I have a 90s Deering Deluxe that i've had for about the last 10-12 years. When i got it I noticed small "bubbles" in the finish at each of the fret ends. Eg: the neck had probably dried out at some point and the fret ends sort of popped the finish out a bit.
I've been playing it more and wondering if i should get this addressed, it's mostly just unsightly, and only really to the player (me). It doesn't exhibit any other issues. Looking it it now too it looks like the frets are starting to lift a bit in the slots.
This is also something I'd be interested in tackling myself assuming it's not too complicated - any pointers would be welcomed. I work on my instruments a bit but would take something that's a serious problem to a luthier.
Edited by - jchabalk on 06/30/2022 18:08:30
Over time wood shrinks (depending on environment). This is why very old banjos (usually with non bound necks) have the fret ends protruding beyond the edge of the fretboard. All that is required is a redress with a fine flat file. Because yours appears to be spray finished, the hardened finish at those point appear to have been pushed out. I am sure someone here will suggest a fix.
You might contact Deering and ask for their suggestion. I believe their finish is poly, not nitro lacquer, so any new finish won't melt into the old and there may be witness lines.
I recently attempted to fix similar finish bubbling around some of the washers on the peghead of one banjo. It's lacquer. I thought I could apply a little thinner to the bubble spots then drop-fill some lacquer on them. Wrong. I ended up sanding and respraying the whole peghead face.
that's a good suggestion - i'll reach out to them. (It definitely feels like poly to me)
If i examine the rest of the neck closely i can see some other areas with very faint evidence of the same color too.
Dressing the fret ends will entail filing through the bubbled finish. It will make it more comfortable to play but may be even less visually appealing to you that way. Those frets are definitely loose, and filing the ends as-is is very likely to exacerbate the problem. I've also found that lifted frets often still feel sharp even after being filed and rounded over. In the past I used to glue them down one at a time by wicking some super glue underneath and holding them down with a fret hammer or fret press, but now, unless the original frets are "precious", I don't really mess around with that because it's a long slow process (almost as much time as a refret) and they don't always stay down. Now when something like that comes to the shop I usually just reccomend a refret to take care of both of those issues.
Regarding the finish, I believe Deering uses a type of UV cure poly very similar to the finish on Taylor guitars. Unfortunately there isn't much that can be done once it begins delaminating like that aside from a refinish. I know Taylor reccomends sending them back to the factory to be stripped and refinished once they begin delaminating, and Deering would probably say the same thing. Reaching out to Deering is the right move, I'm curious to hear what they tell you.
I reached out to Deering this morning via email, i wouldn't expect to hear anything until next week. While i was looking around on their site though i found their "Service Center" section which leads me to believe that going through them is probably not going to be the most efficient way to do this especially since I'm not the original owner (and this thing is ~25 years old).
I'll wait to see what they have to say though.
The fingerboard / neck expands and contracts at a different rate than the frets.
on an unbound neck, the fret ends might stick out very slightly in dry conditions . The neck finish has been applied to an impervious fingerboard material, so it just sits on the surface and when the fingerboard contracts, the fret ends push the finish off the wood. Binding or masking off the sides of the fingerboard during finishing prevents this from happening.
I don't think this can be "fixed" satisfactorily because it will just keep doing it—maybe surgically cutting around the fret ends with a #11 X-axto knife and peeling the finish off those so the frets don't push the finish off the fingerboard? It might make it worse, though.
Edited by - Ken LeVan on 07/03/2022 05:35:05
I would contact Deering for advice. Poly finishes are difficult to fix in the extreme and Deering may have some notion of how to approach theirs.
I would also look into a humidifier/de-humidifier to keep moisture changes and their expansion/contraction changes to a minimum.
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