Have to ask - fret leveling a not so perfect neck

Missing Link

Tele-Holic
Joined
Jan 19, 2018
Posts
515
Location
USA and UK
I read some of the post found here on fret leveling a neck, all are very good for information but:
Now I have always known that step one is it to flatten the fret board by using the truss rod to achieve a flat as possible fret board to help create a nice even cut on all frets (leveling). Most of the necks I have leveled in the past have been almost perfectly flat after adjustments but just recently I bought a Fender Telecaster Classic Vibe neck from a gent that looked in near new condition but when set up to flatten the fret board for a fret level job found that no matter how much relief or back bow I put into it, it shows with the use of a feeler gauge and a straight edge neck ruler the following results: 21 fret neck
From 1-2-3 fret zero gap
4-5-6 a gap 0.04mm
7-15 frets 0.05mm
16-18 very small gap hard to read but still a gap

19-21 zero gap
So most of the center area of the neck has a gap no matter how much I adjust the truss rod to find the best were it has no gaps.
I know to some this gap is not a problem but the concern is not to remove as much fret material as possible while sanding due to top end at the nut and heel end are higher than the middle. It has about fifteenth frets out of the 21 frets that need levering So I would have to take more off both end to get to the center and start its levering.
I considered to back bow the neck to bring up the center gap but when I start to do that the 3-1 frets start to raise up to make a gap and the cent has not much change.
So should I level to were it's at its best in flatness and fret level from that, and consider the gap as built in relief?


Cheers guys
 

Attachments

  • DL048032#1.jpg
    DL048032#1.jpg
    151.3 KB · Views: 42
  • DL048033.jpg
    DL048033.jpg
    179.4 KB · Views: 41
  • DL048034.jpg
    DL048034.jpg
    63.8 KB · Views: 43
  • DL048035.jpg
    DL048035.jpg
    77 KB · Views: 45

Freeman Keller

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
10,024
Age
77
Location
Washington
Lots of folks swear by them, personally I don't use a notched straight edge. With no frets in the board I make it flat, period. Once the frets are installed you can't do anything with the board other than exactly what you are doing, try to get the fret tops as flat as you can. Then level 'em.

You have less than 2 thousands of a inch of natural relief, that is pretty low. I would put the neck in a guitar, string it up and measure the actual gaps at each fret. See if you can reduce the relief and find out where the troublesome frets are. A double acting truss rod will introduce some back bow but you may find out you don't need it.
 

Missing Link

Tele-Holic
Joined
Jan 19, 2018
Posts
515
Location
USA and UK
That's what I was thinks, if it has too much relief after stringing up maybe the back bow will take it out.
Hate to remove so much off the frets to go a bit lower on the center were most of the frets need leveling.
cheers
 

Freeman Keller

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
10,024
Age
77
Location
Washington
That's what I was thinks, if it has too much relief after stringing up maybe the back bow will take it out.
Hate to remove so much off the frets to go a bit lower on the center were most of the frets need leveling.
cheers
There are a couple of things that you haven't said - what kind of neck (one or two piece), what kind of truss rod (compression, double acting). Is the neck and frets new or worn. Is the fretboard finished?

I have heard of people clamping a neck under back pressure and applying heat to get it to move, most of what I hear is that it didn't work. When I build a neck I try to make each step perfect, the next one depends on it. When I refret a neck I have an opportunity to correct things like this. If I'm not refretteing I just do the best I can.

My approach would be to adjust the truss rod until the fret tops are as level as possible, then decide what to do. Make sure each fret is well seated, try sliding your thinnest feel blade under the crown of each. If you have to take a few thousands (of an inch, I'm US) then thats what you have to do, the frets will wear faster, you'll replace them a little sooner. If you aren't happy trying to level what you've got you can decide if pulling and starting over it better.

There is another test that I like to do with strings on the guitar - play an open string. If it doesn't buzz measure the gap at the first fret. Now fret it at one and measure the gap at two. If it is the same as one or bigger it won't buzz. Fret two and measure three, same thing, if you have at least the same gap (it will be very small, probably 2 or 3 thousands) it won't buzz. Go up the neck measuring each gap - you will soon see a pattern. The gap gets steadily bigger - it won't buzz (but may not bee the lowest possible action). The gap gets larger, then smaller again as you near the body joint - normal relief, you might be able to reduce it by tightening the t/r. The gap suddenly gets smaller at on or two frets, then bigger again - probably a high fret. The gap gets smaller all the way up the neck - your action is too low.

