1. Win a Broadcaster or one of 3 Teles! The annual Supporting Member Giveaway is on. To enter Click Here. To see all the prizes and full details Click Here. To view the thread about the giveaway Click Here.

Fret leveling a new neck

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Verzila, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    5,234
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2007
    Location:
    Glen Head, NY
    Radiused sanding blocks are fine for sanding wood in order to get the radius on the fingerboard, but I don't see that they'd be precise enough for fret leveling. What I mean is I'd be concerned about twisting the tool as it's being coaxed back and forth, which would change (tighten) the radius and not hit everywhere. Then you're dragging it around a lot more than you need to and taking too much metal off of the outer edges of the frets.

    And for the record I have no problem with snakes in my shop. Probably a professional courtesy (lawyer by day).
     
  2. TRexF16

    TRexF16 Friend of Leo's Vendor Member

    Posts:
    4,039
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2011
    Location:
    Tucson
    Yes, you are doing something wrong. You are using a short radius block to try to do a fret level despite the good advice to the contrary provided herein. (I'm not really intending to be a smarty pants though it probably sounds that way!)

    I realize you were probably wanting to avoid having to go buy another tool for this job - that's a valid concern. Do you have a decent 24" (or longer) level? If so check the flat edge and see if it is truly flat. If it is that would make a fine fret leveling beam. You could probably even use the edge of a length of good stable hardwood, as long as you made certain sure it was straight. And with a flat beam you can hit all parts of your fret tops only as much as is needed. With what you have going on now you're going to have to grind down the middle part of your frets a lot lower than you want to before you touch the edges. I'm guessing when you installed the frets they got a little more pressure or taps with the hammer along the edges than in the middle, and are thus actually a tiny bit smaller of a radius that your block.

    Anyway, valuable experience gained, and another reaffirmation of the "inspirational quote" below.

    All the best,
    Rex
     
    Verzila, nosmo and RogerC like this.
  3. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    66
    Posts:
    12,784
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2003
    Location:
    Netherlands
    I just recently did my first fret-level job on a very cheap Chinese 12-string Tele kit guitar. The guitar was so cheap, I couldn't justify spending any money on tools. I used an old made-in-Czechoslovakia carpenter's level that I picked up at a thrift store several years ago. Used double-stick Scotch-brand tape to fasten strips of waterproof sandpaper. It worked like a charm! I did worry a bit, because it seemed I had to sand quite a bit. Crowned the frets with a cheap crowning file from somewhere in China, and polished with really fine paper and auto-body rubbing compound. It was all easy and fun, and except for the 5-dollar crowning file, cost almost nothing.
     
  4. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    65
    Posts:
    1,259
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    As a builder I invested in Stew Mac's aluminum radius sanding beam (way too expensive for a hobbiest) because a 12" radius is what I'm putting on the mandolins I build (It turns out my ES 339 is a straight 12" radius too). I use it for truing fretboards. The radius sanding beam at 18" long is a great tool and easy to control. However, for leveling frets I use SM's precision ground straight sanding beam (16" long), its heavy steel and dead flat. I use Klingspor peel-n-stick I buy by the roll (find a cabinetmaker friend) I use 320 grit, ink the frets, and it only takes a few swipes. The advantage of the straight beam is you can do any radius or a compound radius. I'm also spoiled by diamond crowning files, so consistent, much easier on the finger joints, and at 300grit- a lot less cleanup. These are expensive tools but dead flat is critical in frets. After years of wrestling with trying to do it the cheap way, I gave in. I have several hundred $ in fretting tools and don't hesitate to charge $300 for a quality refret. BTW, if you ever need NEW frets, EVO gold is great stuff, no need to go to stainless steel anymore.
     
  5. musicalmartin

    musicalmartin Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    6,534
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Norfolk UK
    I use a flat brass bar about 10 inches long with wet and dry glued to it .i have also used a long oil stone ..once this is done I redress the frets with a triangular swiss file .Sometimes I restring and check how it plays before final dressing and polish I always do it with the neck in place on the guitar .I tend to take more off the high end from the 12th fret just to allow super smooth high end noodling .i then use very fine micromesh and some fine wire wool to polish it all up .The first I did,with much trepidation, was to an Epiphone Dot .It made a huge difference and it played like well set up Gibson afterwards .The last is a new Fender replacement 22 fret tele neck that had some low frets .So far this is the worst neck I have had to do but it plays sweetly now .
     
