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PLEK Machines (from zombie thread)

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by conecaster, Aug 27, 2010.

  1. conecaster

    conecaster TDPRI Member

    Aug 27, 2010

    Dear Mr Collins,

    I am a well known guitarmaker with 35 years of experience, my friend Joe Glaser was the first person selected in the US to have Plaek technology and I have run my own guitars on his machines since the first month they have been in this country. If you have a PLEK you know him, he likely trained you.

    When Joe was approached by PLEK his suspicions where high. Joe Glaser is known through out the Nashville guitar scene as the go to fretting and setup person for all of the most well known artists, and he services many known guitarists from all over the country.

    It took the PLEK developers about a day to turn Joe around. I was at the YMCA one day and Joe approached me and told me about the machines. To put it simply, if you could do by hand what a Plek can do Joe would not be using one.

    I think I can educate all of about the technology.

    1) The plek machine is loaded with a strung guitar The probes measure everything fretboard, fret heights and string heights

    2) A graph on a monitor shows the setup and compares it to the precise parabolic calculations Plek has developed.

    3) the guitar at this opint can be adjust to get it in the closest range of truss to match the prescription.

    4) The strings are tied off the board and probe re measures the frets and fret board. It uses the measurements in memory to accurately assess the desired outcome.

    5) the carbide cutter mills the wire from both sides creating ultimate fret crowning and precise parabolic relief on a string by string basis, The D string is not set up the same as the High E for example.

    6) After the frets are milled the guitar is restrung and remeasured.

    7) the final results are graphed on the monitor to be compared to the ideal of parabolic relief. The max. intolerance allowed on a Plek grind is 22 thousands of a millimeter. I think I calculated that once at 86% of a thousands of and inch.

    Dave, I can not understand how anyone can think that the abilities of a skilled craftsman like myself can compare to this kind of precision. You would not want to be seeing through hand polished lenses. You would not want your BMW to have conventionally milled cylinder walls.

    In the years I have watched the out comes and have been aware of the measuring of even the best guitars with hand setups, the Plek rarely ever sees a guitar at even 50% of the desired accuracy.

    In my experience this technology has allowed me to lower actions by 25% on my nylon string guitars which are more demanding of accuracy.

    In closing I must object to any comparison of Plek outcomes to the best hand work. It is just not a physical reality and for anyone who doubts this, take a guitar you think is really accurate, have it measure in thous. of a mm on a plek and then post the graph of the results.

    this is a whole new standard in playability and this is why the technology is fast being installed across the board in guitar making facilities. Everyone must compete to this new standard.

    I hope this helps all better understand PLEK technology.

    Paul McGill

  2. cacibi

    cacibi Friend of Leo's

    Sep 19, 2003
    One of the local shops here has one (Mike Lull) and I know folks that have had their guitars PLEK'ed and are very happy with the results. Knowledgeable folks too.

    My biggest concern is that it's $250 to PLEK a guitar
    $450 for a fret job that includes PLEK'ing
    and $302 to replace the neck I'll be needing a refret on.

    How can it cost more for a fret job, and almost as much for just Plek'ing, as it does to get a whole, new neck? How is that possibly a good sales model?

  3. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    I doubt guitar techs are going to have to worry about Plek machines because they simply cost too much for anyone to own who isn't in a super high traffic area.

  4. mgwhit

    mgwhit Tele-Holic

    Aug 1, 2008
    Louisville, KY
    It's not an either/or proposition. You can choose to use that new neck as-is, or you can choose to have it fret-dressed and/or PLEKed. There are plenty of examples of modern items that cost more to fix/maintain than they do to build.

    And just because we don't want to spend the beans on it doesn't mean it's a bad sales model. Economics is determined by both demand and supply. It's a balancing act. In this case, there is a limited supply of PLEK machines and techs that know how to use them. I don't think the techs-with-PLEK's are sitting idle.

    Edit: That being said, I'm giving this zombie thread about 1 hour before I unsubscribe. Yawn!

  5. newtwanger

    newtwanger Blackguardian. Ad Free + Supporter

    Feb 11, 2007
    Quebec, Canada
    Uh... because that Fender replacement neck isn't plekked and usually needs a fret job anyways to be at its best, and if it's a Gibson how much to replace a neck on that? Not $302 on any set-neck I've ever seen.

  6. drf64

    drf64 Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 24, 2009
    Ada, MI

    Paul, you mention nylon string guitars. Have you ever pleked a Chet Atkins CEC? I'd be curious as to whether that might help mine.


  7. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    I checked out Paul's website, and he builds some phenominal looking nylon string guitars.

    With that said, he kinda laid that plek machine out like he was a sales rep.

    How long does it take to Plek a guitar from when the customer hands it to you, till it is ready to go back on the shelf. I am curious, because to pay off 100K$, you would almost have to hire someone to run the plek machine as a daily shift.

