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  1. #51

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    I have these:


    • Fret rocker to identify high frets
    • Double edge fret file for crowning (filing) frets
    • Fret leveler for leveling fretboard


    For fret end filing I use a small smoothing file, nothing special. It's about 6" long.

    For final fret smoothing there are a lot of ways to do it but I use a dremel tool with a felt disk loaded with some abrasive. Mask off the fretboard with masking tape.

    Of course, being Stewart Mac you can always spend more, but at the least I think you will want a concave fret file like the one listed above.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #52

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    I'm always astounded at the prices on Stew Mac's stuff. I'm also a cyclist, so I understand that specialized tools (every damn thing on a bike needs a special tool it seems) can be expensive. But Stew Mac seems excessively so sometimes.

  4. #53

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    well stew mac has been around for decades..so they have a good/known name and have good customer service...they also maintain a certain standard...you can get cheaper stuff on amazon, but the quality might not be up to snuff..you have to shop carefully

    another good outfit to check is-

    Philadelphia Luthier Tools & Supplies Guitar building tools and parts

    cheers

  5. #54

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    Luthier's Mercantile:

    Fretting Tools

  6. #55

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    I've leveled a number of guitars.

    Haven't done one in a few years so I'd research a bit if I had to do one.

    Since you are handy I'm sure you could do it. There are numerous how-tos on the internet.

    You might want to practice on a cheap guitar neck first.

    You don't need expensive tools to do it. Everything you need you can get at Home Depot.

    You need:

    Guts. You need to stick your neck out a bit to do this. Would I do a $10,000 guitar myself? Probably not. A $200 guitar. You bet.

    Straight edge to check the straightness of the neck when you adjust the truss rod to a perfectly straight neck. No bow. A rafter square can work. You may have one already. Just something perfectly straight you can lay on top of the neck to check it.

    Straight block of some sort. I used a foot long piece of wood trim like a 1x2. Some guys use a piece of scrap marble threshhold from Home Depot. To this you glue your sandpaper that you will file the frets with. You make a sanding block.

    Sandpaper of a certain grade. 100. Have to check that.

    Small triangle file that you modify slightly with a grinding wheel to remove the sharp edges. This you file the frets with. Just a $10 file from Home Depot. Filing the frets is the most difficult part.

    Masking tape to protect the fretboard when you file.

    Black Sharpie pen.

    Steel wool or an abrasive pad to polish the frets after filing. Since you have a set neck, mask off the pickups if you use steel wool as the magnets will attract the steel fragments.

    >

    The gist of the process is to (remove all strings first) first adjust the neck perfectly straight with the truss rod.

    Tape off the area between the frets with painters masking tape.

    Mark the tops of the frets with the Sharpie.

    Slide your leveling block up and down the fretboard with a somewhat circular motion because the neck is a convex surface. Apply very little pressure.

    Check the frets. When you no longer see any Sharpie marks the frets are level. Stop sanding! You removed all the high spots.

    Now you file the frets carefully to make an edge on each fret. A crown.

    Then you polish the frets to remove sharp edges, especially on the ends.

    After you like the end result, remove the tape, adjust the truss rod, set up the guitar.

    "Perfect is the enemy of good" in this case. Get it to a good point. Then quit filing!

    That's basically the process. You are making all the frets the same height.
    Last edited by Drumbler; 02-12-2020 at 07:45 PM.

  7. #56

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    I've always worked on my guitars but had never levelled frets until recently.

    One cheap triangle file with edges ground down, one metal sanding beam, and a straightedge and I was on my way. A utility knife blade makes a good fret rocker. Also various grits of sandpaper and lots of masking tape.

    So, for less than $50 I've now done 3 fret levelling jobs that would have cost $100 each. Not at all hard to do if you're patient and detail oriented.

    This is one of the better videos about the process:

  8. #57
    I'm an amateur hack when it comes to working on guitars. Still, I do level my own frets. I'm a little surprised at some of the suggestions other than actual luthier tools. Maybe I value my time too much but there's also the question of accuracy and not screwing something up. Little confused as to how people are doing a good job of crowning a fret without a proper tool and I haven't seen much mention of fine polishing. I didn't get everything at StewMac and Luthier Mercantile, but I did buy quality tools designed for the job and have no regrets.

  9. #58

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    Oh, I completely understand the difference a quality tool makes, although I also still think StewMac is overpriced and their shipping fees are as well.

    But, fixing a single high fret IMO doesn't merit $200 worth of tools if it's not necessary. If I was a luthier or even just had a lot of guitars that need the occasional maintaining then I could see it. But I don't mind taking a little extra time and care if that's all which is needed to do the job.