  6. kingvox

    kingvox Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    294
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2017
    Location:
    CT, USA
    I recently refretted a Tele and used 3 radius blocks on the fingerboard, gradually tapering it from 7.25" to 9.5" to 10". Came out great. Double checking with a straightedge and radius gauges makes sure everything sails along just fine. After I clamped the frets in they played perfectly without any leveling, which just goes to show how important prep work is with frets. If your board and slots are perfect, and you seat your frets perfectly, well....that's all there is to it.

    Of course, they were .055" high, and I wanted them around .050" to feel better. So I used the radius blocks again for taking the frets down, before leveling them under string tension.

    Using the 3 radius blocks on the frets simply to remove height, I kept checking with my Stewmac calipers. I zero them out on the fretboard by lowering the probe onto it (I find that it zeroes out around -.079" most of the time), and then check the fret heights as I go along.

    Since I was using 3 radius blocks I had to be careful. But when all the frets were measuring .050" everywhere, I stopped, and started the leveling process. Using the radius blocks on the frets was just to get them in the ballpark of the height I wanted.

    @ telepraise

    I used EVO frets, too. I use those as often as possible. I always recommend them and absolutely love that fretwire.

    Anyway:

    Over the years I've revised my fret leveling. These days I use .030" thick carbon fiber i-beams and Stikit sandpaper that fit under the strings while they're tuned to pitch. Generally, I get the neck straight under string tension, level, and then add just a touch of relief after the leveling is done. To test my leveling, I play every note on every string chromatically, then if that's good, I bend every note a whole step on every string on every fret to test it.

    (Within reason here, lol...I'm not bending the high E a whole step at the first fret, but any note I can bend up a whole step is getting bent).

    Once they're all good, I know when I take the strings off and do a recrown and polish out, there won't be any surprises when I string it back up.

    Most of the time I use my 8" leveler. It's 1/2" wide. I've considered using an 18", 3/4" wide leveler (i-beam), although my frets come out just fine the way I'm doing it now. Might save some time.

    I also have a 4" i-beam I use a lot, especially at the end of the board, where humps are common. And also to flatten the radius on the upper frets. Since I've gone to understring leveling, though, I haven't looked back. Being able to test your work under real playing conditions immediately has just been too convenient. This is especially helpful when trying to figure out how much you need to flatten the frets at the end to prevent choking out with bending.

    Just keep playing it, bending those notes, and when they stop choking out and ring clear the whole way through, you're done. And it'll only sound better after a recrown and polish out.
     
  7. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    22,793
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2003
    Location:
    Ontario County
    My only regret with the stewmac radius beam is that they weren't available 30 years ago. I'm making the best necks of my life now, and that devise plays a major role in that process. The fret press is one of the other major players that I'd recommend for anybody starting out. When you consider how important a fretboard is to the function of a guitar, then the tools to help make one the best it can be should be of the utmost concern. Knowing what I know now, I'd skimp on power tools if I had to, and put the money into a fret slot system, radius beam, and fret press. As always, YMMV.
     
    rscalzi likes this.
  8. s_tones

    s_tones Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,036
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2013
    Location:
    central CA
    ditto on the stewmac bar. It's the cat's meow if you want a uniform radius.
    ain't too hard. if you start with a very true neck and fretboard.
    I tweek to as flat as possible using the truss rod. typically less than half a turn.
    then use the bar with 400 grit paper. typically i end up passing it under its own weight about 6 to 10 times to take off my felt marks at least minimally. then finish the frets with 800 to 2000 grit and dremel polish
     
  9. Verzila

    Verzila Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    179
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Location:
    WR15 8PH, United Kingdom
    Great replies, guys, and thanks for all your help. Yes all the good advice points to using a flat beam, but then you check out different sources and find someone who swears by the radius blocks and can't get along with beams, and then another source says, etc, etc, and so on.

    Still, live and learn, worth a try, find which way works best for me, and all that. Right, now for a rummage through the skips for a nice slab of marble...
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
  10. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    74
    Posts:
    12,229
    Joined:
    May 1, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    Keep in mind, fretwork, like so many other aspects of the guitar is an art form.. thus there are many different ways to achieve the same goals.. Often what works well for one is problematic for another, thus you should explore various methods until you find one that works best for you...

