What is a Fretdress?

February 18, 2011

From time to time you may notice your guitar will start to buzz when fretting. Mostly, this will occur between frets 7-9 or above the 12th. You may take it to a repairer and have them tell you it needed a “fretdress”.

Not wanting to sound uneducated you enthusiastically agree. To which they take your guitar and walk into their back room ne’er to divulge their practice.

Of course you pick it up and then faint at the bill.

A fretdress, is a solution to the problem of uneven frets. Sometimes (due to a wide variety of factors, ranging from humidity to climate to tension over time etc etc) the neck will sweep into an:


or backbow:

With the upbow you will notice that your guitar has a super high action (the height that the strings sit above the frets). It will be difficult to play and wreak mayhem with your intonation.

With a backbow your strings will buzz like crazy, or worse, choke out.

Or you may have a “rise in tongue”. This is where the part of the fretboard sitting over the body has curved upward choking out strings fretted above the 12th fret (this symptom can also be noticed on the entire fretboard). These are the most common problems that a fretdress will fix.

In doing a fretdress we:

  • put the neck into a slight backbow.
  • With a flat file, we reduced the crown of the fret down so that they all sit at an even height.
  • Then we take a crowning file and reprofile the frets.
  • through various grits we sand and polish the frets to a wonderful, newlike shine.

Having the slight backbow means that we can run a low action whilst also being able to eliminate all buzz. Also, for those gigging musicians that play their guitar alot it means the first seven frets will take much longer to wear down, reducing the frequency of refretting.

That is a fretdress. So now you can confidently agree/disagree when someone recommends one. Or better yet, say “No thanks I will take it to the Guitar Repairers”