I will frequently do that next fret gap test on every fret of every string before I do anything else to the guitar. That can tell me a lot.
 

eallen

Friend of Leo's
Gold Supporter
Joined
Jul 30, 2013
Posts
3,004
Location
Bargersville/Indianapolis, Indiana
I never check for straightness with a notched edge. Use a straight edge and adjust it as straight across the top of the frets as possible & level it. The board itself is fairly irrelevant compared to are all frets level to each other.
 

hopdybob

Friend of Leo's
Joined
May 28, 2008
Posts
2,641
Location
netherlands
question is to, i think, if you can get the neck in a little backbow with the trussrod?
(Dan Erlewin helps the trussrod with a clamp)
string up to pitch and see what happens and look at things like the nut, the bridge and check like @Freeman Keller wrote above
another thought about the 'gap'
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c1/Scalloped_fretboard.jpg ;)

@Freeman Keller
i did reheat the fretboard glue so it would reset the lower part of the neck and it did help me solve a big problem


but this was the utterly last attempt to fix it
 

bullfrogblues

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Jun 5, 2011
Posts
5,672
Age
71
Location
Southeast Florida
Lots of folks swear by them, personally I don't use a notched straight edge. With no frets in the board I make it flat, period. Once the frets are installed you can't do anything with the board other than exactly what you are doing, try to get the fret tops as flat as you can. Then level 'em.

I never check for straightness with a notched edge. Use a straight edge and adjust it as straight across the top of the frets as possible & level it. The board itself is fairly irrelevant compared to are all frets level to each other.
I've been preaching that a notched straight edge is snake oil for a long time. I really got bashed on another forum for that, too. Nice to see a couple opinions that are on the same line.
This method, to me, takes off the least amount of fret material, and the tops of the frets being level is the important part.
 

Beebe

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Jun 1, 2021
Posts
1,085
Location
Atlanta
Not being able to create a back bow would indicate an issue with the truss rod.

If the truss rod isn't doing its job you won't be able to decrease relief once tension is on.

So make sure that's functioning first.

If the truss rod is working, just get the board as flat as you can and level away. Short frets sound better to me anyway.

Also relief is measured between frets and strings (not the board), so once the frets are leveled there will be no "built in relief."
 

pypa

Tele-Holic
Joined
Jul 21, 2020
Posts
865
Age
52
Location
new jersey
I'll give some contrarian advice, but I'm a woodworker first.

If your frets cannot be practically leveled with the truss rod in neutral position, then your neck or board is warped. You can trick it into submission perhaps temporarily, but in my experience, wood will eventually do what it wants to do. So, if it were me, I would remove the frets, and flatten the fretboard properly with a reliable radius beam, then re-fret.

I know that's a lot of work, but with a basic set of fretting tools, it's not particularly difficult.
 

Weazel

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Oct 21, 2009
Posts
1,850
Location
Location Location
I have never used a notched straight edge, nor have I ever felt the need for one.
Fretleveling is leveling the frets, not the board. (remember scalloping, anyone?)

A straight edge on the frets will give you all the information you need.
 

Wallaby

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Posts
3,133
Location
Here
I don't think a notched straight edge is useful for leveling frets - I just use a regular straight edge for that.

It's not completely useless, though -

It is useful for reading a fretboard that still has frets installed. You also can adjust a neck so the fretboard is flat ( according to your notched straight edge ) and then use a fret rocker to map out the frets.

Once you're at the stage of leveling frets, the notched straight edge doesn't have a purpose IMO.

Just my 2 cents :)
 

NoTeleBob

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
Posts
3,893
Location
Southwestern, USA
Once the frets are installed, the plane of the frets is all that matters.

With that sort of irregularity, I would adjust the truss rod to create the least variation from a central line. That is, I'd end up with frets 1 - 3 With .002 clearance and frets 4–5 with .002 – .003 clearance. Then I'd level to the center line. That way you are only taking .002 off the high frets.

Otherwise you'll be taking .004 off the frets that with no clearance right now. That always feels like a lot to me.
 
