Fender Jumbo Frets come flat on new guitars

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Twangmaster7, Jul 13, 2019.

  1. Twangmaster7

    Twangmaster7 TDPRI Member

    Age:
    48
    Posts:
    10
    Joined:
    May 29, 2018
    Location:
    Appleton
    Hello boys! Say I've bought 2 guitars American Specials with jumbo frets.I love them, but both of them came new with flat frets and I had to have them leveled,crowned and polished. I'm looking to buy the American Performers series Tele at Guitar Center I love with the split humbucker, again flat frets.
    I spoke with Fender and they said if a licensed Fender luthiet felt the flatness was from the factory,it would be covered under warranty. One of my guitars was a few years old and the luthier said it was normal playing wear.I'm hoping if I buy the new American Performer Tele, he will see this is the way guitars with jumbo frets come from the factory and will dress them properly. The guitar plays so much better when they're round and properly dressed instead of flat.Any experience or insight woukd be greatly appreciated!
    God Bless!
    Rob Ransom
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Old duck

    Old duck Tele-Meister

    Age:
    72
    Posts:
    154
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2019
    Location:
    SW Oregon
    I like flat frets. Much easier to slide around on.
     
    TeleTown likes this.
  3. TeleBrew

    TeleBrew Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    47
    Posts:
    10,388
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2007
    Location:
    Evergreen, Colorado
    Aren't Fender's new-ish "narrow tall" frets supposed to be pretty flat at the crown?
     
    TeleTown likes this.
  4. IndyTeleGuy

    IndyTeleGuy TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    95
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Location:
    Indiana
    I’ve had various Am Spcl strats over the years, and one newer Am Perf Strat.
    The frets seemed bigger and more crowned on the Special vs the flatter/smaller feeling on the Performer.

    Telebrew: the Special and Performer don’t come with the narrow tall, the professional does.
     
  5. tessting1two

    tessting1two Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    469
    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2014
    Location:
    Southern California
    Who do they think they are, Gibson?
     
  6. Bowpickins

    Bowpickins Tele-Meister

    Age:
    18
    Posts:
    160
    Joined:
    May 29, 2018
    Location:
    Somewhere In TX
    I also noticed this on my American Special Stratocaster. I had one small dead spot on this guitar, but after setting it up myself, It plays pretty well. It does feel a bit different when I play it compared to my G&L As at Classic S. I had it refretted with SS jumbo frets. I might get my Strat properly leveled a little farther down the road.
     
  7. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    6,747
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Godzone
    I have an Am Special Strat - these frets are not like what you find on either vintage necks or the more contemporary Standards. They are minimally rounded and flat faced, pretty much like every Gibby I've played in recent times.

    There's no fault - they're just different.
    IMG_20190615_030641.jpg
    I think they are indeed Fender's attempt to appeal to a Dark Side audience - Gibson guys flirting with Brand F.

    So the pickups are 'more' and the frets/neck also tuned to tempt them. To someone used to Slim Tapers and 11-12" radius they feel more 'natural'. They are levelled because mine plays all over the board with shallow relief and low action with no chokeouts unlike entry guits.

    This is one of these 'buyer beware' issues. Specials may look like a Std or Reissue but they may not play like one.

    If you are a a Twangbanger who hits frets hard into a cleanish reverby-sorta amp you may not like the slap-fret sort of artefacts.

    Play light-touch and more gain - bingo. Lester city.

    Not judging or profiling here, but that's my observation.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
  8. AxRookie

    AxRookie Tele-Meister

    Age:
    56
    Posts:
    148
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2019
    Location:
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    It could be that some guitar makers use a Plek machine to level the frets because it's faster than making sure the fingerboard is completely level before the frets are pressed into the fingerboard, Or some makers use straight fret wire that is "bent" or "formed" to the fingerboard radius instead of using fret wire that was made in large spools of fret wire that are already at the correct radius for the fingerboard radius.

    Neck frets that are leveled using the quicker Plek machines will leave the frets with a flat crown, How flat depends on how much the frets were uneven down the neck...

    manufacturing neck after neck where the frets are totally level after they are installed is not something that's easy to do for any guitar maker big or small, But I'd have to imagine the larger the volume of necks made the harder it might be to maintain a high level of consistency between necks?

    I don't know if any of this relates to Fenders frets having some flatness from the factory or not, I'm just thinking out loud...
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
    Chunkocaster and Twangmaster7 like this.
  9. Twangmaster7

    Twangmaster7 TDPRI Member

    Age:
    48
    Posts:
    10
    Joined:
    May 29, 2018
    Location:
    Appleton
    Not sure, only know the Jumbos are flat...thanks!Rob
     
    TeleBrew likes this.
  10. Twangmaster7

    Twangmaster7 TDPRI Member

    Age:
    48
    Posts:
    10
    Joined:
    May 29, 2018
    Location:
    Appleton
    A guy at Fender relations told me that the jumbo fret crown files leave the frets flat that is normal. Well, other metal and shredder guitars come with jumbo frets, and are rounded like I had a luthier due to mine and it plays amazing Dude! I think Axe-Rookie is onto something with the jumbo fret necks done on a plek machine. My Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro (1st Edition) from Guitar was done on a Plek and plays amazing!
     
