Searching For Good Fretwork

Posted: December 27, 2015 in DIY, Guitar
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday, I wrote about searching for inexpensive guitars with good fretwork to upgrade into higher performing instruments.  I didn’t really go into detail about what good fretwork is.  The reason was that there are literally thousands of articles, posts, and instructions about fretwork that can be found by using Google.  There are a few basic things to look for, though.  So, I pulled up the El Cheapo, Microsoft Paint to illustrate the basics.  For greater detail, Google is your friend.

Different companies do different things with the fret ends and there are other considerations, like binding.  However there are some warning signs to look for when inspecting an instrument.

Fretwork examplesCrowning

Example A is perfect.  It’s rounded and leaves the least amount of fret against the string when fretting a note.

Example B can be found occasionally when the fretwork is done with flat files.  The problems with a fret in this shape are that they are usually a little flat on top and will become flatter and cause “chatter” as the guitar is used.

Example C is an unfinished fret.  It’s been leveled too much and then left.  This is found on guitars with uneven frets or incompetent crafting.  Avoid this like the plague.

Fret Ends

Examples D and E are good.  D is normal (to me) and E is sometimes found on guitars with binding.  With Example D, run your hand gently down the sides and ensure the frets are all flush and filed.  With example E, make sure the frets are not so narrow that the outside strings slide off of them easily.  Example E isn’t great with narrow nuts.

Examples F and G opposite sides of the same coin.  If you see frets that come off the side of the fretboard like teeth, or frets that don’t come close to the edge, find another guitar.  The problems will be too common for the hassle or “savings” on a guitar that crappy.

Mistakes like these are less common with modern manufacturing and good QC, but some of the cheapest instruments have looser quality control (or none).  My personal experience has found the fretwork is at least competent on most instruments that are categorized as “Intermediate”.  I have been occasionally surprised by the fretwork on budget guitars.  These are mostly from Japanese-owned companies, actually, except for Fender Squire guitars near the top of their line and the Epiphone G-400 Pro (which Epiphone classifies as a beginner guitar to drive people to their Les Pauls, but is almost exactly the same as their Les Paul Standard Pro, with less weight and a lower price).



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