Fret leveling with a beam: Am I the only one with this problem?

Ronkirn

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ya don't need a notched or flat straight edge.... you are over thinking the process.... start with the basics I have illustrated in the thread... once comfortable with that approach, you can begin extrapolating, and adding your own techniques..
 

dannydav709

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I just realized even the stewmac understring leveler, according to their website, is “ Guaranteed accuracy of ±0.0015" per foot”…. Which would mean their 18” leveler (available only as understring) would very like have a similar issue…. The question I have now is, how much tolerance should really be allowed 🤔
However, the leveling beam when put together with straight edge, allows a 0.0016 feeler gauge to pass through at the ends, which may mean it's just a tiny bit convex, but I don't know how much tolerance I should allow for this.
 

dannydav709

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ya don't need a notched or flat straight edge.... you are over thinking the process.... start with the basics I have illustrated in the thread... once comfortable with that approach, you can begin extrapolating, and adding your own techniques..
Hmm. Ok I’ll study your method more thoroughly. I glanced at it before and really liked the idea of the granite edge, but I was watching hours of YouTube vids on this topic trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks for the prompt replies!!
 

loudboy

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ya don't need a notched or flat straight edge.... you are over thinking the process.... start with the basics I have illustrated in the thread... once comfortable with that approach, you can begin extrapolating, and adding your own techniques..
I used this method, got a piece of Corian cutting board, ripped a hunk of it off, and spraymounted some 400 grit sandpaper to it.

For a straight edge, I used a heavy-duty steel ruler.

I experimented on a '60s Mexican Vintage Player Strat I got cheap, because the frets were pretty worn, but had plenty of life left.

Popped the neck, adjusted the truss rod until the tops of the frets were flat, and went at it.

It took me about 1.5 hrs, from unstringing to stringing, and I was watching a movie at the same time. Results were flawless - action as low as I wanted, with no buzzes, and silky smooth feel. It played as well as any guitar I've owned.

I've since done it to a number of other guitars, with equally satisfactory results.

It's really not hard to do.
 

gb Custom Shop

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Hmm. Ok I’ll study your method more thoroughly. I glanced at it before and really liked the idea of the granite edge, but I was watching hours of YouTube vids on this topic trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks for the prompt replies!!
At some point ya just gotta go for it. If you screw up, it ain't the end of the world. As long as you don't file the frets to nothing, you can always try again.

Keep it simple and enjoy it.
 

Ronkirn

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maybe this will help... here's why all the damn "precision" guys selling tools or computer assisted leveling services suggest is required, is not at all mandatory...

Fret Leveling

Few really understand what Fret leveling does. The one thing it does NOT do is result in level frets… Allow me to share…

When a fret is pressed into the wood. It’s the wood and it’s density that stops it, Since the fingerboard is wood and presents varying densities to the respective fret being inserted, AND since there is no way to precisely regulate the pressure to varying degrees to accommodate the wood’s inconsistent density.. each fret will assume a position slightly different than the others with precise uniformity being more a matter of blind luck than anything else.

While in the real world the differences are so subtle that most would never notice them, and the higher you like your action, the less noticeable any irregularities become, you’re aware that it’s not level and that gets in your head. You begin to notice anomalies with more acuity… but…

The fingers are actually far more sensitive to such inconsistencies than many would believe. therefore at an almost subconscious level you “feel” the inconsistencies in heights even though you don’t realize it.. This is why some guitars “feel“ so much better, even though they have precisely the same specs..

Now, why does a fret leveling not result in level frets… because of Science… the area that deals with thermodynamics.

As the frets are either initially inserted, or later, leveled, the process generates heat. It may be subtle, but it’s there non the less… what that does is cause the wood to expand and contract… and it has a cumulative effect, meaning whatever heat is generated is “multiplied” by the number of frets… Heat causes things to expand… and when they cool off rarely do the ever return to the exact null point where they started…

(note to Physicists, Mathematicians and those experts in other disciplines, I understand it’s far more complicated, but this isn’t a class at Cal Tech, it’s an open forum and some are still trying to find the definition for thermodynamics. I’m trying to keep this at the Leveling 101 level.)