    I mentioned earlier about being a cyclist and the specialized tools needed there. But the more I think about it, it's really different. So many parts on a bicycle are only removed/replaced with a specialized tool. And you often need to use them quite a bit. I have to pull the entire drive train on my bikes multiple times a year to clean/lube/replace worn parts. I shouldn't have to say the same thing about my guitars. If I do, then something else is an issue.

    Anyways, this has been an informative thread, I don't mean to turn it into bashing StewMac. I've used their tools before and I know they are good. I just can't justify the cost for myself.

  10. #59

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumbler

    Straight block of some sort. I used a foot long piece of wood trim like a 1x2. Some guys use a piece of scrap marble threshhold from Home Depot. To this you glue your sandpaper that you will file the frets with. You make a sanding block.
    Thanks for the detail. I do have a question about this one part, however. Since a neck is radiused (sp?) wouldn't a straight block like this make your frets level, but not radiused to the fretboard? I must be missing something, because I've seen this recommended in numerous places, which usually means my thick head is blocking something important.

  11. #60

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bahnzo
    Thanks for the detail. I do have a question about this one part, however. Since a neck is radiused (sp?) wouldn't a straight block like this make your frets level, but not radiused to the fretboard? I must be missing something, because I've seen this recommended in numerous places, which usually means my thick head is blocking something important.
    Good question.

    This is why you run the block up and down the neck using a circular motion.

    Not much pressure on the block.

    See my previous post.

  12. #61

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    The block is rotated slightly as it goes nearer the edges. You do not keep it flat and grind down just the center. Just barely take off the marker from the top of the frets, all the way across. Do not apply much force, or try to do the job quickly.

  13. #62

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    That 16th fret looks really low, you will have to take alot off to get them all level. you should also look up how to do a fret fall away if you are going to level them.

  14. #63

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bahnzo
    Thanks for the detail. I do have a question about this one part, however. Since a neck is radiused (sp?) wouldn't a straight block like this make your frets level, but not radiused to the fretboard? I must be missing something, because I've seen this recommended in numerous places, which usually means my thick head is blocking something important.
    no! thats where the black magic marker comes in...you coat the frets with the magic marker black..and then sand so that the black is just removed..perfect system...but takes time and patience..start on high E side and slowly move to low E..in straight but steady increments...think tight straight grain spruce!..ad mind the radius!!cheers

  15. #64

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    I watched the videos that Gilpy linked above and much was explained.

    I'm supposed to get the replacement Groot on Friday, so we'll see what's what then.

  16. #65

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    I didn't bother with any of the videos, but often enough a high fret is just one that has risen up and needs to be reseated. That's always the first thing to check before filing away on it.

  17. #66

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    This is one of the better tutorials I've come across. Ron Kirn is a respected builder of boutique strat and tele styles from Jacksonville FL, but the principles should be applicable across most guitars.

    Fret leveling yer tele.......101 | Telecaster Guitar Forum

  18. #67

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    Please at all cost use a proper radius sanding block not one that is flat.

  19. #68

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    even with "proper radius" blocks, things can happen...many fretboards are compound radius...either by design or default...magic marker gives you some sort of guide...radius can also be fine tweaked on final individual fret finishing


    cheers

  20. #69

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    I just bought a used Eastman archtop. Very nice, but if I lower the action down to where I like (I like low action on a straight neck, little to no relief), I am getting buzzing around 12-14 area. Will a fret leveling solve this? (Not really a build question, maybe this should be in the other sub group for gear/equipment?)
    Last edited by Woody Sound; 03-04-2020 at 01:01 PM.

  21. #70

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    Yes possibly for sure. Need to check the relief and see if the relief is constant on both sides of the neck (twisted relief). Is there a hump from the end of the truss rod to the last fret? That would be about fret 14 to 20. If it is just a small hump in the neck then sure on a Eastman you level it out and be fine. Worst case scenario is if the hump is larger and seems to be a problem you pull the frets and level the FB at the point. If it is at the last 1/3 of he neck is really is not a huge deal to do, but it takes time.

    Ideally a bit of drop on the very last 4 frets is not a problem and the old guitars actually had the built in the way they were made. Bill Barker use to do his necks with of course the truss rod going to fret 15. Then he purposely had a bit of fall in the fingerboard extension. Not a lot but one could see it. I am sure manufactures get antsy as the FB could keep dropping but Barker was using very stable air-died maple necks. I have seen Gibson tailing up and that too present another problem. Take a radius gauge and make sure radius is consistent too.

  22. #71

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    Yes fret leveling can solve the issue. There are other things to look for first like a fret that has risen up and needs reseated down. If you decide to fret level then do a fall away from the 12th down it is done the same way you do a fret level, look up doing a fret fall away on You Tube. I my self use a radius block to level my frets so the radius will match perfectly.

