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

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

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

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  1. nursery chymes

    nursery chymes TDPRI Member

    84
    Aug 1, 2009
    UpperCanada
    Now let's say you were leveling some stainless steel frets and all... what would be the appropriate sandpaper grit sz?
     

  2. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    i do it exactly the same way.... the stainless frets are a softer stainless than the typical alloys you would find most hardware made from.

    Ron
     

  3. roger ebelrin

    roger ebelrin Tele-Holic

    Age:
    47
    517
    Dec 23, 2008
    sandy hook
    I have a cheapy Squire neck on my favorite tele. I think I will try to level the frets. Now... if I mess up real good liek. How hard is a refret? I would like Jumbo's on this puppy?
     

  4. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    66
    Oct 22, 2006
    Garner, North Carolina
    Ron, thanks for the guidance!
     

  5. nursery chymes

    nursery chymes TDPRI Member

    84
    Aug 1, 2009
    UpperCanada
    So start with 180 then go up to 320 for finish.
    Do you care for Steel Wool pads at all?

    Thanks for the thread too btw.
     

  6. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    Steel wool... nope.... re read the instructions above, that's how to do it.... there is nothing left out.... it works for Normal and those nasty stainless frets....

    RK
     

  7. Bluej58

    Bluej58 Tele-Holic

    944
    Nov 23, 2008
    Marseilles, Ill USA
    Great thread Ron,

    I've seen it explained before but never as well.

    You have taken the fear out of leveling frets for me.

    I never even thought about using a nice piece of granite, and I know a lot of those guys and should be able to find something in their scrap pile for sure.

    Thank you,

    JD
     

  8. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    there are other materials too, but the granite is available on eBay.. alternatives are a Marble threshold or window sil available in the tile section at Lowes or Home depot... a piece of 3/8 or thicker glass..... Corian.... in each case do not push down, just allow the natural weight to apply the down force, you just slide it back and forth in a circular motion allowing the "tool" to roll naturally across the radius of the fingerboard... So easy even an Alabama " 'derm" could do it..

    Ron Kirn
     

  9. WrayGun

    WrayGun Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    56
    May 5, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    OK, forgive me everyone... I am a very stupid man, and this point has confused me forever, due to the terminology used.

    See photo below... when you are moving your nice flat sanding instrument across the frets, are you primarily going side to side (A) or up and down (B)?

    [​IMG]
     

  10. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL

  11. nadzab

    nadzab Friend of Leo's

    Mar 23, 2009
    New England
    But the slight "rolling" motion moves in the direction of "A", yes?
     

  12. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL

  13. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    54
    Sep 23, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    Be careful about "rolling". Diagonal motion can create a compound radius. That can be a very good thing if it gets flatter as it goes up the neck, but an unmitigated disaster if it goes the other way.

    I did everything to perfection on one of my guitars this week. It took just over three days, with between one and a half and six hours per day, to dial everything in exactly to my liking and make things look orderly.

    I'd venture to say that really crowning frets properly on an older neck would require triangular files. Irregularities in the neck can result in the frets being higher and lower in different spots, often on the same fret, which requires some changes in the angle of the file to create the same curve. In other words, the fretboard ceases to be a reliable reference point; you have to look at the shapes of the individual frets and vary your approach to achieve consistent results.

    If the fretboard is truly flat, the crowning files would be enough.

    I'm going to get some anyway. They can obviously save a great deal of time. In fact, even a chattery, inexactly sized fret file would be a godsend after doing this job with only a triangular file. Creating anywhere between fourteen and thirty facets on either side of a fret and then trying to erase the lines between them is too laborious for me.
     

  14. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    This same "argument" is playing out in another thread... I learned to do a fret dressing in 1963 from the "guys" at Marvin Kay's Music center here in Jacksonville.... I immediately began applying my newly learned skill to about every guitar I could get my hands on... To everyone's delight, the playability of all those guitars improved dramatically...

    A number of years later, I got to be good Friends with "Mr. Turner" the owner of The American Music Store. He was a classically trained musician, and studied under Segovia.... he knew a bit about guitars. He taught me a helluva lot over the 10 years that I visited him daily.

    One day he handed me a guitar, a Mustang if I recall, and said, "Show me your stuff" meaning luthiery skills... Over the next few days, I took that baby apart, started with the frets and worked all the way through finishing with intonation, with him hovering over my shoulder every step of the way… When I had completed it, he simply said perfect… there is nothing he could add... I did the fret leveling then exactly as I do it now.

    SOOO… y’all can try to “dump” on the simple process I have outlined above all ya want… I know what works…. And I’m sure not gonna fix it…

    If someone has an alternative, getcha a damm camera, and do yer own dammm thread, let’s see your “stuff”.

