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How To Polish Your Guitar Frets

If you maintain your guitar properly, you will tremendously increase the lifespan of that guitar. One of the key ways you can maintain your guitar is by polishing its frets. In this article, we’re going to show you how to polish your guitar frets. 

How To Polish Your Guitar Frets

Photo by Jeremy Allouche on Unsplash

Why Should You Polish Your Guitar Frets?

Polishing your guitar’s fret is necessary because the cleaner the frets are, the better and more enjoyable your playing is. This is especially if you love to bend your strings. 

Remember how smooth your string bending was when you first bought the guitar? Exactly. It’s because of the clean and polished guitar frets were. So, cleaning and polishing those frets will bring that back to that buttery smooth bending feel. 

Alright! Now that we know why we need to polish our guitar frets, let’s now look at how to go about the whole process. It’s not as hard as it seems. Just sit back, take a deep breath, and get ready to polish your guitar frets. 

How To Polish Your Guitar

Step 1 — Remove The Guitar Strings

Before you polish your guitar’s frets, you’ll need to remove all of its strings. That way, you have easy access to all of the frets. You definitely don’t want to have to start fiddling with strings to get access to the strings. 

Step 2 — Choosing The Right Method For You

The next time after removing your strings is to determine what method you want to use to polish the frets. You can use, a basic fret cleaning kit, steel wool, micromesh finishing abrasives or 3m polishing papers.

What is in a Basic Fret Cleaning Kit?

So there are four main in every basic fret cleaning kits. These are:

1. Frine Fret polish

2. Fingerboard guards

3. Microfiber cloth

4. Cotton wool or towel

Music Nomad MN124 FRINE Fret Polishing Kit

However, if you don’t want to have to go out and get all these tools one after another, you can simply get the kit shown above. Click on the image above to buy the fret cleaning kit that comes with everything you’ll need to polish your frets.

Polishing Your Guitar – Step By Step Process

Wrap the microfiber cloth around your finger and drop a very tiny drop of polish on it. 

Tape over your fretboard, leaving only the frets exposed. This would prevent polish from touching the fretboard. 

With mild pressure, rub the polish across each fret, making sure to polish the sides too. 

While you’re cleaning, the polish might begin to turn black, that’s a good sign. It means it’s removing the specks of dirt, just like we wanted. 

Remove the tapes. 

Buff of the frets with cotton wool or a towel. Just like you did when applying the polish, wipe with mild pressure both the top and sides of the fret to remove the polish. 

At this point, black stuff should be coming off the fret to reveal a mirror-like shine. If there’s no shine, don’t be afraid to repeat the process. 

Do this for all the frets on your guitar.

Restring the guitar. 

Bend away!

Caution!

If you have a maple fretboard, don’t clean either the frets or the fretboard with oil soap. Maple is very light-colored and the oil will easily stain it. And that stain is almost impossible to come off. 

If you have a maple fretboard, it’s better to use the other methods we talk about later in this article. 

On the other hand, if your guitar has a finished fretboard, then oil soap is the best option for you. Using the other methods in this article might scratch the fretboard’s finish. So, unless you can get your tapes to cover every nook and cranny, it’s better to stick to oil. 

Steel Wool 

Steel wool is the more traditional way to do fret polishing. It does a great job. However, it sheds a lot. This shedding leaves tiny slivers and shavings everywhere. So, if you do intend using this method, then you have to be super careful.

The best type of steel wool to use is 0000, which is the finest grade of steel wool. Do not use any other grade. 

The process of cleaning is very similar to the one we’ve talked about earlier. So, just use that process but insert steel wool where you see frine polish. 

However, before you start, ensure that your pickups are well-covered, this is because many pickups have magnets inside them and as such, they can easily pick up the slivers of steel wool lying around. 

Micromesh Finishing Abrasives

Micro-Mesh Finishing Set

These have a similar feel to sandpaper. Like sandpaper, the have a fine abrasive side. The only difference is that this makes use of rubberized cloth backing and not paper. It works really well and is quite flexible.