  23. #72

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    unfortunately reducing the neck bow and getting a pretty straight neck can reveal a lot of shortcuts and troubles built into a guitar...why many guitars come from factory with some extra bow...saves money on getting the frets perfect...or planing the fretboard perfectly, or even getting the neck angle 100%...

    without seeing it, it sounds like, a fret leveling may at least fix... if not cure...the fact that its the 12-14th fret leads me to believe it might not be a neck hump problem ..that would usually cause buzzing higher up the frets...

    also check for unseated frets

    funny thing is, nowadays many of the cheaper asian made guitars like squier or epi have little hands on work...all cnc manufactured...so the necks can be remarkably flat and the fretwork perfect!..not so when relying on untrained hand skill


    cheers


    ps- you can use a credit card to check individual frets..here's a good basic vid to show what can be done...just a credit card and a precise straightedge ruler can reveal much!!

    Last edited by neatomic; 03-04-2020 at 07:55 PM. Reason: cl-

  24. #73

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    I've been having problems with fret buzz and fretting out on two of my guitars, and have not been entirely happy with shops I've been dealing with, so I took matters into my own hands and am quite pleased with the results.

    The worst issues were with my Gitane D500. I bought this guitar new over the winter, and I was so happy with its virtues when I tried it that I didn't pay close enough attention to the upper frets. When I got it home I realized it had some nasty buzzes and sharp fret ends. I took it back to the shop where I bought it, and the owner said he was too busy building guitars to take on any repair work. He looked at it, said that the problem was lack of humidity (not a need for fret work), that the bridge needed to be shimmed, and that this was the nature of the GJ beast. That seemed somewhat confirmed by what people say online, so I didn't make an issue of it. He gave me some veneer to do the shimming myself. I addressed the humidity (kept the guitar near our room humidifier and kept a soundhole humidifier in it when not playing it). and added the shims. This helped somewhat with the fret buzz, but not with the sprout. I watched a bunch of videos about sharp fret ends, got one of these :

    Fret End Dressing File | stewmac.com.

    and fixed the fret ends. But there was still some buzz with the shims, and I didn't like the higher action. I kept monkeying around with shims and tweaking the relief, but was not really happy with the results. Fast forward to lockdown mode, and I didn't even want to try to deal with a shop, so I put in some more time reading stuff watching, fret-work videos, and looking at various tools. I wound up getting this:

    Buzz-Off(R) Fret Leveling Kit - J.S. Bogdanovich Guitars

    No doubt there are better tools. But what sold me on this was that he has a video that demonstrates the technique for finding and fixing frets very clearly, and it seemed to me that going at it with sandpaper was lower risk (for a first-timer) than files and/or a full-on fret-leveling and crowning job. The 3 dowels worked very well for finding high frets -- as I suspected there were several, and shimming was not really the answer to that. It took a while, and I used up all the sandpaper and steel wool in the kit, but I got through all the high frets. I tuned up and played the guitar, and it was much better. But with the shims now removed there was still some buzz and fretting out in a couple of spots (though not as severe). I scored some more sandpaper and what is likely a lifetime supply of steel wool and I took another crack at it. I found that some of the frets I thought I had fully addressed were still a little high, so I took care of these. Now it's perfect, with no shims, slight relief, and very comfortable action. I've been playing it almost non-stop this week and am enjoying it much more than I had before.

    Next up, my Godin Kingpin. This also had some buzzes, and I had been managing it (to a degree) with action and relief tweaks, but with the lessons learned from the Gitane, I figured it was time to look at the frets more closely. Sure enough, a few frets were high, and somewhat pitted. This time, the repairs went much faster. The Godin's frets are narrower than the Gitanes, and I think the metal may be softer because it took (a lot) fewer strokes with the sandpaper to fix each fret. It, too, now plays great with no buzzing or hint of fretting out.

    Both of these guitars feel like new now. In retrospect, enough of the frets were high on the Gitane (and getting one right revealed that another was high in a couple of cases) that it probably needed a complete fret-leveling job. But this was effective and I'm glad I did it. I'm not sure I would go the next step of getting files and doing complete fret-leveling jobs, but I learned enough to see that that's not a completely insane thing to contemplate.

    John

  25. #74

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    I have done what you have just done and it works just fine. leveling the whole lot is the best option. I have done this on about 8 guitars and it is reasonable easy to do. If you have a look on YOUTUBE there are a number of vids on the process. It pays to watch 3 or 4 and pick the bones out of them so to speak.

    Once you have got them all level watch another 3 or 4 vids on the set up. These will show you what the string heights should be at the first and 12th fret. Start with adjusting string height at the neck nut when the strings are close to where they should be 12th fret then adjust the bridge to give you the correct height at both points.