    David made the point made a point in the other thread that knowledge is a good thing, I totally agree, but I have actually stood before a class and taught…. I know you cannot overwhelm those willing to learn with “all ya got” in one sitting. If you want to learn fret leveling, the method I use is the same one used by thousands of techs world wide, all yielding remarkably well playing guitars. It is the same one I have presented in this forum several times over the years, with other’s possessing the same skills, complementing the presentation.

    The point being that grinding frets on the diagonal will screw them up…that is a correct statement… But that is much like saying if you stomp on the neck, it will screw it up… yeah, sure will, in both cases, but no one does that…. The momentary brief transition when changing direction naturally creates the bvery slight “rolling” motion across the neck allowing the tool to naturally follow the curve of the straight radius necks AND the compound radius’ too. It does NOT result in any anomalies in the fret height consistency.

    When using the rolling circular oval motion, there IS a moment where the action may be traveling on a diagonal, I went out to the shop to do one just to see if I was “misleading” .. The moment is so brief that it is insignificant.. Occurring as the direction is changed from one way to the other… It produces the necessary part of the “rolling” action that keeps the frets curved laterally across the neck...

    Apparently the suggestion is that the “tool” ONLY be moved back and forth up and down the neck. That would create multiple flat “facets” across the fret that would have to be removed by grinding the frets sideways across the fingerboard. It COULD NOT be done with a fret file realistically because the frets would be done one at a time, this would result in reverting them back to the varying heights the fret leveling was supposed to remove, unless you just happen to have laser perfect hands.

    Any process can be taken apart at the “molecular” level and alternatives interjected, but to what point… Knowledge is a good thing, confusion… well; perhaps some thrive on it...

    Luthiery is an art from, and just like Michelangelo’s was different from Titian’s, Peter-Paul Rubens, Monet’s and Benny’s from down the street, there are varying nuances from one “Artist” to the next, but to suggest one guy’s art with a very long record of success is “flawed” is just plain “catty”. I would hope other’s are above that.

    Ron Kirn
     

  15. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Ron, I am honestly beside myself. I have not butted in on this thread out of respect for you to openly and generously present your methods without any trivial bickering on basic vs advanced methods. Mention of me in a sense that I am somehow less qualified to speak on this, and quite frankly I take offense.

    Okay, you've stood "actually before a class and taught - that's great. I taught guitar building and repair full time myself for a number of years, have trained several apprentices, and still get regular requests for private focused training, which I occasionally accept. There's no use getting in to a pissing match over experience, as I've built a few hundred guitars, and dressed thousands of fretboards myself. My methods stand out enough that I have a few high end custom builders who find it worth their while to send their instruments to me for the final Collins treatment in fret work and setup, as well as some makers of guitars you all have heard of who send me their personal instruments for restoration and fret work. Not being boastful, just pointing out that playing the experience card here isn't much of an option.

    The methods you took your valuable time to post here are great, appreciated by many, well within the grasp of those who want to take to doing their first fret dress. You certainly deserve thanks for that. I am honestly tiring of the insinuations however, that my more complicated descriptions in other threads are aimed to intimidate or discourage people from trying, or that they add too much complexity to the process for a beginner to grasp.

    I'm well aware of the "just enough information to be dangerous" argument, and that if you throw complicated concepts at a beginner they may not understand them enough to execute them as intended, which can result in more harm than good. That's a very valid point. By my philosophy of teaching though, I prefer not to simply give instructions to a procedure, but rather do my best to help the student understand why each step is best done the way it is. With that understanding, combined with experience, they will be much more prepared to evaluate and problem solve any cases which may fall outside the norm. Maybe it is more complicated, maybe it is harder to grasp, maybe it will deter people from trying who don't have the motivation to really try and understand the fundamentals. All that is perfectly fine with me, and of course so are the methods you present. Different schools, different strokes....

    A perfect example of the importance of understanding is in the photos above. Vtcyclist, I apologize for using you as an example, I mean no offense, the mistakes are understandable, and I'm sure your instrument will come out fine, but here goes....
    I cringed when I saw needle-nose pliers being used to pull the frets, and this demonstrates the importance of understanding why common methods have evolved to use flush-cut end nippers. The purpose of those tools in removing frets is not only to grasp and lift the fret away from the board, but rather to provide a firm backing against the wood as the fret is lifted away from it by the inner bevel of the nippers. Without that support (and without heating the frets as a general rule) you get all the chips clearly visible on that fingerboard. Understanding why a particular tool is used before starting may have deterred him from grabbing a tool which seemed like it should work just fine. Understanding can also help you figure out why the StewMac end nippers don't work well for this either, as the current Channel Lock 356 nippers they grind flush have too shallow of an inner bevel, which is not steep enough lift the barbs on the tang clear of the board. This results in having to pry or lift directly upward, no support is provided to the board as the barbs are being pulled through, and this can result in more chipping of the board. Understand this point, and you can find a good set of end nippers to grind flush which have a suitable inner bevel. Without that understanding of the hows and whys, I see many people just left scratching their heads as to why they get so many more chips when pulling frets than others may.

