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Blood on the frets

Q: Just wondering if you can help me out? I bought a fender guitar recently and notice that the frets are already rusting (some red colour, some that awful greenish tinge). Is there anything I can do about this? It is on the actual metal, not the strings, and it's only really on the 7th-15th frets. Your help is much appreciated.


A: First thing; iron rusts, nickel-silver doesn't. My bet is that whatever is on your strings will come off with steel wool. If you have a rosewood fingerboard, rub crosswise, in the direction of the frets, with OOOO steel wool. Then finish up by rubbing up and down the board in the direction of the fingerboard grain. Use a rag to rub in and rub off pure Carnauba wax (Tre wax floor wax is great) to seal the grain. Boiled Linseed oil is traditional, but messy, and harder to use than the wax.

     If you have a maple fingerboard you must cover it with masking tape leaving only the frets exposed. Steel wool would scratch the heck out of the finish between the frets. No wax is needed.

     Steel wool sheds as you use it so remember to put tape over your pickups. It also likes to get onto your workbench and scratch the back of the next guitar you work on.

     There is a whole pantheon of things organic and inorganic that could be causing your problem. I can't think of any that would actually pit the frets. If there are scratches, pits or dings on the frets they are caused by inattentive fret filing or by contact with the high carbon steel strings above them. Everything else should scrub off. The most Agatha Christy thing that would look like rust is dried blood. Who's been playing this guitar and. . .are they all right?

Steve Mason