    Once done I've found the actions can be lowered considerably without fret buzzing. Also makes the instrument easier and faster in the action to play.

    The worst thing that can happen is you make a mess of it and need to throw new frets on. That is not hard to do either so don't be frightened to have a go.

  26. #75

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    I've done this several times, attempting a full level-and-crown, and was happy with the outcome.

    A key, though, is to make sure when you unstring the guitar, to crank the truss rod so that the neck is straight.

    The danger of the kit and video shown is lowering the fret too much. For single frets, I like the StewMac "Fret Kisser." The abrasive surface is on a straight edge that rides on the neighboring frets, so that you can't grind the fret down lower than its neighbors. For the whole fretboard, I mark the high places with a sharpie and use a sanding block that rides on several frets (correct radius too) and constantly check my sharpie marks lest I over-do it.

  27. #76

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    Agreed. I watched a whole bunch of videos on spot leveling, full fret levels, and re-frets, as well as on set-us, action measurement, etc. The main thing keeping me from doing more extensive work is space. I live in small apartment and I have to do all of this at the kitchen/dining table. Taking over the kitchen with tools and mess for a whole day is not in the cards. So I need approaches that are quick and take up as little room as possible.

  28. #77

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    I've done this several times, attempting a full level-and-crown, and was happy with the outcome.

    A key, though, is to make sure when you unstring the guitar, to crank the truss rod so that the neck is straight.

    The danger of the kit and video shown is lowering the fret too much. For single frets, I like the StewMac "Fret Kisser." The abrasive surface is on a straight edge that rides on the neighboring frets, so that you can't grind the fret down lower than its neighbors. For the whole fretboard, I mark the high places with a sharpie and use a sanding block that rides on several frets (correct radius too) and constantly check my sharpie marks lest I over-do it.
    What I like about the kit I got is that the sanding block has a fret-crown shaped groove in it, so lowering the fret and shaping it can be done in one step. The Fret Kisser is a flat surface, so you also need a crowning tool. I imagine that's the better way to do it (sandpaper goes very slowly on frets that need to be brought down more than a tiny amount), but for now I'm trying to keep it simple. I made a point of stopping frequently and checking the level so as to avoid over sanding. I actually had the opposite problem -- not sanding enough and thinking that reducing the fret height slightly was good enough. I wound up having to re-do the Gitane to get the high spots completely down.

    John

  29. #78

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    When leveling frets be sure to check for any that are loose. Then glue them down with superglue. On one of my first attempts at fret leveling I had one or two frets that remained high. My guitar repair guy pointed out that they were loose. The frets would go down as I leveled the frets then rise again.

  30. #79

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    I've been wanting to learn how to do fret dressing as well. If a couple of frets are a little high I guess it's relatively easy to lower them a bit while keeping the radius matched with the neighbouring frets.

    My fear is if there are any low frets. Then every other fret has to come down right? That sounds like a serious operation.

  31. #80

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    I have a guitar that needs a touch of leveling. With the neck as straight as I like it, I find with a fret rocker that both the 2nd and 3rd frets are high. I don't want to get into the recursive loop of leveling a fret, finding the other is now high, leveling that one, the next one is high, etc.

    Is there a best practice for which of two adjacent frets should be leveled first?

  32. #81

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    With the neck straight I would simply use a radius sanding block to the neck ( probably 12 inch radius). Start at the second fret very, very lightly going over the first 4 frets. Use some marker to show where you are sanding but frankly as you remove some metal it will show. It should then remove metal in the area of high spot first at least theoretically. Do this and then only work on the first 4 frets. Check again with fret rocker but and polish the 4 frets you have done some work on. String the guitar up and my guess is you will be good to go. Don't move farther that one fret in each direction of the high/low fret.

    Check to see if fret is seated all the way too. I know Lawson you know how to do this and much easier than you think. Main thing is when checking you know that the neck is straight. use the truss rod to get it perfectly straight with no strings on it before hand.

    Let me know how you do.

  33. #82

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    Aha. It had not occurred to me to do the same thing I'd do to level all the frets, just more delicately and on the first four. I will try to make a time this week to do this. Sounds like the best plan. I have inspected the frets in question and both seem to be seated correctly.
    Last edited by lawson-stone; 06-01-2020 at 06:18 PM.

  34. #83

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    Mark's description on what to do is spot on but for one fret that is a hair higher, I have used the tool below. It allows for hitting that high fret with the strings attached. It is expensive and it is not for general leveling.

    StewMac Fret Kisser | stewmac.com

  35. #84

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    I have that, but my problem is TWO frets that are high, and I am puzzling over which would be smartest to address first.

  36. #85

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    Like Mark said, I would address both at the same time.