them again and again. When I'm finished, the neck still feels like a POS compared to a much cheaper guitar with a bound neck.
 

Ruscio

Senior Stratmaster
Silver Member
Nov 14, 2016
2,607
Pennsylvania
I've got Stewmac fret end files, I've watched videos, I've worked on them again and again. When I'm finished, the neck still feels like a POS compared to a much cheaper guitar with a bound neck.

It doesn't sound like you have anything to lose by keeping at it with this neck. There's some metal sticking out at the fret ends, it needs to be removed. Is it the tang extending out through the neck? Is it the fret atop the neck? Either can be filed off, and it sounds like you have the tools to get everything as smooth/rounded as you might like. I don't think there's any magic or mystery here, just patience. If you tried and it didn't work, you didn't go far enough.
 

Bob Spumoni

Senior Stratmaster
May 5, 2019
1,892
New England
It's an easy fix. I think of it as routine maintenance. When I change strings, I fiddle with 'em. The key thing is getting a file with a true safe edge that works for you, I picked up a little square thing at a junk shop 30 years ago, and that's my fret guy for life. His name is Nicholson.

Fwiw, you can get fret sprout with some sorts of bound fretboards.
 

Slunkboy

Strat-Talker
Jan 15, 2020
120
Chicago, IL
You want what you want, but beware that bound necks can bulge due to low humidity too.

I had sworn off my beloved glossy maple necks due to fret end issues, but I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and learn how to care for them.

A plain vanilla flat file is sufficient to take care of minor fret sprout, but sometimes the ends still need to be gently rounded off. For that, a triangle file with a Dremeled flat side is just the thing. You can lay the flat edge on the neck immediately adjacent to the fret and work your way closer until the rough part of the file grabs the metal. It takes plenty of patience, but it’s absolutely do-able.

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Tele like it is

Left is right!
Apr 2, 2010
7,963
Los Angeles
Yes, a proper filing f the fret ends, combined with rolling the edges while in drier weather will help a lot.

Also yes, Warmoth offers bound maple necks and they are awesome.
 

StratUp

Most Honored Senior Member
Sep 5, 2020
8,089
Altered States
Is it a rosewood fingerboard or a maple board?

With unfinished rosewood, you can put a piece of 320 on a flat block and run up and down the sides of the frets the long way, slightly leaning inbound, and rounding the fret ends, and avoiding the wood itself). You might end up rolling the edges of the fretboard as you do it, which is a good thing. Hence the question about a finished or unfinished fretboard.

Do a few strokes and check for any still sticking out and focus on those. Then go back with 400 and 600. Once they are rounded, some will probably need a little file work and maybe some sandpaper finishing as they will be sharp. But getting them all evenly below the edge is the initial key.
 

LeftCoast

Strat-Talker
Dec 18, 2020
216
Thawed Northeast
A timely thread for me!

Working on my barre chords, I realized every time I made a proper F, my second knuckle was getting torn TF up. I swear, when it was shipped from Atlanta two months ago, there was no fret sprout...but inside the house with forced air heat, now it's a problem with my '93 Plus.

And after checking luthier prices at the great, great House of Guitars, I've ordered the "Rough Fret Smooth & Shine" kit from StewMac.
Dan Erlewine makes me believe I can do anything!
 
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Intune

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 14, 2021
4,920
Edmonton, Alberta
Like mentioned, this is regular maintenance on any instrument that has a neck made of wood. My bound Gibson R8 has cracks in the binding now because of this. At least with a regular neck you can easily file, crown and polish the fret ends and you’ll never have to deal with it again. Seriously it’s nothing to do with the guy who put the frets in. It’s humidity so blame Mother Nature.
 

nadzab

Play Don't Worry
Silver Member
May 15, 2009
6,169
New England
I thought neck binding was more just decorative, aesthetic. Like foot binding.

It definitely prevents (masks?) fret sprout, particularly on Gibsons where the binding "nibs" cover the entire fret ends. Guitars without nibs can still get scratchy, because the fret end above the tang may protrude when the wood of the neck shrinks.

As mentioned above, you can still get some bulging on a fully bound/nibbed fretboard - but in my experience, it's less uncomfortable than bare metal sticking out.

And as others have said, if you just keep at it with the file, you can eliminate sprout on an unbound neck. Do it when humidity is at it's lowest point in the year, check it and touch up over the course of a week or two, and you should have it eradicated for good.
 

Hairy Bear

Strat-O-Master
Silver Member
Nov 30, 2010
639
Norwich, UK
How do you file protruding fret tangs that were lacquered over at the factory, without spoiling the finish around the fret end? I'm setting up a neighbours Cabronita that I suspect came off the production line just before knocking off time on Friday. I've fixed all the other dodgy bits, just have the neck to do. Both ends of every fret need attention, some of the tangs are so sharp that despite the lacquer covering you still end up with a shredded hand.
 


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