Fret height concerns

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by StevesBoogie, Jun 26, 2020 at 12:11 AM.

  1. StevesBoogie

    StevesBoogie Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    134
    Joined:
    May 11, 2020
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I am in love with my '52 AVRI from Wildwood. It has a roasted maple neck. Quite thick, which I quite enjoy. Actually, it is a dream guitar.

    I feel horrible to say this but I feel I am not as quite in love as I could be! This is my first guitar with jumbo frets. And after 30 days of rock solid playing this thing I can honestly say I love everything about her except for the fact I feel the frets are just a little too high.

    Please don't tell her. Her feelings would be crushed.

    Anyway ... I am not new to guitar playing ... but I am definitely new to new gear. Long story that. But, for those seasoned experts out there...this guitar has 6105 frets (modern narrow and tall according to Fender site). The problem is, I purchased a used 2008 Eric Johnson Strat the first week of Feb, which has super lower fret size compared to my new Tele.

    So let me come out and ask ... if I strongly, strongly suspect that I would be further in love with my new Tele if it has slightly lower frets .... what are the risks? I wouldn't want them necessarily as low as the EJ Strat (medium jumbo) but definitely lower than the existing .055 height. Perhaps a .040/.045 height????

    And what would it do to the gorgeous resonance and sustain this thing currently has?

    Let's say I had a local luthier shave the frets down to .040/.045 and I don't like it?

    Also ... maybe the frets simply need a nice (re)crown job...not a 'lowering' job, but just a 'smoothing' job? (Sorry for not using the proper lingo)

    It's just that the fret wires feel so 'sharp'. Not exactly like railroad ties, well, maybe ... but perhaps like speed bumps that are not rounded down. And they just feel so RECTANGULAR in feel. That is why I suggest a (re)crown job just to shave it down to a nicer smoothness, and maybe it's not the height that bothers me but the shape?

    I am not looking to act immediately, just soliciting some feedback.

    I am new to this forum as of mid-May and I have to say I am floored by the expertise and willingness to suggest your advice. I am not saying this so I can further my chances of getting some quick help. It should be said how amazing that most, if not all, of you are at sharing your knowledge, it's really awesome to witness in action.

    And another thing! Probably left for another thread, but why is fret size so confusing??? Jumbo, medium jumbo, vintage ... Fender vs Warmoth .... I find the actual measurement size of these to be so arbitrary that it is confusing! But I am just venting now. Ok thank you.
     
    That Cal Webway likes this.
  2. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    63
    Posts:
    17,324
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    Can we see pics of these 'rectangular' frets?

    There's no issue with going to shorter fret wire. There's also no issue with grinding these down to .040. Resonance and sustain will be a combination of wood and setup (nut and saddle action, mostly), not fret height.

    Factory crown jobs sometimes leave a wider apex than I prefer. It's easy enough to crown them rounder when leveling.

    If you lowered the frets and didn't like it, you need a refret. On a nitro finished maple neck, this may require re-spraying the fingerboard. Not a big deal, but ask about the total charges...
     
    Jakedog, StevesBoogie and jdiego like this.
  3. StevesBoogie

    StevesBoogie Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    134
    Joined:
    May 11, 2020
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Ok awesome, this is exactly what I was hoping for. This may be a case of a factory crown job. Yes, I will try to get some closeup pics of the frets shortly. Thank you @moosie
     
  4. monkeybanana

    monkeybanana Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    422
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2016
    Location:
    mmhmm
    I am pretty sensitive to fret height myself perhaps pressing a little harder is giving you the sharp feeling? Are you using same gauge strings? My sometimes heavy handed playing will make notes musically sharp.

    Do you have another guitar you love playing? You could take measurements off that or take that along with your new guitar to your luthier for them to shave and duplicate.

    I say give it some time though. You may just find yourself getting used to it and readjusting.

    just some thoughts.
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  5. suave eddie

    suave eddie Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,714
    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    Location:
    Ask your doctor if lobotomy is for you
    I hate tall frets.