  11. Verne Bunsen

    Verne Bunsen Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    961
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sonoran Desert
    This is what I thought immediately. When I bought my ES-137 it arrived with frets that were flat like a machined surface across the top. Utterly bizarre to me. I personally found it unplayable. Did a level-and-crown and then it was awesome.
     
    Twangmaster7 likes this.
  12. AxRookie

    AxRookie Tele-Meister

    Age:
    56
    Posts:
    148
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2019
    Location:
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    I guess those plek machines are computer-controlled and they analyze the neck and then it surfaces the frets accordingly?
     
  13. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    6,775
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Location:
    northwest
    That's too bad. I usually tout Fender necks but, hmmm... But I don't do Jumbos...
     
  14. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    32,521
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Location:
    Lubbock, TX
    I have never seen a factory fret that was truly crowned and polished...it doesn’t happen. There are flats on every factory fret I have ever seen. As for bending, a properly crowned and polished fret will yield less resistance to bending movement than any flat fret. The proof is in the witnessing. On a properly crowned and polished fret, bending will leave a very small line right down the middle of the fret due to the contact point. Bending on such frets is like bending on glass, ime. I might agree that a flattop fret that is ‘worn in’...polished from the bending is easier to bend on than a flattop fret that is ‘raw’, though.
     
    awasson and telemnemonics like this.
  15. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Meister

    Age:
    55
    Posts:
    196
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2018
    Location:
    Midwest
    100% not my experience at all. I had a guitar Plekked and the frets were beautifully crowned.

     
    telemnemonics likes this.
  16. PCollen

    PCollen Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,323
    Joined:
    May 7, 2010
    Location:
    Man of the World

    Probably after the plek job. I don't think plek machines can crown frets.
     
    Fretting out and Wally like this.
  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    Posts:
    16,404
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    Location:
    Maine
    All these guesses sound reasonable enough but IME most of them are not factually correct!

    1) Builders that PLEK their premium priced guitars are not downgrading their fingerboard milling to save money.
    2) Fret wire comes both straight and coiled, but those coils are not pre tailored for each radius. A 12-16" compound radius for example would require the highest frets come in coils that are 32" in diameter. A 7.25 radius board would require a coil only 14.5" in diameter, close to the size of coils of wire I've gotten, but I've never seen bigger coils in 19" diameter for 9.5" board radius or 24" diameter for 12" radius. I could be wrong but I'm guessing not!
    3) PLEK does not leave flat frets tops AFAIK, that would not be a premium setup and would make the service unpopular.
    From what I've seen the milling head that mills the frets to height is crown shaped, not a big flat file.
    4) There is simply no way to manufacture necks with dead level frets after fret installation. But bigger automated manufacture has a better chance than small hand building because an automated press seats frets more consistently that a worker doing it manually, whether with a hand press or with a hammer.

    I've seen an awful lot of new guitars with a bit of a flat on the fret tops, as well as a bit of a gritty feel to bends indicating they got a quick once over with a file or sandpaper on a beam. Can't speculate on what methods each factory and era employed, but that little flat has been common for some time. Playing and bending will smooth it out and make it less obvious.

    Go to the 1:05 mark on the video linked below and you can see a very short section of the milling head with multiple different crown shaped cutting segments milling the fret height.

    https://www.sweetwater.com/shop/guitars/plek/index.php
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
    aerhed and awasson like this.
  18. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    Posts:
    16,404
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    Location:
    Maine
    Not many videos show close up views of the cutter head but here at around 17:40 the operator states that the PLEK process literally produced "a perfect level and crown". Not just a fret dressing.



    Here is another video by PLEK themselves with a slightly better view of the crown shaped cutter head at 1:46 where they state clearly "a fret cutter head to dress and crown the frets".

     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
  19. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    Posts:
    16,404
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    Location:
    Maine
    Just for the sake of using the language as accurately as possible, what the operation does is first level the frets resulting in flat tops, then crown the frets resulting in removal and rounding of the flats caused by leveling. Last comes polishing to remove all milling marks made by whatever tools were used in the shaping.

    We often use the term "dress the frets" or "fret dressing", but it's easier to misinterpret that terminology.

    "Level and crown" is more accurate and helps to ensure good communication with whoever is working on our guitars.
    Better still, discuss "Level, crown and polish".
    Given the amount of inaccurate and misleading info on the internet it's worth noting what words mean what operations.

    If we run a beam with sandpaper up and down the frets and then say we have dressed the frets, we speak the truth.
    That may not be what the customer wanted though!
     
    awasson likes this.
  20. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    32,521
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Location:
    Lubbock, TX
    I can dress a fret to a higher degree of smoothness than any Plekk’d guitar on which I have worked. It takes longer, and it is hand work; but never have I seen a factory plek job come close.
     
    telemnemonics likes this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.