Micromesh Finishing Abrasives are available in different grits. Using two different grits on each fret should do the trick. Typically, these grits are 2400, then 4000, in that order. 

This is probably the easiest way to clean your guitar frets. It doesn’t take much time, and it doesn’t require much cleaning afterward. However, this does come at a price. Which brings us to the one downside of micromesh- It’s quite expensive!

If you do have the money, though, this is definitely the way to go. 

Polishing Paper

Cool Tools - 3M Polishing Paper - Complete Set

These are similar to micromesh but not as easy to use. They are thin fabrics that are also available in different grits, with different colors representing each grit. Most people use a 600-grit, followed by a 1200-grit. 

However, that’s not a rule of thumb. You can try it out for yourself and find out what works for you. 

Step 3 — Restring Your Guitar

Now that you’re done polishing your guitar, it’s time to restring it and get to playing. If you don’t know how to restring a guitar on your own, we’ve got you covered. Watch the video below:

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Conclusion

Now that you know all there is to know about polishing your guitar frets, it’s time to go out there and actually polish them. Make them shine! Make sure you can see your reflection in each fret, lol. 

Anyways, till next time, keep bending. 

How To Polish Your Guitar – Frequently Asked Question

How do you polish frets with steel wool?

Polishing with steel wool is the traditional method of polishing frets. It does a great job. One downside to using steel wool, however, is that it leaves shreds of steel. This has to be carefully cleaned or vacuumed afterward. It is best advised to use steel wool with steel grade 0000 to polish frets, for the best results. The pickups on the guitar must be properly covered as they tend to grab steel wool shavings because of the magnet inside them. Lastly, avoid rubbing steel wool residue on the guitar body as it could leave scratches and damage it. 

How do you polish fret ends?

Before polishing fret ends, there are few steps to be taken. First, file the fret ends with a fine-tooth flat file. Next, use a special three-corner file to make the fret ends round. Afterward, remove any tool marks on the fretboard using a single-edge razor blade to scrape the fretboard until the marks disappear. Finally, use a very fine polishing paper or polishing cloth to polish the fret ends. Gently rub the fret ends with the polishing paper or cloth to give it that shiny finish. 

Is lemon oil good for guitar necks?

The debate over using lemon oil on a guitar has been raging for decades. What has been learned so far is that pure, full-length lemon oil produced directly from lemon peel is not good for a guitar’s fretboard. Pure lemon oil will cause the fretboard to dry out quickly. It can also break adhesive bonds holding the frets on the fretboards. On the other hand, lemon oil products, which do not contain exclusively lemon oil, but rather primarily contain mineral oils are good for guitars. Commercial guitar lemon oils are safe when used moderately. Note that lemon oil, commercial, or otherwise should never be used on maple wood or else they would be damaged. 

Can I use a pledge on my guitar?

Pledge is a furniture cleaner and is domestically used to clean furniture. So, it makes sense that one would think of applying it to their wooden guitar. Unfortunately, this is strongly not advised. Aerosolised wood polish products like pledge contain solvents that can be harmful to the finishing of a guitar. It is better and safer to stick with guitar-specific polish products. 

How do you fix a fret buzz?

Fret buzz happens when strings buzz against the frets during play. This produces a very annoying sound. It could happen for three major reasons. First, it happens when the frets are not level with each other. In this case, a full fret leveling procedure must be performed. Secondly, fret buzz could happen when the action is too low. To remedy this, loosen the strings to relieve tension and make adjustments to the string saddles to increase action. Lastly, if the neck is too straight and does not have enough relief, fret buzz could occur. This is corrected by loosening the truss rod to increase relief. 

How do you file a fret down?

To file a fret down, you start by doing a full fret leveling. This is done on the guitar as a whole and not on the individual frets. Doing this ensures that no fret is lower or higher than another fret. To do this, the neck has to be adjusted to be flat while the fingerboard is masked and the crowns are inked with a sharpie. This way any progress during filing can be monitored. A long file is used to file the frets down.

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