    I started out playing violin at 7 years old and got used to feeling the board under my fingers. I don't play with a "death grip" but never liked high frets.
    Play what feels comfortable for you.
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  6. StevesBoogie

    StevesBoogie Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    134
    Joined:
    May 11, 2020
    Location:
    North Carolina
    All excellent points. Yes, I am going to bring my Eric Johnson Strat with medium jumbo as a reference. I'll tell you though, I might just end up with a compromise between the two. My new Tele has the tallest frets available. And while it is a beautiful sounding guitar and beautiful feeling neck, after 30+ days of playing her, I'm just not digging the tall frets. Yes, I definitely can get that sharp tone, ESPECIALLY when I try chording the low E with my thumb on some blues chord stuff. I simply cannot get that thumb to the correct pitch, even after applying a more gentle touch. But I'll be honest, it's some slide stuff that kind of annoys me. Not 'slide' as in the metal tube sliding up or down the fretboard, ala SRV. Goodness gracious, I can lose some skin with these tall frets doing some aggressive slides. And I have learned that I want to feel the fretboard too, it's just the way I prefer to play. I do not believe that I would want the frets to come down considerably, I suspect though that I would be happy with both a shave down to .040 and some type of more rounding to the crown and then I would be thrilled. The EJ Strat has .036. But who am I kidding, I'm picking at straws when it gets to such minimal height diffs between .036 and .040. If it's just as easy for the local tech to shave it down to .036 then I will go with that. Thanks for all of the feedback from everyone thus far. I know fret size is likely a common subject and has been talked to death but I really wanted to give my exact feedback of the issue just in case there were any unknown 'gotchas' and to arm myself with enough info before I make the trek to the local tech (of which I will have to research!)
     
    monkeybanana likes this.
  7. ahiddentableau

    ahiddentableau Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    244
    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2018
    Location:
    Middle of Nowhere
    You can have the frets taken down to a lower height if you want. It does change the feel of the instrument. I just did this on my strat (didn't have a choice, there were big gouges that were causing major problems on that guitar). The frets are now in the .036 range. It did change the feel of the guitar--I can feel the board more and it made the feel "faster"--but I don't notice any major difference in sound. Personally I have strong preference for the feel of lower frets.

    The down side is the lower you take the frets the less life you're going to get out of the guitar. Eventually those frets are going to wear down, you'll get pitting in the lower frets, and you'll need a fret level and dress. If you take it down too low you won't be able to do that. For this reason I'd recommend keeping them as high as you think you can live with, especially if you really love the guitar.

    One more thing: you mention a lack of comfort from the fret ends and lack of a smooth fret surface. That's a really easy thing to change--you could do it yourself with a decent file, some painters tape and a variety of quality high-grit sandpapers. You might find that just dressing the ends and polishing the frets makes enough of a difference for you.
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  8. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    63
    Posts:
    17,324
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    Yes, shorter frets have less life in them, but no, it does not shorten the life of the guitar, unless for some reason a refretted guitar is considered 'dead'.

    At .036, when you need a level next time, consider replacing any frets with deep divots. Then level the entire board, but without needing to take much metal.

    And when it eventually comes time to refret, consider going with stainless. They'll show no measurable wear, and last indefinitely. Because of that, make sure you get a fret wire shape and height that you like!
     
    ahiddentableau and StevesBoogie like this.
  9. That Cal Webway

    That Cal Webway Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    877
    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2012
    Location:
    Minot
    git a pro Level & Crown to 'kiss' it down.


    Had it done to my great 7 mo old Fender Performer T w jumbo frets.
    Love it!!

    .
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  10. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    64
    Posts:
    1,021
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Hey Steve, Just let me say first you've got yourself a couple of sweet guitars there! It sounds like you're just a medium jumbo kind of guy. For those skinny frets, there's nothing wrong with bringing them down a notch. As Moosie mentioned, when you get down to the mid 30s there's not enough bead left for another leveling so you'll be looking at a refret at that point. If it's a maple fingerboard, I understand that can get pricey (some guys just get a new neck).

    I happen to have the opposite taste. I had Warmoth put medium jumbo gold frets in my first partscaster neck because it seemed like the default wire everyone was using. I have a harder time getting those fat frets to note cleanly. For my last three guitars I've gone with the classic 6105 wire and I love it. But I'm going for bright, clear notes and feel I can pull a bigger variety of harmonics and squawk talk out of them, that's just me tho. If you're playing blues, medium jumbos are probably gong to be perfect for you.
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  11. StevesBoogie

    StevesBoogie Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    134
    Joined:
    May 11, 2020
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Great feedback! Thank you
     
  12. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    10,723
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Location:
    northwest
    I can't stand those tall frets. They run .055 to .059 tall. I dont mind wide frets. .045-.046 are frets I like. medium jumbo and stock Fender are about that height.

    You could have them leveled and crowned to .046 cheaper than refretting.

