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

Fret leveling yer tele.......101

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Ronkirn, Feb 27, 2010.

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  1. sean79

    sean79 Poster Extraordinaire

    Ron. Many have already said it, but Thank You. I love this stuff.

    Can I assume the process for flattening the frets on a worn neck is pretty much the same (just more sanding with the rock bar thing)?

    And 4string, thanks for the quartz poly lesson.

  2. WisconsinStrings

    WisconsinStrings Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 15, 2007
    Arcadia, Wisconsin
    Wow, thanks! I've made two guitars now (except for the neck). I've never tried performing a fret level, but this thread makes it seem a lot less scary.

    The current project does require a neck build, so I'll be pulling this thread back up when the time comes.

    Thanks again!

  3. WisconsinStrings

    WisconsinStrings Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 15, 2007
    Arcadia, Wisconsin
    You mentioned in the initial post, leveling a compound radius neck. How does this come into play? Shorter flat sanding block?

  4. lewis

    lewis Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!

  5. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    When doing a compound radius neck... don't sweat it, you do it exactly as though it was any other neck. the leveling tool will naturally follow the conical shape of the compound as you use the circular "scrubbing" action allowing it to roll with the radius of the neck.. If you don't understand the concept, don't worry... just do it...


  6. stephent2

    stephent2 Poster Extraordinaire

    Jun 22, 2003

  7. 4string

    4string Friend of Leo's

    Feb 11, 2010
    Central California
    No problemo, Im here to help 'bro. I accually want you guys to score some rock local so I planted the seed. This crap is heavy enough to make shipping $ painful.........and Im looking at this fret tool thing as more of a hobby; I have a job. Pretty slow lately w/ the reccession...........

    Im also looking for feedback re: sizes, other uses.............remember, Im not a luthier. If the subject is flat, us countertop guys got flat........except for corian. That stuff is NOT FLAT and its usually warped when we get it. Doesnt need to be flat...........non-reflective un-polishable, and you just go up on top w/ a sander and fix anything wrong. No can do w/ polished stone.

    ........and Ron is my hero (Im buttering him up cuz I wanna ask him if he might be willing to make me a bass. Shhhhh, dont tell him yet, OK?)
    pdmartin likes this.

  8. lcipher

    lcipher TDPRI Member

    Feb 11, 2010
    Thanks for the info Ron. Just got your Tele book from eBay and have read it several times. Lots of great tips but this helped with some of the questions I had on fret work.

    One question - how do you know which fret file to use? For a Tele 6105 fret 0.055"x0.090" is the med/jumbo file correct? Where can I find what range of fret widths are compatible with which file?
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2010

  9. 4string

    4string Friend of Leo's

    Feb 11, 2010
    Central California
    Compound interest for compound radius

    Ill take a stab at this one.

    Place a flat object on a radiused surface and only a miniscule contact is being made. Try to balance the cover of a hardbound book on a bowling ball. It will slide off unless you manage to place it on the exact center of the books gravity, because the point of contact is like the point of a ballpoint pen.

    Now line up a bunch of bowling balls in a perfectly straight line and place a long straightedge down the row. the straightedge contacts each ball as long as your straightedge is in-line (parallel) with the line-up of balls no matter where you are on the radius.

    Now lastly for compound: somebody does the math so that the line-up of bowling balls ever-decreases in size from one end to the other (compound radius), each one slightly smaller than the next. The balls are perfectly lined-up on their exact centers. Now, if you put the straightedge on the balls, you will find that the straightedge will touch all the balls directly above the centerline. If you start sliding the straightedge over following the radiuses of the balls, it will begin to no longer be parallel with the centerline anymore. It will look like how your strings look as they head down the board:wider at the heel, narrower at the nut.

    ;)That was a long story to get to the point:

    On a compound radius neck, try to keep the beam oriented as your strings are. Ron spoke of an oval pattern. Try to make your oval a little narrower at the nut end and bigger at the heel end on a compound neck, but if you are off a little it isnt going to hurt anything. As long as you arent hanging 2" over at one end and 2" over the opposite side at the other (and for a bunch of passes).