    RK
     
  11. Verzila

    Verzila Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    179
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Location:
    WR15 8PH, United Kingdom
    True. I was a little wary about getting an even cut across the width of the fret using a flat beam, and I read advice by confirmed users of the block method saying that the built-in radius takes care of this. Still, what works for some, and all that, and what seems to be an easier ways isn't always.
     
  12. Verzila

    Verzila Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    179
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Location:
    WR15 8PH, United Kingdom
    Looking round the web for more info on flat beams, I've come across a couple of alternatives to a flat stone; what are your thoughts on:
    - a thick/heavy slab of glass cut to size
    - a long wood plane with the blade removed
    - a long spirit level
    Many thanks
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2017
  13. Mat UK

    Mat UK Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,691
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2009
    Location:
    London, UK
    I use an aluminium precision ground spirit level, they come in different lengths, they're dead cheap... I already had one too which helps
     
  14. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    22,793
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2003
    Location:
    Ontario County

    My leveler is float plate glass glued to a wooden handle. It was a stewmac or LMii product. I don't think they make them anymore.
     
  15. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,512
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    I use a level with a different grit on each edge.
     
  16. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    74
    Posts:
    12,229
    Joined:
    May 1, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    well . . about all "top drawer" techs use a FLAT leveling bar... gotta be a reason... could it be that if you get that radiusing block off JUST A LITTLE, it cannot cut a flat line.... that screws up the purpose of doing the leveling...

    IF you're depending on the concave hollow to ride correctly over the convex fingerboard... good luck...

    Why do "you guys" keep on keeping on trying to fix what ain't broke to find an improvement on what works perfectly well, really. . . Flat bar... Flat bar... Flat bar... Flat bar... Flat bar... Flat bar... .. any questions?

    I do a couple a hundred necks a year... I NEVER hear anyone say, "Yo, fatty, ya screwed up muh frets.".. Never... either I'm, and the couple hundred guys that got the necks are stupid, or there's a hint there... take the hint, it's free..

    Or . . a radiusing block is NOT for leveling frets.... it's for radiusing the fingerboard before the frets ever are installed... Like my Dad and GrandDad hammered into me as a kid, use the right tool for the right job.... a leveling beam is for .. umm let . . me think.. oh yeah, I remember, it's for leveling... a radiusing block is for ... Umm.. Man.. this is worse than an algebra test ... Umm . . Oh yeah. . . I scribbled the answer on my hand . . . it's for radiusing...

    rk
     
    CFFF and RogerC like this.
  17. bender66

    bender66 Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,330
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2010
    Location:
    on my bike
    They're too afraid to tell you Ron. ;)

    I'm re-reading some of this thread from this am where I thought to myself "why make this more difficult?" even before I had enough coffee.

    I'd think the marker trick Ron showed would clue a person in on where they need to be or not.
     
  18. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,287
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2010
    Location:
    Sugar Land, TX
    Interesting how many people will swear they don't like conical necks. Any TAPERED neck, with a good fret leveling, will acquire some degree of conical profile. Some might argue the ideal case would be would be a radius, at any given fret, proportional to the width of that fret. This would be much easier to grasp if one could explain it with over-sized models... one on one... in person. Mr. Kirn is EXACTLY right. It ain't about guitars really... just geometry.
     
  19. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,287
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2010
    Location:
    Sugar Land, TX
    For the curious... I have used this radius jig to form compound radius fretboards (conical) for fret-less bases. Works like a charm. The sliding pivot at the far end of the photo is located exactly where the highest and lowest strings would intersect (several feet away from the headstock). The level is simply (only) used as a straight beam with self-adhesive sandpaper on the bottom. The same method could be used as prep for the wood, BEFORE the frets are installed; in which case, less metal would be removed when "leveling" the frets. neck jig.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2017
    RogerC likes this.
  20. Freewheelin_Bob

    Freewheelin_Bob TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    82
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2016
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV
    Ron, I learned to do things similarly to how you do them. "fall-away" is new to me though. That makes me sound like a ludite but I understand why fall away is done. My question is... those frets are troublesome as is in terms of intonating with the rest of the neck... so doesn't adding fall away make intonating harder? Or is the fall away so subtle it doesn't make a noticeable difference? Thanks
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.