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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Best fret levelling tool

Discussion in 'The DIY Tool Shed' started by tone-daddy, Dec 13, 2016.

  1. tone-daddy

    tone-daddy TDPRI Member

    Nov 12, 2016
    London, UK
    Hi everyone. I'm thinking of getting myself a fret levelling tool but there are quite a few different types out there. What do people on here use? There seems to be 2 main types - a bastard file type or one which you attach an abrasive paper to. Does length play an important part? would a 6" tool be suitable to do a whole neck?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    I use a tool that used to be sold by stewmac. It is float plate glass about 16" long attached to n MDF body and handle. It holds strips of abrasive. That has been a good tool for me over the years.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2016

  3. Artslap

    Artslap Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Mar 17, 2014
    Sydney, Australia
    A machined extruded aluminium Beam. 12 or 18"

    Use double-sided tape (or the trick with masking tape and super glue) to attached grades of wet/dry paper and sand (slowly and carefully) away.


  4. Meteorman

    Meteorman Tele-Holic

    Dec 23, 2012
    State College PA
    12" strip of polished granite countertop scrap. Spray adhesive and abrasive papers.
    VanManNW and bender66 like this.

  5. bender66

    bender66 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 18, 2010
    on my bike
    ... & as mentioned in Ron's thread the free scraps make it even better.

  6. jondanger

    jondanger Friend of Leo's

    Jan 27, 2011
    Charm City, MD
    6" is too short. My DIY leveler is probably about 16". I go with sandpaper affixed to a metal beam. I think the last time I used either 320 or 400 grit - probably 320. I could probably justify something a little more precision, but this worked for me in a pinch.

  7. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    I started with a 6 inch file but then got an 18inch strip of granite. The file works well and is a big big improvement on the Squiers and other similar guitars so don't not-level with a file if that is what you have, but the granite does a much better job. The idea is to get all the frets flat to each other so a longer beam is better.

    My next plan is to build the tie-down bench to simulate string tension.

    I bought a roll of emery cloth from harbor freight that is a couple of inches wide (it's for making custom sanding belts) and stick that to my granite strip. 240 grit. Then use papers and a small maple sanding block to polish out the emery marks 600, 800, 1500 and then follow up with the finest polishing 'eraser' I got from Crimson Guitars. The maple block is about 1.5 inches wide and two+ inches long and it keeps the inch wide strip of polishing papers level along the fret as I sand along them.

    Another thread someone suggest using a marble door threshold from home depot or lowes, if you can't find a granite scrap.


  8. RodeoTex

    RodeoTex Poster Extraordinaire

    Sep 14, 2005
    Nueces Strip
    I just use two different grades of emory cloth strips cemented to factory edge 3/4" plywood.
    It lasts for a few necks, then discard and make more.
    About 16" BTW.

  9. Cat MacKinnon

    Cat MacKinnon Friend of Leo's

    Nov 13, 2011
    I have an aluminum leveling beam I made from rectagular 6061 tubing. It cost me all of $15 shipped and only took a few minutes to sand flat on a known flat surface (a section of my kitchen counter, in this case.) In general though, yes I think the beams do a slightly better job than a traditional file, but either one can give you a good fret job.

  10. RogerC

    RogerC Poster Extraordinaire Vendor Member

    Mar 30, 2011
    Since you're in the UK, Hit these folks up

    Murray is a fantastic guy.

    I tried the counter top cutoff version at first, but after checking the flatness with my Stewmac straight edge, I decided it wasn't nearly as flat as I thought it was. And that was for Corian and granite both. I'd encourage all you folks to do the same. Counter tops may feel flat, and relatively speaking, they are. They're nowhere nearly as flat as a precision beam, though.

    Does it make a difference when leveling frets? I can't say for certain it does, but when dealing with the fret plane, I just don't think that's a wise place to try and save a few buck since it's one of the most crucial elements to building a really good-playing guitar.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016
    mPacT likes this.

  11. tone-daddy

    tone-daddy TDPRI Member

    Nov 12, 2016
    London, UK
    Thanks for all your comments. Think I will go with a longer precision levelled beam and adhesive emery cloth. There seems to be some good deals on ebay - the technofret beam does look very good though and its almost Christmas :)

    Newbcaster likes this.

  12. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

    Dec 3, 2014
    Toowoomba, Australia
    I use a diamond hone mounted on a wood block with carpet tape. I prefer something like that to abrasive paper, which will have some "give" - though I don't know whether it makes any practical difference.

  13. Cat MacKinnon

    Cat MacKinnon Friend of Leo's

    Nov 13, 2011
    Crimson Custom Guitars has a 16" leveling beam for 28 pounds, plus they're in your general area of the world. Might want to check them out.
    Newbcaster and tone-daddy like this.

  14. jimash

    jimash Friend of Leo's

    Nov 5, 2013
    I used to have a stone thing, but I knocked off a couple of nuts and stopped using it.

  15. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Jul 2, 2015

    +1 except my stone is 18" long. I started with a carpenter's level, which works well enough but the stone slab has a certain hefty mass so you don't have to push down as you go back & forth. I'm still a beginner but have had decent results so far. Good luck!

  16. mcmars

    mcmars TDPRI Member

    Jan 9, 2017
    western US
    I am getting ready to level a few of my guitar frets. I got a scrap 17"x1x2 piece of rectangular tubular extruded aluminum from a friend who has a welding shop. I rounded the corners a bit so they would not hang up on the frets. I used a piece of glass with 2 sheets of 220 wet/dry paper duc taped onto the glass and sanded it for a few minutes until it looked and felt nice and smooth. I also tried to make a straight edge with an 1/8" thick 24 " long scrap my friend gave me, but I had to sand it longer along the cut line to remove some imperfections from his track cutter. When I checked them with a luthier against his tools, the sanding beam was perfect, but the straight edge was not straight at the ends. I see some people on utube are using short wood radius blocks to get the radius perfect. The luthier told me he had tried that but figured out it was too hard to keep the block perfectly straight with your hand, so the radius block would twist enough to mess up the radius. He uses an aluminum beam by SM that looked identical to the one I made with free parts. I found on ebay someone selling strips of the 3m self adhesive sandpaper, 180 and 320 3/4"x19, 12 strips for $20.

  17. viking

    viking Friend of Leo's

    Jan 23, 2007
    I use a fret file , bought for the purpose. Its not that long , and that makes it a bit harder to control. The problem , I guess , is that the shorter tools won't level all the frets equally , when going back and forth . To level precisely , its almost mandatory to remove the nut. Then you can go over every fret on the " upstroke " and past the nut area. Problem is bigger when you have to remove more material

  18. FrontPU

    FrontPU Tele-Holic

    Jul 6, 2008
    The 18" is sold by Stew-Mac?

  19. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    That's exactly what I do. I mark with a sharpie first, to identify where I'm hitting. Then wrap a double-thick piece of paper lunch bag over the end of the beam nearest the nut, and do a bit more, creating fall away. Not too much.

  20. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    FrontPU likes this.

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