    .036 is getting into Gibson Fretless wonder range almost.

    Beware there is confusion in the industry regarding 6105 labeling. Some are .046 and some are tall depending on maker IIRC.
    Warmoth:
    6230
    .080" X .037"
    6130.106" X .036"
    6105.095" X .047"
    6150.104" X .047"
    6100.118" X .058"

    Dunlop 6105 is .090 x .055 tall
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020 at 1:41 PM
    telemnemonics and StevesBoogie like this.
  13. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    63
    Posts:
    17,324
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    Some of the old AVRIs (pre 2012) were tiny, too. My 2005 '52, which I bought brand new (NOS) measures .035" tall. Realize, that's the distance from lacquer to fret top. There are a few more thousandths of lacquer, down to the bare wood, but it doesn't matter because you play the lacquer (effectively).

    Similarly, my AVRI 69 Thinline (now sold) measured .031 !

    Since he has EJ frets in the 30s, I can see why he may want to go there. I love these little frets.


    When I refret my own guitars these days, I use StewMac 0147 (.080 x .040) or 0148 (.084 x .039). It's getting into that territory, but with a few fret levels if need be.
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  14. StevesBoogie

    StevesBoogie Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    134
    Joined:
    May 11, 2020
    Location:
    North Carolina
    @moosie: Those StewMac 0147 (.080 x .040) or 0148 (.084 x .039) sizes are very likely right up my alley.

    @schmee: Agreed. Wide or thin frets are fine and I probably don't even note a difference. But I can't hang when they are too tall.

    I'm glad I posted, the responses are fantastic. Thank you all.
     
  15. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Meister

    Age:
    32
    Posts:
    466
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2017
    Location:
    California
    This is what I do:
    104x47 jescar frets on a maple fingerboard.
    Then gloss finish over the frets. Then dress/remove gloss from fret tops/polish.
    This turns the fret height from .047” to around.042” which is my favorite height paired with fat frets.

    Maybe you can have the fingerboard refinished?

    As for lowering the fret height by leveling I never understood why people say this is an easy option.
    It’s not. During a fret level, you remove around .001”-.003” on a ‘good’ neck.
    On something say a squier or budget guitar, you remove around .002”-.005”.
    Removing .010”-.015” accurately seems unrealistic and time consuming. This would take so long a refret would be ideal.
    I’ve done hundreds of fret levels and I would not recommend this route.
    I’m curious what a guitar shop would say though.

    You could recrown the frets with a wide concave file but the difference wouldn’t be that noticeable. It is somewhat noticeable though.
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  16. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    10,723
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Location:
    northwest
    Yeah, it would take some while, but he's at .055 and could go to a more normal .047... still .008 removal though.
     
  17. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Meister

    Age:
    32
    Posts:
    466
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2017
    Location:
    California
    That’s still like 4 fret levels.
    Op needs to compare guitars that feel right and measure the frets with digital calipers. I’m guessing he will like around.040”.
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  18. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    35,639
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Location:
    Lubbock, TX
    Fwiw, jumbo frets have wide beads...the part of the fret that the string contacts. It matters not whether the bead is tall, medium, or short; it is the width that makes the fret a jumbo or not. The 6105 is a narrow, tall bead. I grew up with ?Gibson’s, which more often used jumbos...wide beads....while almost all vintage Fenders used narrow frets. There were exceptions. I once purchased a one owner 1965 Fender with factory ‘large frets’...jumbos. Wide beads....wonderful guitar. Side note: the back of the neck from the nut to the heel was bare from usage...not sanded. The frets were definitely original, and there was no fret wear anywhere. I would have loved to have heard that man play guitar...he knew how to fret a guitar..no doubt.


    https://www.fender.com/articles/gear/different-fret-sizes-explained
     
    StevesBoogie likes this.
  19. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Meister

    Age:
    32
    Posts:
    466
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2017
    Location:
    California
    What do guitar shops recommend when asked to lower fret height?
    The recrowning would take a really long time. Adding a finish seems like the best solution. Around here a fingerboard finish is around $150-180. These are all expensive options by the way.
     
  20. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    10,723
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Location:
    northwest
    I'd rely on fret makers more than Fender for that. Tall ones may be Jumbo, medium Jumbo are usually in the .045 range tall, may be wide at .104 or .090 etc
    But realistically, with all the weird semantics in the industry, a person needs to look at the width and height more than a name given IMHO !
     
    StevesBoogie 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.