Last edited:

Wound_Up

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Feb 11, 2020
Posts
1,263
Age
41
Location
Shreveport, LA
I read some of the post found here on fret leveling a neck, all are very good for information but:
Now I have always known that step one is it to flatten the fret board by using the truss rod to achieve a flat as possible fret board to help create a nice even cut on all frets (leveling). Most of the necks I have leveled in the past have been almost perfectly flat after adjustments but just recently I bought a Fender Telecaster Classic Vibe neck from a gent that looked in near new condition but when set up to flatten the fret board for a fret level job found that no matter how much relief or back bow I put into it, it shows with the use of a feeler gauge and a straight edge neck ruler the following results: 21 fret neck
From 1-2-3 fret zero gap
4-5-6 a gap 0.04mm
7-15 frets 0.05mm
16-18 very small gap hard to read but still a gap
19-21 zero gap

So most of the center area of the neck has a gap no matter how much I adjust the truss rod to find the best were it has no gaps.
I know to some this gap is not a problem but the concern is not to remove as much fret material as possible while sanding due to top end at the nut and heel end are higher than the middle. It has about fifteenth frets out of the 21 frets that need levering So I would have to take more off both end to get to the center and start its levering.
I considered to back bow the neck to bring up the center gap but when I start to do that the 3-1 frets start to raise up to make a gap and the cent has not much change.
So should I level to were it's at its best in flatness and fret level from that, and consider the gap as built in relief?


Cheers guys
You're really worried about 0.001" aka 0.04mm???

That's literally 1 thousandth of an inch. Or the width of an avg human hair. Not nearly enough to be on about like this, imo.
 

Boreas

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Posts
10,089
Age
67
Location
Adirondack Coast, NY
I am guessing the fretboard has a hump at the heel. This is fairly common on older necks, but shouldn't really be there on a new neck. This could make it seem like you aren't getting a backbow. And it could also be your truss rod is not adjusting properly - or you could have both conditions!:oops:

However, these should be considered conditions and not necessarily problems. As mentioned above, the main issue for playability/buzzing is how level you can get the frets, and not the fretboard. [Think scalloped fretboards!] If you can get the frets totally flat with no string tension, you will likely have sufficient relief WITH tension. This may include removing a significant amount of fret material over the hump, but your option would be to remove the frets and re-level the board itself. At that point, you may want to consider a replacement neck if you can't do the work yourself.

I would also double-check your notched bar and make sure it is true. Never assume a tool is correct! If it is bent/warped laterally, or twisted, it can seem to make gaps appear and disappear. And obviously the measuring surface needs to be dead-nuts flat. If it isn't, it may need to be re-ground flat by a good machinist.
 

netgear69

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Posts
2,125
Location
england
I think a notched edge is a good tool it at least gives you an idea of what is going on with the board
A bow in a neck if not extreme is not the end of the world
 

ASATKat

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Nov 16, 2018
Posts
6,199
Age
68
Location
next to the burn zone
question is to, i think, if you can get the neck in a little backbow with the trussrod?
(Dan Erlewin helps the trussrod with a clamp)
string up to pitch and see what happens and look at things like the nut, the bridge and check like @Freeman Keller wrote above
another thought about the 'gap'
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c1/Scalloped_fretboard.jpg ;)

@Freeman Keller
i did reheat the fretboard glue so it would reset the lower part of the neck and it did help me solve a big problem


but this was the utterly last attempt to fix it
I would have put equal force under the neck so it doesn't bend downwards under the heat.

I really don't know what I'm talking about and would never attempt the task, I know I'd screw it up. Much praise for your bravery.
 
Last edited:

hopdybob

Friend of Leo's
Joined
May 28, 2008
Posts
2,641
Location
netherlands
I would have put equal force under the neck so it doesn't bend downwards under the heat.

I really don't know what I'm talking about and would never attempt the task, I know I'd screw it up. Much praise for your bravery.
well, i would not want to call it bravery ;)
this was the only option or removing the fretboard.
and because that last option wasn't an option it was a bent ore break for this guitar.
if this would not fix it than its being as a guitar was over.

sometimes events ore situation force you to jump higher than what you are comfortable with, and in my case i was blessed it worked out.
 




Top