    You might even want to take that approach on a single radius neck, since thats actually what your strings are calling for. Geometrically speaking, a single radius neck should be strung w/ all the strings parallel. In that respect, a compound neck makes a lot more sense, the orientation of the radius follows the strings.:cool::idea:

    temporary quote: 'For years ago I coodint evin spell engineer, now I are one'

  10. 1962guitargeek

    1962guitargeek Friend of Leo's

    Oct 9, 2008
    eastern n.c.
    Thanks again Ron! You make me think of the old Superman comics, where Supes has a room full of android Supermen so he can be everywhere at once.......!!:D

    Hey mods, make this thread a sticky.....?:confused:

  11. falconer

    falconer Tele-Holic

    Feb 5, 2009
    Now THOSE were comics!!

  12. redstringuitar

    redstringuitar Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 6, 2009
    Brilliant stuff Ron, thanks!

    In this thread, you've taught me something I've wanted to know about for years, now I just need to get the tools and practice on some friend's el cheapo guitars...ain't doing mine 'til I know I'm good enough! ;)

    Thanks 4string and stephent2 for chiming in too, all extremely valuable info.

  13. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 11, 2007

    Thanks Ron!


  14. Breen

    Breen Friend of Leo's

    Mar 4, 2009
    Used to work at a granite/marble factory, meaning they fabricate kitchen tops and anything you want out of granite/marble. Good times.

    Tim Allen would be jealous with the flames, noise, saws and waste water~

    Thanks Ron and Marty!

  15. gogirlguitars

    gogirlguitars Tele-Holic

    Interesting. I just purchased one of those beams from 4 String, but have not had time to use it yet.

    I am still a little bewildered about the "rocking" and "oval" motion. I have leveled about 10 necks so far using a 6 inch diamond knife sharpener, extra fine, so i am a very cautious person. Not sure if I'd try 180 Grit, ouch, I use 320 at the roughest. I level from the 12th fret up and lower the frets a little more to get really low action, i think it's called roll off.

    One question is that if you run the leveler up and down to determine if the neck is flat and adjust the truss rod accordingly, how do you know that it's not frets that are uneven ? If you keep cranking the neck tighter because the leveler is missing around the middle frets, it may be because there is still slight relief there and the neck is not straight, or it could mean that the frets are actually low and the neck is straight?

    I use a straight edge and a feeler gauge, but still i am never satisfied that the thing is completely level !

    So hoping this extra long beam will satisfy my perfectionist ways. I use a diamond crowning file after the level, then 600 grit to polish with finger, going up to 12,000 micro mesh, then the dremel with simichrome. overkill I know !!!

    I would really like a radius-ed beam, but i can't believe some very expensive necks have fret boards that are not accurate... so what's the point of putting a radius on the frets when the board they sit on is all over the place!

    I had a guitar on E bay and mentioned that the frets had been leveled and polished and one joker asked me if it wasn't "some hack job by a backyard butcher" - well I made sure he didn't win the guitar.

    This is an amazing set of videos about re fretting a fender neck, leveling and polishing. this guy is meticulous.:eek:

  16. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 23, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    Ron, I'm just at the point of buying some crowning files from Stew-Mac. I can and do get very good results with straight files and a lot of patience, but it takes a little more Zen equilibrium than I can consistently muster on short notice.

    What should I get? I'm considering the quite expensive diamond files, but I think that the quarter-round file may be all I need. Any thoughts about how to spend wisely on fret-crowning files for a variety of instruments, most with narrow Fender/Gretsch frets?

    I'm very handy but poor; others may have oven-mitts and deep pockets. Whatever you have to say will be appreciated.

