Silence of the Steel Lambs: A Yarn of Terror.
Hello reader. It's good to see you again.
This one will be short but important, and maybe a touch sensitive for the old school guitar maintenance types.
Over the years guitar servicing techniques have been progressively updated. Brands like Stew Mac, Crimson, Hosco and others have provided more and more elegant and efficient solutions to the myriad issues of riff stick re-radification.
These advancements are normally more to do with increased efficiency and precision rather than totally rethink and replace old methods. However, there is definitely one old method that is being subtly discouraged and with good reason.
Steel wool finishing. An old school fret finish technique from waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy back.
0000 fine steel wool was often used as a micro abrasion tool to "polish" frets, post levelling and re-crowning. This used to be a fairly standard practice in a time before wide spread availability of fret erasers, micromesh, high grit wet sanding paper and abrasive pastes. But it's been largely relegated to the tech jobs of the past. Not just because of the less than stellar finish compared to modern techniques, but for a very problematic byproduct of the process. Hundreds of broken extremely fine conductive steel hairs.
Ever leave the barbers and continuously for the rest of the day find tiny hairs all over you? Imagine that but it's steel wool.
Feel itchy? Well it could be worse, at least we humans don't rely on magnetic coils and poles to operate.
That is the real problem posed by this method of finishing. Should any of those tiny broken wires get into your pickups, switches or potentiometers they can cause all kinds of bridging electric signal havoc on your poor innocent riff stck. A fret polish shouldn't have the potential to necessitate electronic component replacements.
Check this late 70s Gibson black beauty.
This was a near miss situation. This poor riffer needed a lotta love after a long life of regular play and some offensive relicing. New bone nut, fret level and polish, extensive finish correction was all on the menu, but that's all pretty standard stuff. The real horror was to come when I inspected the neck pickup and found this.
A significant amount of steel wool stuck to the underside of the pickup.
This could have been a real issue but luckily no harm seems to have come to the pickups operation. This was the worst of the electronic areas effected but small amounts of steel wool got literally into every interior cavity and had to be carefully removed with magnets and microfiber clothes. This was happily a situation of no consequence, but that was pretty much down to pure luck. My advice is to steer people away from this practice.... or eat their liver with some faba beans and a nice chianti.
As always stay safe and riff hard.