Thus, you create heat by dragging a leveling tool over all the frets. Once you’re done.. the neck cools off, it cannot return to the exact point ya started. Thus it is no longer level, but. . It’s not a problem… because of your subtle sensibilities…

Think of driving down a road full of pot holes, washouts, and other irregularities. It gets old really fast…

Now think of driving down another road with a constant series of rolling hills…. Not so annoying.

that's the whole thing about leveling... it makes the neck more comfortable to navigate.. and reduces the potential for buzzing, etc..
 

hopdybob

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Hmm. Ok I’ll study your method more thoroughly. I glanced at it before and really liked the idea of the granite edge, but I was watching hours of YouTube vids on this topic trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks for the prompt replies!!
just one solution.
if you trust a builder building quality guitars that even polishes the switch knobs, than stick to his advise ore you end up visiting a shrink for all those other options and ideas.
i used the book from Dan Erlewine because i had no internet at that time, but would have used Ron's method if i got get that granite beam easily.
 

dannydav709

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maybe this will help... here's why all the damn "precision" guys selling tools or computer assisted leveling services suggest is required, is not at all mandatory...

Fret Leveling

Few really understand what Fret leveling does. The one thing it does NOT do is result in level frets… Allow me to share…

When a fret is pressed into the wood. It’s the wood and it’s density that stops it, Since the fingerboard is wood and presents varying densities to the respective fret being inserted, AND since there is no way to precisely regulate the pressure to varying degrees to accommodate the wood’s inconsistent density.. each fret will assume a position slightly different than the others with precise uniformity being more a matter of blind luck than anything else.

While in the real world the differences are so subtle that most would never notice them, and the higher you like your action, the less noticeable any irregularities become, you’re aware that it’s not level and that gets in your head. You begin to notice anomalies with more acuity… but…

The fingers are actually far more sensitive to such inconsistencies than many would believe. therefore at an almost subconscious level you “feel” the inconsistencies in heights even though you don’t realize it.. This is why some guitars “feel“ so much better, even though they have precisely the same specs..

Now, why does a fret leveling not result in level frets… because of Science… the area that deals with thermodynamics.

As the frets are either initially inserted, or later, leveled, the process generates heat. It may be subtle, but it’s there non the less… what that does is cause the wood to expand and contract… and it has a cumulative effect, meaning whatever heat is generated is “multiplied” by the number of frets… Heat causes things to expand… and when they cool off rarely do the ever return to the exact null point where they started…

(note to Physicists, Mathematicians and those experts in other disciplines, I understand it’s far more complicated, but this isn’t a class at Cal Tech, it’s an open forum and some are still trying to find the definition for thermodynamics. I’m trying to keep this at the Leveling 101 level.)

Thus, you create heat by dragging a leveling tool over all the frets. Once you’re done.. the neck cools off, it cannot return to the exact point ya started. Thus it is no longer level, but. . It’s not a problem… because of your subtle sensibilities…

Think of driving down a road full of pot holes, washouts, and other irregularities. It gets old really fast…

Now think of driving down another road with a constant series of rolling hills…. Not so annoying.

that's the whole thing about leveling... it makes the neck more comfortable to navigate.. and reduces the potential for buzzing, etc..
I very much appreciate this! I have studied your leveling 101 thread, and have a question about this line that I don't yet fully understand:
"Once the frets are marked…. I loosen the truss rod, and re tighten it until I just begin to feel resistance…. Then I take the leveling tool and place it on the frets and give it a slight shove…. It will remove the marker from the “high” frets… check it, and if the frets are “scrubbed” on both ends… tighten the truss rod… and re scrub…."

When you say the leveling tool removes the marker from "high" frets, does that mean any frets that are higher than all/most/some of the others? Also, what do you mean by "scrubbed on both ends"? Do you mean both ends of the high frets? Or do you mean the frets on both ends of the fretboard? Thank you!!

