What steps do you use to polish frets after leveling/crowning?


I recently completed the neck jig I was working on and did a fret leveling and crowning. I used a Stew Mac diamond crowning file, so the remaining file marks are very fine score lines (no chatter). What do you guys do to get all the file marks out after crowning? Sandpaper, polishing paper, micro-mesh, buffer, or all of the above? Please share what grit and/or polishing/buffing compound and what order you use if you use a combination.

I used 3M flexible polishing papers starting at 400 grit and worked through the grits. I also tried a Micro-Mesh polishing stick and that did a nice job as well, but it still takes a significant amount of elbow grease to get all the scratch marks out. Is this what you guys do, or is there a faster approach to get the larger scratches out first before going to the fine detail stuff?

Thanks in advance for any tips!


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Hi, Steven,
I use the coarse Stewmac diamond file(150 grit) followed by a clean up with the fine grit (300)and then onto fret shields and micromesh sticks. We get the commercial grade micromesh metal cutting sticks in bulk from Micromesh which have a graduated series of grits from 180 through 400 through 600 and then onto the sticks that Stewmac sell which are 1200 through 2400 (or something like that). The 180-600 series of grits takes out most of the striations which take forever using the finer grits.

None of this is fun and I have major arthritis bumps on my knuckles from a long time doing this and probably from guitar playing as well - if anyone has a better practical idea (apart from hiring some poor unknowing soul) that works for production I'm all ears - even the hyped up PLEK machine requires some final hand finish to get things just RSI is just killing me. Gotta be a better way. Rusty.
I use #0000 steel wool and 1200 w/d paper with water. then I buff the fb on my buffer. I bought some of those little rubber fret wheels from S/M haven't used therm
FIRST I USE scotch bright heavy and light then micro mesh from 1500 grit to 12000 not missing a grit buffing wheel presto
Hello and Happy Thanksgiving,
After finishing up with the aluminum radius sanding beam from stewmac with 220 grit self-sticking sand paper. I then proceed to tape off the fingerboard with masking tape.I cut up one inch squares of wet and dry sandpaper starting with 320 then go to 600 then 1200. I do the tops first, then using the same square, turn it sidways using my thumb fingernail and do the sides of the frets. I do this with all the grits. After I complete all the frets, I use #0000 steelwool for the final polish. The frets are so smooth and chrome looking it blows my mind, this process is what it make it all worth it to me, it's like doing the final buff on paint job. Works for me.
Later, Mike
All good tips, thanks all and Happy Thanksgiving!

For those of you who have other approaches/tips/tricks, please share -- the more the better!
My method is constantly changing. I am always trying different things. I use a beam to level with 220, 320, 400, 600, OOOO steel wool. I finish there on some jobs. Other times I'll use micro mesh for final buffing. I have crowning files, but really like using the triangle files for that. I sometimes wrap the finer grit sandpapers around a crowning file to utilize the fret groove.

Arthritis! I have it, and it has affected my playing and my approach to repair work. I posted on here a while back about finding alternate tools to help with fret dressing. Though it sounds like luthier blasphemy - I have considered making a small grooved shoe that would fit on a slow moving reciprocating tool with adjustable speed control. IF the pain gets worse.... I might have to experiment with this concept.
lmii or stew mac has a tool that fits a dremel tool and eliminates scratches the draw back is holding the hot dremel tool in place check it out Tom

After crowning, and while the FB is still protected by tape, I use the same micro-mesh schedule suggested by another respondent on the tops and sides of the frets.

For the final polish, I first use Simichrome polish [the pink stuff in that ugly yellow & orangey/brown tube]. I then wipe the Simichrome residue from the fret tops with a naptha dampened rag and finish up with X-Treem brand impregnated cotton wads. The results are frets that look like they're made from Mercury.

btw: IF I had a buffer, I'd rub in the X-Treem and then buff it out with by machine.

It takes a long time and a lot of dexterity & endurance. My 58 year-old player/technician hands are also starting to pay the price. Has anyone here ever developed "trigger finger"?
I use 320,400,600 and have a couple of 12" metal blackened buffs with the Menzerna compound on one side of my buffing arbor. It makes for pretty quick work.
I do it pretty much exactly the same way. Level the frets with a file, crown with Stew-Mac Diamond file, polish with 320, 400, 600 and then buff on the pedestal buffer. And all my sanding to polish the frets is parallel to the length fingerboard with my stroke running the full length of the fingerboard.
Awesome discussion, thanks so much to everybody for their willingness to share. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Thanks again to all for their input. I did a bit of experimentation, and came up with something that delivers quality results without too much elbow grease.

Immediately after crowning with my diamond file, I use a fret dressing stick to do any rough sanding of areas like the fret ends. Once I've got everything shaped the way I want, I wet-sand with a green Scotch-Brite. This does a terrific job of removing the scoring marks without removing too much material or adding any deep scoring marks of its own -- thanks to those who suggested this as a first step! I then followed this up with the Micro-Mesh touch-up stick (the coarse part), which got it to a place where it's ready for buffing.

I bought a set of (6) 2" wool buffing wheels plus 1/4" arbor spindle at Harbor Freight Tools for $10. I put these in my Roto-Zip (I have a variable one which goes down to 15,000RPM), and although it's still a bit fast, I can get very good results if I am careful. I used black followed by brown, and finally white compounds for buffing. This is probably a pretty unorthodox way to do things, but did a nice job and for me the end-result is really all that matters.


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