Fretwire sprout…ouch!

That is what fretwire sprout looks like and you can imagine what it feels like. (pix courtesy

Last week, while dwelling upon humidity issues at length, I knew I had missed something. It came to me yesterday evening: fretwire sprout!

No! The fretwire does not sprout, as would seeds soaked overnight, but the shrinkage caused due to the loss of moisture in fretboard wood, forces the fretwires to poke out, making it seem as if the fretwire had sprouted. I can assure you fretwire sprout can be a very painful discovery, if not serious one, causing a cut and bleeding, and some serious enough to require medical attention!

If it is some solace, it can happen in any guitar – acoustic and electric!

The other day, I pulled out a guitar of mine from storage and while playing it discovered – rather painfully – that the fretwires on it had indeed sprouted. Thankfully, there was no cut or blood. That was when I got reminded of what I had missed mentioning in my last blog post.

So, like I mentioned above, fretwire sprouts primarily due to lack of humidity. However, humidity is not the only culprit. Sometimes, fretwires pop loose and move in their slot too. How do you figure out what caused it?

Simple! If along the length of the fretboard – on one or both sides – you find fretwires sprouted, rest assured that humidity is the culprit. In case of fretwires popping loose and moving, it is rare that you will find more than a couple.

If it is a humidity issue, you will have to take it to a specialist guitar tech/luthier, who will first humidify the guitar for at least 72 hours, and if afterwards the sprout still exists, he will even employ a specialised file to file away the ends.

A specialised file used by guitar techs and luthiers to file away sprouted fretwires. (pix courtesy

Please don’t try this at home but even a simple bastard file will do the job – IF it happens to be an expert who is wielding it.

A simple wood file (pix courtesy

So, basically, this specialised file is rubbed along the length of the fretboard up and down, till the sprouts are ground level with the side of fretboard. Then follows a long and tedious process of cleaning up burrs, polishing and shining the fretwire, and, lo and behold, you are ready to rock and roll!

If it is just one or two frets popped up and dancing around in their slots, they are simply tapped into place and sometimes, even secured with a bit of super glue. 

Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

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