Good question - bear in mind I wasn't referring to professionally made/mass produced guitars.
I sand the fretboard down to 320, then apply 3 coats of Danish Oil, then polish in a couple more with 600 grit. When it has cured overnight I use a small craft knife to get the sh*t out of the fret slots and pop the frets in. Seems the best way to get a consistent smooth finish on the fretboard. I've tried oiling afterwards but it just pools at the frets. :)
Wow, you finish it before you put the fret wire in. I did put a single coat of true oil on my current builds prior to putting down the fret wire, but only because the boards are aspen which is pretty soft. I experimented putting fret wire in the aspen without doing this, but they didn't hold well enough. The True oil definitely hardened it to the point of a good snug fit, but I never thought to TOTALLY finish it prior to placing the wire. I still have a few more coats to put on these before I'm done. As far as the oil pooling at the frets, I have not have this experience with Tru Oil, but I've never tried Danish oil. The True Oil seems thin enough to be able to wipe away build up pretty well. Hmmmm...you've given me some food for thought. Richey.
Well Danish oil doesn't really get 'hard' for quite a while. When I press the frets in I feed a drop of superglue into each side (while it's clamped) to hold it snugly in place. The only reason I do it this way is so the fretboard doesn't get finish pooling at the sides of the frets...
So gently file/grind/sand the snags until gone.
Relax, put on some good music, go slow and steady.
Scuff the wood if necessary, you can always retouch the finish. No one is grading you on the result.
Yeah maybe it won't be a perfect big name box store junktar "hecho en China" but it'll be yours and comfortable to play.
The key is you'll be developing the feel for the work.
Your next one will be easier because you will have had practice on this one.
Thing about doing stuff is that if you get tense and worry about screwing up, you are guaranteed to screw up. Relax and do what needs doing.
Remember we aren't talking about an expensive project here. I mean even if you totally FUBAR this build you'll be out what $20 bucks tops. The tools you have purchased aren't a wasted investment because they can be used for your next build and for any other suitable project around the house.
The key word here is the 2nd one from Robert. "Gently."
Let the file do the work and don't lean into it. This will create fewer and smaller burrs that are easier to clean up.
This is what I made and use , not very pretty but they do the job very well
You would probably need to do that with a table saw to cut the slot.
I made one like that but it didn't work very well. I am guessing I had the wrong kind of file in it. I just use my belt sander.
I cut the slots with a hand saw , 90 deg was a bit loose so I use the screws to hold it in , easier than holding a file in your hands and you get them all the same angle .
I use a regular flat metal file run lengthwise along the neck to first flatten the ends of the frets, then to round them off. Go all the way down until you feel like yolu're filing the wood, then start the round off process. After you'r happy with the shape, take a small file (I have a triangular shaped one about 1/8 inch wide) and hit each edge of each fret ( 4 edges per fret)...round the fret edges off and then move to the top. After all that I run sandpaper up and down the sides of each neck. I've never ended up with burrs/sharp edges after all that.
Stewart Mac sells a fret dressing file for about $12. It is designed to dull the edges of the frets with out damaging the finish.
It saves me a lot of aggravation and time.