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Another leveling question - beam length & string tension

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Wallaby, Aug 22, 2020.

  1. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I have studied Ron Kirn's and Freeman Keller's excellent threads about fret leveling and setup and other information from the 'Net.

    I have a couple of questions still and I'm hoping to hear your voices of experience.

    Leveling beam length & motion

    I've seen mention of a hazard of over-grinding the mid-range frets by scrubbing back and forth with a beam that doesn't cover all the frets at once. The theory there seems to be that the frets at either end of the neck receive less attention from the leveling beam than those in the center, and so are reduced in height more quickly.

    Along with this is advice to use a beam that spans every fret, and to use a motion that provides the same number of strokes to every fret, and I've also seen advice to push the leveling beam from side-to-side ( Bass string side to treble string side ) rather than lengthwise along the neck ( from low fret to high fret ).

    My feeling is that if I mark the top of the frets it doesn't matter how many strokes the frets get as long as I stop when the lowest frets have a thin shiny stripe all the way across. But I guess I could avoid removing metal unnecessarily?

    Can anyone comment on that?

    Leveling under tension

    I understand the purpose of flattening the neck under tension, to help ensure that if there dips or rises in the neck that only appear when the truss rod is tight they'll be present during leveling, hopefully reducing the touch-ups that might appear later. Or if a neck can't be loosened enough to eliminate back-bow.

    There are a few strategies to help accomplish this - a neck jig, U-channel and Angle beams, the Katana beam, and something at StewMac called the Fretbar.

    If you've tried leveling frets with tension, is something like the long Fretbar a useful way to accomplish it, instead of buying or assembling a neck jig?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I have a collection of guitar-tech tools and I'm going to take the plunge and finally level my own frets, starting with a practice neck that I have. My leveling beam is 16". I'm concerned that I need a longer beam, and also that I should seriously consider a Fretbar. I've also realized that I need a short beam too, so I can work on fallaway once I have enough understanding and technique.

    I'm handy with tools and quick to get a feel.

    I have 7 guitars I want to level, crown and polish eventually. I'm not worried about having to buy a tool or two if I need them.

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2020
  2. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Just a bump, just in case.

    I hope everyone is having or has had an excellent weekend!
     
  3. ghostchord

    ghostchord Tele-Meister

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    My non-expert 2c: If your leveling beam is absolutely flat then it's going to touch the high spots and it won't touch the low spots. At any given point it should be riding on 3 points (that define its plane) and not on anything else. Now if you imagine have a high first and last fret and all the other frets being lower then sure the ideal behaviour is to only ride on those frets and not touch the others and you won't be able to accomplish that with a shorter beam.

    Now all that said, the absolute flatness of the frets matters less as they're further apart, as you're moving away from where you are fretting a string the string is sitting higher vs. the fret, so having the last fret slightly higher than the first fret is really not a problem. The shorter beam will guarantee that within the span of the beam the frets are flat which should be more than enough. Some people put a bit of an intentional drop-off at the higher frets anyways. Also consider the plane of your flattening isn't going to be perfectly parallel to the strings anyways.

    This also relates to your second point/question. As you note, the standard leveling process that has the neck sitting flat with no tension is *not* going to result in everything being flat once the neck is under tension because the neck will bow and (even though the truss rod adjusts somewhat for that) what was a straight line when you were leveling is no longer straight. But again due to what I describe above it actually works fine. If you wanted to have a "perfect" level then by all means bow the neck ;) Also keep in mind the downward force you're using on the leveling beam (and its weight) will also slightly bow the neck and that different string gauges will bow the neck differently.
     
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  4. Bendyha

    Bendyha Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I feel it is all a case of what you get used to.

    Having the most elaborate, state of the art, hi-tech professional expensive set-up is all well and good. But if it is the first time you use it, you are likely to obtain result no better than if you used the most simple and basic set-up.

    I have not shot all that many guitar fingerboards. About 10 guitars that I have made, and a dozen or so repairs over the years on top of that. I use a block of pearwood a bit over 1" wide, and the same length as a standard sheet of sandpaper - ca.11". It works fine for me, and I will not be changing it.

    To flatten, I sand diagonal at about 60° left to right from one end to the other. Then from right to left at a crossing angle. When I get to the fine paper, I will also go 90° left/right, and straight up and down as well.

    I have shot several thousand violin, viola and cello fingerboards. For them, for the last 40 years, I have used a totally bluntened 7"x 3/4" old file with the tang cut off, the surface on one side flattened, the other slightly convex, around which I wrap sandpaper. Same procedure as guitar fingerboard.
     
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  5. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    @ghostchord and @Bendyha, I am reading your responses slowly, and repeatedly.

    That wooshing sound overhead is distracting!

    Seriously, thank you!
     
  6. dan40

    dan40 Tele-Afflicted

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    FWIW, I have gotten really good results on my guitars using an 8" x 1" leveling beam with 320 grit sandpaper. I did purchase the Stewmac Fret Bar recently because I wanted to try a longer beam. I used it in the standard fashion with the strings removed but I really can't say that it did a better job than my shorter beam. It is a very nice tool for the price though and I wouldn't hesitate to purchase one over the more expensive options out there.
     
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