Once we have stained and finished a guitar, it is sent to Fret Dress/Final Approval for the neck and frets to be cleaned up and the neck to be leveled before the guitar goes to Final Assembly to receive its electronics and hardware.
The first series of steps removes any flaws or sharp edges that may still be left on the frets or the fretboard. These checks remove any scratches or grime that may have accumulated on the necks during construction and also ensure the necks are in the best possible playing condition. First, the protective tape is taken off and the fretboard is checked over for any scratches. Then, a “stick” is run across the fret tangs to remove any buildup. Next, varying grit sand paper is used to round off the tops of the frets, and to remove any sharp edges on the fret tangs. Then, buildup on the fretboard left by the tape is gently removed with a razor blade. Since this process can leave sharp edges on the ends of frets, the razor blade is also dragged lightly over the sides of the fretboard to smooth it out. As a finishing touch-up, a sanding pad is rubbed over the tangs to remove any scratches left from the fret dress process, and steel wool is run over the entire fretboard to shine it up.
There are a wide variety of tests and procedures performed on the neck to ensure the neck and frets are completely level. This is called Final Approval. We use a straight edge to confirm that the neck is level. Any minor imperfections can be easily corrected with the truss rod. Finally, a stick is run over the tops of the frets to once again check that they are level. As an additional check, a 6-inch straight edge is laid over the frets to ensure they are even, and to verify that no frets are popping.
PRS guitars should be comfortable to play right out of the case, and the necks are the most important element of that. These quality checks and clean up procedures ensure that the necks will play and look as they should before the guitars are sent through Final Assembly and Casing.