Edit: Also, I realized something else after watching some youtube videos (before I even knew of your thread), and that is that there is the idea of creating "fall-away". It seems like a good concept especially if you want to get action very low, but what I am wondering now is, what happens when the same guitar needs a fret leveling job in the future? How does "fall-away" affect how I would do a leveling job later on, since that end of the fretboard will obviously be slightly lower than the rest of the entire fretboard at the earlier frets...?
 
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RickyRicardo

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If you aren't tired of videos this explains the whole procedure pretty much. He is/was a member here so I'm sure he got this from Ron. It starts at about 4 minutes in.
 

Ronkirn

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the notched beam is intended to give you a reference to get the neck adjusted as flat as possible prior to beginning the leveling process... it sounds good, but it's fraught with problems... the main one being, unless you can get it situated EXACTLY down the apex of the radius the ends are going to indicate the fingerboard is low.. which would be incorrect....

using the marker on the frets... the frets themselves become the indicator... and, relatively speaking, they are far more accurate since ya don't hafta know what the apex of anything is... or what that can mean when you're trying to place a straightedge on a domed surface.

Since neither method is dead bawls on perfect (actually, there are NO dead bawls on perfect methods..)... you may as well choose the easier one to use...
 
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Ronkirn

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I swear.. watching that video in post #51.. should be called how to turn a 5 minute job into a 1 hour one... Ive never seen so many suggestions as seen in this thread about how to complicate an easy process...

leme try again... getcha a beater or two... try my method on 'em until ya get the hang of it... should take ya about 15 minutes and one beer...

Now try it on your hard to play Squire.... easy wasn't it... Now go for the Modern Player... totally rockin' now aren't ya... now hit up the American Pro II... See.. now ya can go back, read this thread and roll your eyes with the rest of us.... :rolleyes: :p
 
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eallen

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Edit: Also, I realized something else after watching some youtube videos (before I even knew of your thread), and that is that there is the idea of creating "fall-away". It seems like a good concept especially if you want to get action very low, but what I am wondering now is, what happens when the same guitar needs a fret leveling job in the future? How does "fall-away" affect how I would do a leveling job later on, since that end of the fretboard will obviously be slightly lower than the rest of the entire fretboard at the earlier frets...?

Step away from all videos, and reading, and and analyzing and grab your neck, markers & beam and level the darn thing! Ron has laid it out as good as it gets. Get a nice standard level & crown job done well & celebrate the accomplishment.

Non essentials like fall away can come another day. We are working guitars to play instead of space rockets with the risk of death.
 
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Ronkirn

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Keep this in mind.. specially those that are laboring under the quest for absolute perfection..

a neck is wood... wood is in a constant state of flux. Even the most stable of woods isn't... it's in one shape one day, another the next... it goes through the changes daily, day after day.... fortunately most of the time the changes due to the flexing etc., occur within a margin of error that still allows ya to play the guitar. But that is why your guitar may play like "buttah" one day, and a royal PO CRAP the next....

Now untill someone figures out how to get wood to stop reactng to subtle changes in the environment in which it finds itself.. it's gonna continue to bend, twist flex, and screw with ya... forever.. it's part of playing guitar.. deal with it..

but that said... until anyone touting superior precision figures out how to guess what your neck will be like tomorrow, next week, next month... next anything.. and allow you to compensate for what it's gonna be doing ... the process I have outlined in the Fret Leveling thread is ALL you need to hugely improve the playability of a guitar... pretty much any guitar because the only guitars that are leveled and crowned are high end customs... that rules out about everything you order off the internet..

and, don't get seduced by the Plek hype.. or a hugely expensive array of Stew Mac tools... or even a 70.00 leveling beam. (although I do use one simply because that what guys expect to see in a shop) Some things ya just gotta do for the optics ya know...

Just buy ya a 10.00 aluminum 24" level from, . . hell, i dunno, Home Depot.. and some stick on sandpaper roll and level the shi* outta those turkeys and enjoy..
 




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