  8. Tim Armstrong

    Tim Armstrong Super Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

    Mar 5, 2003
    Austin, Texas
    Admin Post
    Paul, welcome to the TDPRI, and thanks for that detailed description of what a Plek machine really does! Fascinating stuff!!!

    My only question about all this would be: How important is that level of precision? Or, to put it another way, how much less precise would a guitar's setup and fret leveling be before one actually can detect any difference?

    An electron microscope is an amazing device, but I can read the newspaper pretty good with reading glasses from the dollar store!



  9. gitold

    gitold Friend of Leo's

    Mar 25, 2009
    Greeley Co.
    I'm a pretty decent set up guy and all I can say is that my plecked Les Paul has a perfecly flat neck , action at 1/32 and 1/16 at the 17th fret high e to low e and does not have a buzz anywhere.I'm a fan.

  10. Wayne Alexander

    Wayne Alexander Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    I'm about as good at setting up guitars as any non-pro. I've had pros do normal fret dress/leveling/etc. jobs on guitars, I'm usually about as good as that. But I've also had 4 guitars plekked- every one was dramatically improved. If you can afford it it's worth it.

  11. Okieactor

    Okieactor Tele-Holic

    Jun 19, 2009
    Austin, TX
    I have my tele, which I built from a Warmoth neck and MM body, stainless jumbo frets, set up on the Plek machine at Norman Music, in Norman, OK. Love it.

    Also have a Gibson Les Paul Studio that was fret dressed manually, and have had many other guitars that way.

    I would have to say that the total setup on the Tele is "better", but I love playing either, and I have played guitars that were done totally by hand, everything, and they played amazingly too. I think the PLEK machines are great. Just expensive. Good luthiers and techs will still have work for a long time to come, I feel, re-doing frets

  12. Nick JD

    Nick JD Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    How does the PLEK machine account for the pull of the strings creating the relief?

    I'm thinking the trussrod is turned until the neck is dead flat - and then relief is machined into the frets? How does the machine estimate the relief string tension will play in the geometry?

    Why does a guitar need different relief for different strings?

    If PLEK is accurate to thousandths of a milimeter (even hundredths), how does it account for changes in relative humidity and temperature causing expansion and contraction in wood? A RW fretboard will render this accuracy moot if RH changes by a few percentage points. Or is this accuracy more for sales pitch than real-life?

    Do we want to pay hundreds of dollars to be able to lower our saddles 0.1mm?

  13. Badabing

    Badabing Friend of Leo's

    Oct 13, 2009
    San Marcos, Ca
    O.k. I'll buy it! Does anyone know where a Plek machine is in California???

  14. Wayne Alexander

    Wayne Alexander Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    There are a few in California. I went to Rodney Millar at Fret-tek in Los Angeles, 1748 1/2 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90024

  15. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 22, 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    PLEK is a solution to a problem I don't have. Mellecaster has done all four of my electrics the old-fashioned way during the last few years, and I'll continue to take him everything I can't handle.

  16. Badabing

    Badabing Friend of Leo's

    Oct 13, 2009
    San Marcos, Ca

  17. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Paul, thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts and details on this. I'm quite familiar with the functions and procedures of the Plek machine, and the details mentioned are not new to me, but its always great to list them out for others to learn about.

    Some find it difficult to understand how such precision can be achieved by more traditional methods, but its really not that difficult. I stand quite firmly by what I said though, and if you had the chance to see my procedures in detail I think you would understand.

    The Plek is a great tool. If you know what you're doing though, it's not necessary to achieve the the highest levels of precision possible.

  18. drf64

    drf64 Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 24, 2009
    Ada, MI
    My Heritages are PLEKed. The 150 and the 555 are outstanding as far as fairly low action and playability. I guess I'd have to say it's more difficult for me to tell how much it affects the Eagle.


  19. conecaster

    conecaster TDPRI Member

    Aug 27, 2010
    Send it to Glaser in Nashville and I gaurantee it will play like a dream, you would be getting Plek technology executed by the most expert technician in the US. He's listed on the PLEK site.


  20. conecaster

    conecaster TDPRI Member

    Aug 27, 2010
    Dear Rick,

    I would never access a guitar I have never seen. I'm sure your technician is good. My level of skill is good. I did everything by hand over 25 years myself and get to see the outcome of my hand work through the eyes of a Plek machine. My accuracy is at the upper end of what is seen over there by the Plek, But I can gaurantee you that nobody can alter the parabolic relief rate of a fret dressing in micro tolerances from string to string. This is a different area of precision than has ever been possible before. If you where to place your guitars on a PLEK and analyze the fretting in the tolerances made possible I'm sure you would agree even if you are happy with the guitar as it is currently setup,

    My position was simply put, you can not compare or achieve the accuracy of a Plek Machine by hand any more than you could do any precision task in this world using CNC technolgy by hand.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2010

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