The difference between expensive American made Fender guitars versus their cheaper import counterparts from the Squier range is often time. What I mean by this sweeping statement is that US-built guitars often benefit from more time spent on the finer details.
We could argue over tonewoods, hardware and pickups all year long. It won’t get us very far, but it will certainly divide opinions. The aesthetics of a guitar are often linked heavily to the cost of manufacture. A bound neck with fancy, intricate ‘PRS Birds’ or ‘Ibanez Tree Of Life’ fret markers takes longer to build compared to one with plain black dots. So labour time equals money.
One way of making your cheaper Squier play more like an American made Fender is by putting some time into refining the neck. (Another would be to adjust the truss rod… Ed.) I’ve been doing this trick since I was a teenager and so have a lot of experience in making cheaper guitars play like their more expensive counterparts.
Roll Your Edges!
The trick is to roll your fretboard edges and to finish off the rough ends of the frets on your guitar. Will it require specialist tools? No. All you need is time, patience and a sanding block (the type you can buy in your local hardware store). Go for one with the finest grit you can find. This is usually called Super Fine. You won’t save time by using heavier grit, all you will do is damage your guitar.
The kind of thing you are looking for is like this foam one on Amazon, which is labelled “Super Fine” and should be good for the job. If you aren’t sure what to buy, avoid anything that says coarse or heavy. Aim for Fine, Super Fine and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
When I came to writing this article I looked online and saw that YouTuber Darrell Braun Guitar has done a similar thing to his guitars for ages and so I’ve included his demonstration video below to show you what I’m talking about.
First off, do not rush this job!
I’ve used this simple trick literally hundreds of times in the last 30 years. However, if this is your first time, then please take your time and do a little bit, check your progress and then do more if it is required. Remember: you are taking away wood and metal here. Once it is gone you cannot add it back again, so go slow or you could ruin your guitar.
You cannot use this particular trick on bound necks, as it will certainly ruin them. It also doesn’t work well with necks with a lacquer finish. But, if your neck is bare maple, rosewood, ebony or similar then you are good to go.
Follow the angle of your fret ends, which should be around 45 degrees. That’s the guideline for the correct angle. Be careful not to sand too hard. Less pressure is required to do this job than you think. Approach this like you’re polishing the neck rather than smoothing down the fretboard edges and fret ends.
I’d suggest that you do this job with all the strings removed from your guitar. And make sure you have a nice quiet workplace, so you can concentrate on the job in hand. I tend to polish it all off using 0000 steel wool once I’ve finished and then clean my fretboard using Fret Doctor Bore Oil, Dr Duck’s Ax Wax or similar.
Darrell makes really useful videos on his YouTube channel and so I would recommend checking them out, too.