Fret Sprout – Sharp Fret Ends

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  • Fret Sprout – Sharp Fret Ends

Fret Sprout - Sharp Fret Ends

Sharp or poorly shaped fret ends can be a real drag on your playing. When mild it is an annoyance; Severe cases can render an instrument effectively unplayable without risking cuts to the players hand.

What Causes "Fret Sprout"?

A Fret Tang Sticking Out Of The Fretboard

Humidity issues are the most common cause of fret sprout. When dry, the wood of the neck shrinks while the metal frets are unaffected. This leaves the appearance that the frets have grown, or “sprouted”, out of the fingerboard.  

The result is painful ridges down the edges of the fretboard. After returning the instrument to the proper humidity level, a fret end dressing may be required to restore smooth, comfortable, fret-ends.

Due to the logistics of music retail, especially during the winter months, instruments often arrive direct from the retailers warehouse already with sharp ends. 

Dryness is not the only cause of sharp or uncomfortable fret ends however. Fret work is a labor intensive and time consuming process. Particularly on budget instruments, factories often do only a cursory job of leveling the frets and dressing the ends. While usually passible by student standards, discerning players may find the fret work lacking. For well used or vintage instruments, insufficient fret end dressing after a refret is also not uncommon.

Fixing Fret Sprout

Filing Sharp Fret Ends

Careful filing of the fret ends is the only way to remove the excess metal and get the frets flush to the side of the neck.

In the photo you can see that quite a bit of metal has been removed. Specialized tools and experience are required to grind the frets smooth while minimizing the potential damage to the neck and fretboard.

Instruments with a heavy gloss finish on the fingerboard pose an extra challenge as the finish buildup can impede the filing process and potentially be damaged during the work. 

Fret End After Being Filed Flush

Shaping and Polishing Fret Ends

Fret End After Being Filed, Shaped, and Polished

Once the fret has been ground flush, it is left with a hard edge all around the crown. Though no longer protruding from the neck,  the instrument would still be quite uncomfortable to play.

The crown must be de-burred, shaped, and polished to remove the sharp edge and leave a smooth comfortable fret end. To repeat this process 40+ times, covering both ends of each fret, is time consuming and care must be taken not to damage the instrument during the process.

Especially with wide/jumbo frets, well dressed fret ends play a key role in minimizing the “speed bump” feel that there large frets are prone to.  

Fret End Dressing Before and After

If needed, a fret end dressing can be added onto a setup for an additional fee. Most feel that the effort and cost are well worth it for the increased comfort and playability it provides.  

About Guitar Repair Long Island

Guitar Repair Long Island is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Led by owner/head technician Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest, and reliable service. Our vast experience in all aspects of instrument repair ensures that we can help with whatever your needs are. Contact us with any questions or book your appointment today.

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