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 however can render an instrument effectively unplayable without risking cuts to the player’s hand.

What Causes "Fret Sprout"?

A Fret Protruding From 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 sides of the fingerboard.  

The result is painful ridges as the player’s hand slides along 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 retailer’s warehouse with already 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 passable 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 sustain damage 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 in this state.

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.

Especially with wide/jumbo frets, well dressed fret ends play a key role in minimizing the “speed bump” feel that 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 that it provides.  

Picture of Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician
Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician

Tech Talk articles are part of an ongoing effort to provide clear and detailed answers to common questions about guitar maintenance, modifications, and repairs.
While not intended as a step-by-step guide to servicing your own instrument, we hope that you will find value in the information provided.

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About Calico Guitarworks

Calico Guitarworks is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Owned and managed by Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest and reliable service. The staff at Calico Guitarworks has a combined 25+ years of professional guitar repair experience. Sharing the knowledge that we accumulate in this focused pursuit is at the core of what we do. Learn more About Calico Guitarworks, explore our Frequently Asked Questions, or Contact us with a specific request.

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