General tech questions

Fretboard Shrinkage


I just had a repair guy tell me that fretboards shrink in the winter due to the dry air. Is that true? I have a rosewood fretboard Tele that I took in for fret finishing and that was the response I got.


First I've heard of it. Spent 7 years in the Arizona winters. Pretty Arid there


First time for me as well. My house is not that dry as I have a number of guitars and I try to keep it regulated.


All wood shrinks in dry air & expands in humid conditions.


I agree with you Archtop but I think the dryness affects the glue more then the wood


To be clear the repair guy was saying that the frets were sticking out beyond the fretboard due to shrinkage. Its a new (used) Tele so I don't have history on it.


As Archtop13 said above, wood shrinks when it is dry (particularly across the grain direction). And indoor air when a furnace is running can be very dry, down around 10 percent relative humidity. Guitars are best kept in roughly 40 to 60 percent humidity (particularly flat-top acoustic guitars).

You can easily re-humidify that guitar & probably eliminate that fretboard "sprout".

During the winter, I keep a sandwich-sized ziploc baggie containing a damp kitchen sponge in each guitar case. The sponge may need a half-inch or so trimmed off one long side, to fit properly in the baggie. The baggie is open, to allow moisture from the sponge to re-humidify the air (& guitar) in the guitar case. The sponge is firmly wrung out, so that it is damp but not dripping wet.

Taylor has some informative video clips, including this one re: symptoms of low humidity on flat-top guitars:

Taylor Guitars - Symptoms of Humidity Problems


Some guitars come out of the factory with finger-ripping frets.

That would be my guess.


My bear cave is a fairly large room and I have all of my guitars out. I have a humidifier that I set to 47% humidity so that winter or summer the humidity in my cave is constant.

I use 47% because all of the acoustic manufacturers like Martin, Taylor, etc. use this number in their factories.


Indoor air furnace in winter climates are a killer as geoguy pointed out. My tele is suffering a bit at the moment from the phenomenon of fret-spring for just that reason. Re-humidifying is the only answer...


I'd guess it's seasonal. de-burring those frets should fix the problem.


I've never experienced fret problems. Maybe I should look into a humidifier.


Well, here in Norway winters can be extremely dry. I've had numerous guitars come into "my" store for a fret end dressing. Built-in-Asia versus living-in-Norway around February can be rough for guitars.... ;-)



About once a year I smother mine with heavy coat of Cialas®, then after a couple of hours when it relaxes, I wipe 'er down and she's good for another year. ;-)


Some guitars come out of the factory with finger-ripping frets.

That would be my guess.

– NJBob

Some guitars come out of the factory with finger-ripping frets.

That would be my guess.

– NJBob

That was one of the issues with that new LP GT. Even after a fret dressing by the local guy here, it was still terrible, the neck had a wicked bow in it, and combined, made playing it not only painful, but nearly impossible.

Which is bad, because those P90s sound really great, all nice & clean, in the neck position!


Yeah, 'fretboard' shrinkage in the cold.... we've all heard that before ;)


they also make a humidifier for your guitar case, its a little plastic box with some sort of absorbant material in it, you add water once a month. was pretty cheap at one of the local guitar stores Geoff


it was only a question of time... :)


it was only a question of time... :)

– CBell

it was only a question of time... :)

– CBell

I was just going to put it up myself. :P


That was a great episode of "Seinfeld". I still watch a lot of the reruns. My favorite episode is "The Soup Nazi".


Yes, the wood can contract in dry climate causing fret ends to extend beyond the fingerboard edge. Use one of the suggestions posted to try to humidify the neck before having any work done. I use the clay in a plastic jar device called the "Guardfather".

That is a great episode of Seinfeld. I was in an elevator in NYC once after that show first aired and I heard two women talking about going to that soup restaurant. Apparently it was based on a real place/person.


Every one of my guitar fretboards except on my Martin )M 28 and my Gretsch 5120 have shrunk - on 3 strats, three teles, my hand made jazz archtop and my recently self built les paul. I live in NYC and after a couple of months of the heat coming on and drying the whole place up its happens - even with my placing devices in the cases to increase the humidity.

The good news it is easily fixable with careful filing - otherwise the fret ends tear up my left hand


I was making some adjustments to the Strat today. I've had it for a couple years now & this is the first year the fret ends have exposed themselves. How rude! Must be the sub zero weather


pretty common up here in the great white north, epecially with rosewood fingerboards, we call it "sprouting"

the cause is not the cold but dryness from central heating. its a straight forward fix by a good luthier. ted at "my music store" in golden valley minnnesota is a master at it. might as well have him do a fret levelling while he's got it in the shop!

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