Frets and Fretboards and the order of building them

Jim Dewar

New Member
Oct 6, 2017
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Hi All
This question goes out to the pros.
I have made many guitars now, about thirty, yet I’m still fighting with the order of how my frets and fretboards should be processed.
My current process is:
1 Radius and sand the fretboard
2 Spray clear NC lacquer coats onto fretboard and allow to gas off for a couple weeks
3 Wet sand, buff and polish fretboard (In terms of the NC lacquer the fretboard is finished at this point.)
4 Slot fretboard
5 Install frets, (with CA glue, always messy)
(A side question is how do you apply the frets so that they all insert perfectly even without any frets sunken deeper than others?)
6 Apply painters masking tape onto fretboard in-between frets
7 Level and crown frets, (I dress the ends later after the fretboard is on the neck)
8 Angle fret ends
9 Polish frets with Dremel buffer wheel (on flexible extension)

Now, in a perfect world this should be ok but there always seems to be tiny scratches/dings and CA glue residue that gets onto the fretboard. So spot re-sanding/finishing is necessary. However, it’s practically impossible to work those operations in-between the narrow spaces between the frets. In other words, to me no more fretboard work/finishing can be done after the frets are installed.
What do you all do to deal with your fretboard imperfections?
Another thing is that I often notice that after removing the painters masking tape that the fretboard could use another buffing. However, as you all know, if the buffer buffs over the frets then you get that greying going on. It’s like the fret metal discolors the buffing wheel and then that grey color goes back onto the fretboard.
Do you all have these dilemmas?
I understand many spray their finish of choice onto the fretboard after the frets are installed but I have no idea how you can wet sand, buff and polish the fretboard thereafter via that method. (And then scraping off the finish on the frets just seems like the wrong approach to me.)
Anyways, any and all help and advice is greatly appreciated.