Maintenance becomes necessary due to the normal wear and tear of the instrument under normal playing conditions.

Fret Dressing

For example, after several years of play, guitar frets will develop grooves that affect intonation, buzzing, and lead to a generally undesirable playing experience.  So a basic maintenance operation that every guitar will experience if it is played regularly is a complete fret dressing.

professional guitar repair setup set-up set up nova scotia milburn halifax

Preparation for fret dressing on a L'Arrive.


Fret dressing includes straightening the neck, leveling, crowning, and polishing the frets, cleaning and oiling the fingerboard, adjusting nut slots for the lower height of frets, and adjusting bridge action if necessary.  It is the most fundamental reconditioning maintenance operation a guitar will undergo.

Due to different playing styles, string tension, and fret hardness, a guitar may need a fret dressing after 3 years, or it may only require a fret dressing after 7 to 10 years or more.  Of course, this will also depend upon how often and how much the guitar is played.

guitar repair fret dress work setup classical leveling
Leveling the frets on a handmade classical guitar.

Before getting your frets dressed, make certain the person who will be doing the work has the skill and experience necessary to do the work well.  The frets are one of the fundamental interfaces for the player, and only very slight and subtle deviations in the fret height can yield frustrating buzzes that are impossible to avoid without redressing the frets.

There are some advanced ways of dressing frets that require more skill and understanding than just flattening the frets so they sit well under a straight edge.  Some classical builders dress their frets so the first 5 to 6 frets are stepped, creating relief similar to that which is dialed into a neck equipped with an adjustable truss rod.  Classical guitar necks, traditionally built without truss rods, have less string tension on them and are thicker, in general, than steel string necks and hence do not bend and give as much relief as their steel string and electric relatives.  This is why some classical builders choose to give the fret alignment more relief by stepping the frets.  This work cannot be done without great knowledge and skillful control of of one’s tools.

Comments are closed.