FRETS.COM When Frets Go Wrong

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Pressure Flakes
© Frank Ford, 3/13/00; Photos by FF

One of the truly nasty fret problems is the pressure flake in a lacquer finish below the binding. Especially with a steel hammer, it's not all that difficult to hit the end of a fret too hard. If the binding is a trifle loose, if the lacquer is extra brittle, or if the fret gods haven't been appeased lately, you can have this nasty little accident.

This fret end was hit hard enough to send a shock wave through the binding, causing a deep pressure flake in the colored lacquer below:

Yikes! What to do?

If the finish flake is still adhering to the neck, you might be able to glue it satisfactorily with cyanoacrylate. Otherwise, you're stuck with a finish touch up problem, so give up the notion that the fret job will be done today! It's time to get out the lacquer and pigments or stains, and go to work on the finish.

Here's a less disastrous one:

These tiny flakes are relatively more common on older instruments. (This one is a Gretsch from the early 1950s with very brittle lacquer.) I was particularly careful with this instrument, using my plastic hammer with very light blows. Sometimes, though, you just can't win! A couple of drops of new lacquer or cyanoacrylate will make an adequate fill which can be leveled and rubbed out very nicely without too much delay.

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