I was just looking for everyone's two cents on a couple of products.  I've had a lot of work in lately for leveling, recrowns, and a refret here and there.  One rosewood boards, I can usually get away without masking off the board.  On maple, I tape off and do all of my polishing following the direction of the fret. Though they may not be the intended product, I love the 3m micro polishing papers.  I'd love to cut down on time, but mainly the amount of stress i'm putting my body through.  I should also add that prior to polishing, I leave off at a 300 grit diamond file. How are...

1. Fret Polishing wheels for Dremel-looks great, but I imagine it requires patience to keep them from skipping and causing more work.

2. Stewmac's Fret Erasers- Looks pretty straight forward

3. Steel Fingerboard Protectors- Seems like a waste since I requires one hand to keep it in position and needs to constantly be moved from fret to fret.

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1. I love the fret polishing wheels, although I've found it's much easier to use them with a Foredom tool, because the Foredom handpiece is rather slim, enabling a more leveled "angle of attack".  Yes, there's a learning curve with keeping the wheels from skipping, but (like anything else) you get better at it over time.

  PS: the fret polishing wheels work better if you grind a concave divot around the circumference with a small-  diameter round file to mimic the fret crown. Takes about 20-seconds on a new wheel and they're good to go.

2. Fret erasers? Not my first choice, as they don't seem to have the "bite"... better for the finer polishing but the rougher grits don't seem to have the hardness required to bear-down.

3. Couldn't live without the steel fingerboard protectors!  I've milled-out the slots on a few for the really wide frets... then bent a few over at 90-deg to accommodate fret ends, etc.  Another trick is to drill small holes at each end and use a strong rubber band to hold them in place... not unlike a capo.. then it leaves both hands free. 

If I sand a fretboard during a refret, I finish sand the board with 600 grit then do my LC&P without taping off the fretboard. I don't always sand with 2k prior to the buffing wheel, especially if I'm refretting with nickel silver or a small size of just about any fret. This is the quickest and least labor intensive way that I'm aware of to get shiny frets, check out photos 18-20 of my routine:

Those fret erasers are not a good way to polish frets although they are useful if you have a stray crowning file mark that won't sand out during the usual routine.
The fret polishing wheels are good and not too difficult to use. If you pull against the rotation of the wheel it wont skip. Like Mike said, a Foredom makes this much easier. In addition to the slimmer handle, you can run the wheel much slower to avoid overheating the fret - even with the minimum speed of a dremel you can make frets hot enough to give you a blister very quickly. Unfortunately my old Foredom only runs in one direction so I still have to turn the guitar around to get both sides evenly since I cant seem to do it lefty. When I use these I still like to work by hand up to a pretty high grit so I dont end up taking more than a couple passes pre fret, not just to avoid getting them hot, but because Im always paranoid about taking too much off the top. You have to buff off some remaining residue after using them - I use jewellery polishing cloths to make this quicker and really finish off the shine nicely.

I have the fret erasers, and gave up on them halfway through my first guitar. I also find they dont cut efficiently, and even the finest one wont give you a mirror like polish. Not even close really. Or maybe I lost patience with them before I got there.

The steel protectors are great for polishing in the direction of the fret, and practically essential when you use the wheels. I trimmed two of mine to fit in the upper register. Maybe stew mac has changed them since I got mine. For mandolins you might need an extra set to trim down. Also I covered the edges with masking tape since theyre pretty sharp out of the package. I was gonna stone them off but I didnt feel like it at the time, and that masking tape is still doing the job just fine.

I love those flexible polishing paper/cloth sheets as well and wouldnt give them up. Theyre great for anything that needs to be smooth or shiny!

Standard buffing wheel on flexible shaft (Dremel) with scratch remover from the nearest gas station. Steel fingerboard protector with 90 degree angle. Mirror shine in a few minutes if the basic work is good. Not too high speed!

Thanks for the tips.  I'm also finding when moving between products that not all grits are made equal.  I found some 320g belts for my dressing sticks I forgot I had and they completely remove all the scratches left from my 300g diamond crowning file.  Its a super simple but handy tool and the belts go to 600 if need be.  I can then move on to my 400g polishing papers and so on and the job moves pretty quickly at that point.  By the way, those diamond files could have a way more ergonomic grip, anybody have a suggestion?  

Hear-hear for the dressing sticks!   I made-up a set dedicated to "frets only" that I've ground a convex indent into the plastic at the end of the stick... it hugs the fret better and approximates the curve of the fret crown. 

Hey Mike, what are you using for polishing wheels?

Several years ago I bought a bunch from StewMac that where dark Grey (fine grit) and Pink (polishing). They quit carrying those some time back and now sell White and Green ones that I don't like at all.

The old Pink and Grey ones where a softer compound, easier to use ad did a great job. The new ones are a harder compound, more difficult to use and don't do as good a job as the old style. I found some Grey, fine grit ones that do a pretty good job from an on-line jewelry supply place. I also tried some for polishing that where advertized for use on Nickle but they load up. I sure wish I could find the Pink ones again. Are you using the current offerings from StewMac or have you found another source?

I think it would be very difficult to use any wheels for fret polishing with out a flex shaft, you really need to keep a flat angle on the frets to keep the wheels from popping off. It does require a learning curve and a bit of finesse. If the spinning wheel jumps off the fret onto the finger board, it will leave a mark and maybe a groove. When I started using the wheels, I used fret guards but found them frustrating to use. Occasionally, the spinning polishing wheel would catch on the fret guard slot and rip the wheel apart. Now I just tape the finger board off and don't use the fret guards. I've got it down pretty good and rarely slip off the frets.

Hi Paul.   I still have a few of the old pink ones left, but when they go, the search commences for a replacement.

No idea what happened to 'em but they seem to be unavailable anywhere, even through Cratex.

Nice idea on the flex-shaft, although most of my practice 'til now has been with the Foredom handpiece, so I'd be afraid to relearn the mechanics of it.  Ditto on the experiences with the fret-guards... good for "training wheels" but it's eventually easier without them.  

If you ever source the soft pink xtra-fine wheels, share the wealth!  

Have either of you ever checked with dental lab suppliers?  There is a bewildering number of different polishing wheels...cones... cups....disk... available for that market. 

Hey Paul,

I just got back from the shop and ...for the heck of it... nosed-around in my little supply of abrasive wheels and found a tidy little stack of pink xtra-fines!  

If you could use 4 or 5 of them until we can uncover another source, you're welcome to them.  Just send me a PM with your mailing address and I'll get them in the mail to you.

BTW, I also A-B'd a pink one with a lt-gray one on a fret and the results were real similar... with the slight edge going to the pink one, but just barely noticeable.

So let me know if you can use a few to tide you over.... 

Hi Ned,

I haven't checked with dental suppliers. I suspect that they will offer much the same as what a big jeweler's catalog house would carry but worth a look.

Part of the problem is as you state "There is a bewildering number of different polishing wheels". I already have several dozen try-outs that will never get used. I keep hoping to run across someone that has already done the leg work and will tell me what I need. They are not expensive but I hate accumulating materials I'll never use. Thanks.

I understand.  If you want to follow the Dental lab supply idea, you might see if there are any labs in your area then see if you can make a visit to investigate what they are using. The type of polishing tools they use will vary depending on the type of work they do.  Porcelain work and chrome frame  and acrylic plastics will probably have some different types of abrasive polishing materials. 

One of the problems with the dental lab suppliers is that their sites assume that you already know what you want.  It would probably be easier to talk to a representative about what you want. They should be able to quickly tell you if they have a product that is close to what you're looking for. 


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