    Yes, understanding the fundamentals requires a bit more thinking, and a bit more experience than following wrote instructions. I find that keeping it simple, or instructions without understanding the "why's" can lead to as many or more problems than more complicated, in depth instructions may.

    As to the rolling and angling, there is no faceting that results. It's no different from what you describe, except that as you roll, and as you move from bass to treble, I advise people to intentionally shift the angle of the leveling block to keep in constant alignment with the strings you are leveling beneath. That simple. If you always keep the block straight, you will be leveling at an angle to the strings as you approach the edges, and this is not what you want to do. If anyone want's a more thorough description of why this is important, it's discussed in other threads. Careful though, as math and geometry are peripherally discussed.

    Maybe my methods are advanced beyond the scope of this forum, and maybe everyone here is perfectly happy with 90%. Quite honestly, most people are. There are players out there who really demand the impossible of their instruments however, and though impossible is impossible, I don't believe it hurts to try, and I do believe you can get much closer than the traditional "good enough" standards. For those who are interested in seeing methods which other luthiers and myself have found necessary to refine over the years, I see no harm in complicating things for those not interested in more involved methods.

    Sorry for butting in, but you invited me. I'll try to keep my distance from criticizing your methods, but I do not feel the need to refrain from offering what I see as useful advice to some, simply because others may see it as over-complicated or not worth doing. No disrespect here, and as I said, the methods you posted are great, traditional ones, and will help many a person do something to improve their instrument they may previously have thought out of their reach. Some people may still be interested in ways to refine their results or improve consistency, or have suitable knowledge to better deal with problem necks. There is indeed room for improvement for those who want it, and though it may be slight, it is enough to make a difference for some players. The old traditional methods are fine, but discounting these minute details and refinements as entirely inconsequential or without practical merit is simply wrong.
     

  16. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Re-reading through that, I'm certain I sounded more abrasive than intended. I should emphasize that I do indeed endorse Ron's tutorial here as a great introduction to fret dressing, and really don't disagree with any methods presented. My only point here was simply that there are different schools of thought here, and many of the more complicated things I talk about are not anything most would have to worry about.

    They are more often concerns that come up with the occasional squirrelly neck that doesn't behave well, or twists in unpredictable ways from bad wood, funky truss rods, etc. These things, a beginner is not generally going to be able to make the best of regardless of depth of instruction, because it simply takes experience to even identify these problems much less effectively deal with them.

    So I should emphasize that in spite of minor differences, I do thank you Ron, for generously posting this excellent tutorial. Most of the wrenches I'm throwing in the gears are issues most will never have to face or worry about, and may certainly add unnecessary confusion to someone trying their first fret dress. The Keep It Simple argument certainly has it's place here.

    Perhaps one of these day's I'll put together a tutorial of my own procedures to post here. They are picky little details, ones that may only be of concern on occasional necks, and certainly ones that may be over the heads of a lot of beginners. Trying to put it together in a cognizant way that can be clearly understood is of course a bit of a challenge. Overall though, the methods shown here will deliver excellent results that about anyone can do, and will certainly make your guitar better than it came from the factory.

    Just had to throw that in so I didn't come off as a total ass.... :p

    Heated disagreements about tiny details between artisans in a specialty trade - who'd ever see that coming?
     

  17. lcipher

    lcipher TDPRI Member

    4
    Feb 11, 2010
    IN
    A simple question (I hope). What size crowning file (medium, narrow? they dont specify usually in dimensions) do I get for a 6230 fretwire size? (.080" x .043")

    Or can I use one of the larger and use the "sides"?
     

  18. 4string

    4string Friend of Leo's

    Feb 11, 2010
    Central California
    The shortest distance between 2 points........etc

    All this SCARINESS as to how to move the beam........c'mon people! This is fairly basic if you stop and think about it. No, I have not leveled 15 bizzilion necks, and I really do not need to because geometry is geomety regardless to what it is being applied to: The Great Pyramids, The Golden Gate Bridge, a Space Shuttle, a guitar neck.............

    Without reiterating what has already been said by Ron and others regarding WHY (if you cannot understand the geometry of a neck it is OK; YOU DON"T HAVE TO!) there are really only two simple rules to keep in mind as you grind frets:

    1) ALWAYS KEEP THE BEAM PARALLEL (in-line) WITH THE NECK/FINGERBOARD.Or perpendicular to the frets. NO MATTER HOW YOU MOVE THE BEAM.

