Guitar Fret Dressing Tools

Written by rick waugh
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Guitar Fret Dressing Tools
Dressing frets is simple but needs to be done carefully. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Frets must be near perfect on a guitar to make it playable. Frets may be installed poorly; inexpensive guitars can often by improved with a simple fret dressing. As the years go by and metal strings are pressed into frets, the frets wear down and will need a touch up. At some point, frets need to be replaced; frets that are too low cause buzzing as the strings hit the fingerboard.

Triangular File

A small triangular file with the corner edges ground off is perfect for dressing the ends of the frets where they protrude over the edge of the fingerboard. The file edges need to be ground off to prevent accidentally cutting the fingerboard. The file should be about 6 inches long and the cutting surfaces should be fine rather than coarse.

Straight Edge

The only way to tell if the frets are even is to run a straight edge over them. A metal ruler at least 12 inches in length laid over multiple frets and moved slowly across the neck will show where fret heights are not even.


Kenneth Michael guitars has plans for a small burnishing tool made of hardwood. This resembles a small wood blade in a handle. By wrapping this in fine 220 grit sandpaper, you can burnish the tops of frets down an even height and smooth out scratches and dents. Always be careful; one missed stroke will put a groove in your fingerboard.

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