- Jul 20, 2019
- Reaction score
I just got back from Sweetwater, where I picked up a stable mate for my 2022 SG Standard 61. Brought home a Les Paul Special P90 in cherry.
Like my SG, the frets needed attention before I could tolerate playing it. I got used to stainless frets on my old frankenstrat. I like my frets slippery.
I posted here about how I polished the frets on my SG, but I’m gonna do it again, so right now is the time to bail out if….
For me, it’s all about understanding abrasives. What I know, I learned restoring the shine to old sailboats. I’d see guys using some miracle product on their boats in the boatyard, and working it with a random orbital polisher. Their results were always poor and short lived.
Then, I learned how to actually do it. Evaluate how much restoration the fiberglass needs and start by wet sanding with 600 or 800 grit, depending. Then 1000, 1200, 1500, and by now you can begin to see your reflection. Switch to heavy cutting compound on a wool pad attached to a 9” circular grinder polisher. Followed by polishing compound on the appropriate pad.
At this point, you can stand two or three feet from the boat, hold up your watch, and read the time in the reflection. Then, the wax goes on. It can’t make it any shinier at this point. It just protects it.
The key is to know what grit to start with. The surface is all peaks and valleys, and if you don’t go with an aggressive enough grit, all you’re doing is polishing the tops of the peaks, and the results will be poor. Then, each successive grit you use has to be able to remove the valleys left by the previous grit, while leaving a shallower valley.
The same is true for frets. No one product can remove the peaks, and provide a smooth surface. That would be magic. Now, if you like your 0000 steelwool, or your Miracle Cloth, Gorgomyte, etc., live long and prosper. But, my frets are smoother than your’s. Just sayin’.
I used the 3M Polishing Papers. They’re sort of a sandpaper that feels like soft cloth. They go from 400 grit up to 8000. With my recently Pled’d new Gibson, I started with the 600. I could feel it removing a small amount of material. Enough to lop off the peaks without actually reshaping the fret. I used five grits in all, ending with 8000. Even after the second grit, the fret was vastly smoother, and shiny. Scraping an adjacent un-sanded fret with my fingernail made a scratching sound, but the fret that had seen two grits was already silent. The end result after using all five grits was 22 frets that are like mirrors. Crazy smooth bending.
I had cut the cloth into 1” x 3” strips, which I rubbed vigorously on each fret for about 15 to 20 seconds per grit. No taping off, etc.. Just wiped off the fret after each grit, so I wouldn’t be missing grits. I made new strips after five or six frets to keep them fresh. The whole job took about two hours.
No doubt, there are other sandpapers that can provide a series of progressive grits. I just happened to stumble across the 3M polishing papers when I was looking around online. Pleasant to use, and definitely work.
If I find my frets are getting a little dull, I’ll redo them with the 3M papers, but just use the two or three finest grits, depending.