  17. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    It doesn't matter...within reason.. You do not “play” the fingerboard, you play the frets, If they’re not level relative to each other, you gotta turkey…. the fingerboard could look like a topographical cross section of the Himalayas but if the fret tops aren't flat relative to each other you gotta looser on/in your hands. If the frets are so funky that the fingerboard actually has a meaningful deviation from acceptably “flat” when the tops of the frets are “dialed” in as level as they can be before the process begins… the neck isn’t worth cack anyway… The frets need to be yanked, the fingerboard resurfaced, and new frets installed, and we’re back to the beginning… oh, that’s called a re-fret not a fret leveling. The fret leveling follows the re-fret.

    There are some necks that are so screwed up, they cannot be leveled... The posts above are addressing the basics, and will improve about any “off the rack” guitar available. There are anomalies to be certain, but to address each and every one is not gonna happen…

    Fret leveling can be elevated to an art, and not everyone is an artist… but even artists have to begin somewhere…. You pick up the brush, squeeze out some paint and start smearing it on a canvas. Later on, you may determine you don’t like Winsor Newton paints and prefer Grumbacher, or don’t like Sable brushes, but prefer a “blade” but if you don’t just stop over analyzing the minutiae, and get your fingers “painty” before you ever take step one…. you never move off ZERO… Any quality technician can “pop” in here and throw out a litany of exotic variables that will scare off those that can and will learn. But it would be those techs that have never actually taught a group. They may know how to do a fingerboard, but they don’ know a thing about the “art” of teaching.

    Learning how to level frets is a life long addition to your “portfolio” of skills that will improve your “guitar awareness” quotient. You will never be sorry you learned, and you will become “religious” in applying it to future guitar acquisitions. But it’s like when you were learning to drive, and your Dad took you out in the Family station wagon, you didn’t say, I can’t learn in this POS, it doesn’t have a Nitros system, the tires are bias ply, it only has a 3 speed transmission… runs on “regular” ….

    Now ya gotta Porsche, it’ll do 0 – 60 in 4.1, the Falken 452’s stick to the road like glue… you can almost out run the cop’s radio… But the women still think you’re an old fat fart, and wonder why don’t ya give that car to your son…. Point is, you started somewhere, and eventually got to where you wanted to go... it's the old "first step" theory.

    Unless you’re doing a “boat load” of necks and many of 'em will have stainless frets, you don’t need the diamond files. I do not like the Gurian file as seen here

    It is awkward to use… I prefer a two edged file as seen here…

    and for 32 bux, that’s a pretty good price…

    the two edged files usually have a “medium” side and a Jumbo” side. Such a file is adequate for about all modern guitars. The “narrow” files are for Banjos, Mandolins, stuff like that, with small narrow frets, you just don’t see them on guitars these days…even the “skinny” frets on some “vintage” reissues today are “medium” when compared to the real skinny vintage stuff from 50 years ago.

    So anyway . . . Just do it and enjoy, Live long, and prosper…. With flat frets… ;)

    Ron Kirn
    nervous likes this.

  18. rainedave

    rainedave Tele-Holic

    Jan 3, 2010
    NC, USA
    Yep, handy/poor is me. Example: A Sharpie, an old straight edge and a small round file; 20mins and one blister later...

    Attached Files:

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  19. stephent2

    stephent2 Poster Extraordinaire

    Jun 22, 2003
    Couple of points,... I start out w/ 600 grit, takes a little longer but saves time in the buffing process. I like to go a little slower with the cut. There's no right way of course, it's what you're used to and what does the job.

    And i don't use a felt marker. Once I've taken a swipe at the frets w/ the sandpapered bar (i have the 50 bux Stew Mac fret leveling bar thingy), I can easily tell where I've hit the frets and how much leveling needs to be done. The width of the cut will tell you how how even the leveling is across the fret. I find that a little harder to see the times I've tired the felt marker.

    And I mask off the whole fingerboard (except for the frets of course) w/ masking tape. That way I can take a buffer to the frets when I'm done and not worry about messing up my finish or on un-lacquered fingerboards, tape keeps all that black stuff from the frets out of the wood pores.

  20. krauser2

    krauser2 Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 26, 2009
    great usual

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