    2) KEEP IN CONSTANT MOTION OF ROLLING OVER THE RADIUS, APPLYING AN EQUAL AMOUNT OF SANDPAPER "TIME" TO THE ENTIRE RADIUS.

    Here, let's try this:

    1st: LAYOUT a piece of butcher paper (or whatever) on a flat surface (tabletop, floor, etc) and tape it down so it will not move. Next, draw (or trace) your neck on the paper.Now draw the centerline right on down your paper neck extending past the ends.Also extend the fretboard edge lines. Next, tape (or hold if you're talented) a pencil to the center of both ends of the beam, so that they will touch/mark the paper.

    2nd: PRACTICE. Put your beam/pencil on your paper neck with the pencils on the centerline. Now.........draw ovals. Or circles.( NO "siesmic graphs"! ). Two oval/circles. One at the nut. One at the heel. Both are centered on the neck centerline.

    I think you have it about right when your ovals/circles are the diameter that fits between your A string and your C string. Practice makes perfect; when you have the motion down, do the neck.
     

  19. 4string

    4string Friend of Leo's

    Feb 11, 2010
    Central California
    ps: ........if ya cann't get it right on the layout/pratice on a piece of paper.............


    Take your guitar down to your local luthier and have him level your frets. This task requires a certain degree of coordination/tool-handling ability. Not that much though, I can think of 1000s of more difficult tool tasks. Wanna try a REALLY fun one? Hawk and trowel. You know, like a plasterer does. Oh, that's right; almost no one does that anymore..........gunnite sprayer. And if you're not in California, the tile guys nail-up Hardibacker instead of floating walls w/ mortar. Now there is a DIFFICULT TO LEARN task; takes months/years to get good at. Some guys give-up and use two trowels.

    I'm sure somebody is going to blast me for (the above), but I could give a -----. No one should be trying to scare people away from trying new things, and from missing out on the good feeling of accomplishment/pride one gets from doing something yourself. And you DO NOT need to fret level a couple hundred necks before you do it perfect, it can happen on the first one............if yer axe plays better when yer done YOU ARE A SUCCESSFUL FRET LEVELER...........PERIOD. 'nuff said.
     

  20. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    As posted in the other thread...

    Let's see if we can move back to center.... In the past, I shared in the notion that "reams" of information are the way to dispel any perceived deviation from my concept of the norm. Remember those looooong discourses about how tone had more to do with things we don’t even think of than those we do? I still recall some of the emails that pretty much asked, “What the (blank) are you talkin’ about?” I learned…

    So let me say, the varying points of view are correct… as is mine. How can this be so?

    In an artistic media, luthiery is such, there can be many ways to accomplish the same task. Little subtleties and nuances as you move a tool that may remain so deeply entrenched in the subconscious, that a craftsman may not even be aware that he is applying them. Thus, one may move a tool is a specific pattern to accomplish the task at hand, while another may take a completely different approach, with both methods yielding the same results.

    Does that make one correct, and the other incorrect? I would say not, what it does do is make one different from the other.

    As new members join our ranks, often new ideas will be expressed. Often these “new ideas” aren’t new at all, just rarely if ever brought to light. Should others redirect the conversation back to “center”, where the vast majority of guitarists are most comfortable, it’s not unusual to see an attempt to move the dialogue back to support one concept as superior to the other. I have been guilty of that myself more times than I care to recall.

    Now, relative to fret leveling… If you’re gonna learn, you have to begin some where….where that “where” is, is anyone’s choice… When I post a “how to” I attempt to keep it simple, so that a novice can begin the climb up the learning curve. As that climb continues, questions naturally arise and the answers become “footholds” to advance the climb. With the results being much like that seen in “The Home Depot” where there are now many newcomers that would have not even plugged in a router a few years ago, proudly posting photos of their newly completed projects. Had any of us done anything more “discouraging” than to admonish the builders to be careful around sharp spinning things, the number of new builders would have been greatly reduced simply due to the natural “fear of the unknown”, (“The Naked Ape” Dr. Desmond Morris 1978 if I recall)

    The whole “genesis” of my posting the Fret leveling redeux was due to the constant stream of emails requesting it… I had a choice to make, do I post a simple approach that has worked for over 40 years, one that anyone a step or two beyond “tool challenged” can accomplish, or do I dissect the geometry and address the stresses, the “play” the lack of stability of the wood, etc, etc, etc…. all of which would have “scared” off many that will proceed, I hope, to learning a basic and simple method that has the potential to revolutionize the way your guitar plays. That’s a good thing.

    Thus I hope this moves us all back toward a common goal, one in which we can unify an approach that will assist those who have questions to get off their butts…and just do it…. ;););)

    Ron Kirn
     

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