by Professor String

The Notorious Guitar String Grabber



There is a unique fret problem, common to players who use a thin (less than 0.011”) gauge E string on their guitar. If you have experienced this problem, then you will surely get a grin on your face once you remember it. Here is the problem: Occasionally you run across a guitar that will have the E string get stuck on the edge of a fret. The string will actually wedge itself in between the fret’s edge and the fretboard. Once the string is wedged, it will no longer play correctly until you pull it out of the little gap it has found. Sometimes, the string can get damaged with a little nick or pit mark on it. For discussion purposes, we are going to give this little problem a name: The String Grabber.
A Price Problem?
Okay, some of you might be thinking, “My guitar does that, and it drives me nuts!” Yet, others of you are thinking to yourself, “That sounds like a really cheap guitar with a poor fret job and workmanship.” For those of you thinking this is merely “cheap guitar” syndrome, yours truly has witnessed this problem on guitars well above the $5,000 price tag. Fortunately, it does not happen as much in the upper price ranges. Here is the point: This problem is not attributed to a guitar’s price tag. It is a problem attributed to ignoring the details of good workmanship. A GOOD guitar is built around solid design and noteworthy construction principles. A GREAT guitar is about the three D’s of premium workmanship: Detail, Detail, Detail.
As an observation, the String Grabber has started to appear more frequently in recent years. There has been a flood of low cost Korean and Chinese import guitars hitting the market by storm. Many of these guitars fit in the GOOD guitar category we just mentioned. In addition, they are typically lower cost (less than $300) with a respectable brand name on it. In short, there are many guitarists playing these guitars today because they fit their budget. To fix the string grabber problem, we need a fix that is low cost.
The Causes
There are several conditions that can cause a fret to be a String Grabber:
The fret is loose and has started to lift off of the fret board.
There is overhang happening with the fret.
The fret simply did not get seated correctly when it was installed.
We are going to now take a look at the fixes.
Getting It Corrected…The easy way.
This problem can be fixed in two different manners. The first way involves giving the guitar to a luthier with some good hammering, leveling, dressing, sanding, and filing skills. This could cost over a third of the original price of the instrument. Not good for the shoestring budget player. The second way involves the DIYALC method…Do It Yourself At Low Cost.
If you are not at technician, don’t worry, because there are no tools or sanding involved with this method. At the very heart of the problem is micro-sized gap that needs to be filled.

Figure 1


In Figure 1 we show the small edge of the fret being a String Grabber.

Figure 2


In Figure 2 we get a small container of wood filler. The wood filler hardens overnight and creates a very hard surface for the string to slide over.

Figure 3


Get a small pinch of filler out of the container and press it into the String Grabber region.

Figure 4


Once you have pressed the filler into the String Grabber you will have a little amount of excess around the fret lamination as seen in Figure 4. You will want to remove this excess as soon as possible before it hardens.

Figure 5


After wiping away the excess filler, we end up with a uniform looking fill in the gap as seen in Figure 5.

This will eliminate our String Grabber problem. If you have a String Grabber with an excessively big gap, the string may eventually start to wear the filler. Once that happens, just simply repeat the procedure above, and you will be back in business.


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About The Author


Professor StringTM is a leading expert in the musical string business. He leads a development group that specializes in guitar and bass string research for musicians. You can visit their site at