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Level Frets

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Laren, Sep 28, 2020.

  1. Laren

    Laren Tele-Meister

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    Hi guys,

    Just learnt an interesting lesson. Frets have to be really level if you don't want any fret buzz. Seems obvious but I just had to do a level on my last build. The neck was flat and after I put the frets in they seemed fine when checked with my fret rocker. Put the two E strings on and yuck! Not good at all. Did a fret level and it's fine now. I'm new to building and this showed me how important really level frets are, just a tiny bit out and you'll find out when the strings go on. Still should hold me in good stead next time.
     
  2. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    Also, make sure to follow up with a good crown on the leveled frets and then a polish.
    I find that the leveling is straightforward, but a good crowing takes decent tools and follow through. Polishing is also important for good playabililty and tone(s) -- you'll be happier when all these are done in succession.
     
  3. Laren

    Laren Tele-Meister

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    Still having trouble getting a decent crown.I've got one of the triangular crowning files, seems I need more practice with it :(
     
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  4. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    true, so very true. the vast majority of guitars are shipped without the frets being leveled... the difference between one leveled and one not so, is much like driving a Porsche (or other fine performance car) without the wheels balanced and aligned.

    Can ya drive it? Yep.. But can ya drive it at it's optimum? Nope... same thing on the guitar, can ya stumble through your repertoire? Yep... Can ya do so at your optimum level of performance? Nope..

    Get 'em leveled guys.. it makes a hellova lotta difference,

    here's how...
    http://www.tdpri.com/forum/tele-technical/201556-fret-leveling-yer-tele-101-a.html

    ron
     
  5. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yeah, and then you introduce relief into the level board so it plays better! :lol::rolleyes::eek::D:)
     
  6. jrblue

    jrblue Friend of Leo's

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    Agreed with all of the above. I've bought plenty of well-used guyitars that have little spot file jobs on "high" frets that have never been leveled and crowned decently, and where the nut has never been worked on after the day the factory glued and slotted the original. I never claim to be a talented tech, but I became good and reliabvle through practice. It's really, really worth it to be able to level, crown, and do a decent job on your nut. The results can be really phenomenal, particularly if you can set relief for the way you play and the sound you want.
     
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  7. Ghostdriver

    Ghostdriver Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    A straight neck is not advisable, you need a slight bow, that will also help alleviate fret buzz!
     
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  8. Laren

    Laren Tele-Meister

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    Once you've got the strings on I'd agree.
     
  9. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yep.. ya start with the frets level...
     
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  10. pshupe

    pshupe Tele-Meister

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    I have had good luck with a lot of my builds. I usually setup and intonate prior to level, crown, and dress. I usually check each note on each string and generally they are all fine, although I do like a medium action and will usually fine tune the nut and bridge height after doing the frets.


    Yeah - I have no buzz at all without strings! ;)

    Cheers Peter.
     
  11. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    I go back and forth on that. For a ham-fisted player like myself I'm not sure it makes that much difference, but I think that it does. Not sure if its psychosomatic, confirmation bias, whatever, but if I know my frets have been leveled I pretend that it plays way better. But if you handed me a guitar and didn't tell me whether it's been leveled or not, I don't think I'd know.

    All the same, I take the time to level and dress my frets just because I can. I'll be doing that with a partscaster build that I'm working on right now. It's got vintage frets so I'm trying to figure out how to attach some sandpaper to a feather rather than a machined surface. Kidding.
     
  12. pshupe

    pshupe Tele-Meister

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    Are we talking about not leveling but still crowning? OR none of the above? IMO you must level and crown the frets. Leveling makes sure they are all the same height along the string path. It also flattens out the tops, so you can then crown them into a pointy top that creates a nice crisply played note. I have played a bit before leveling and crowning but cannot imagine not doing those final steps. It's just what you do to create a nice playing guitar. Why spend all this time building and then skip one of the more, possibly the most, important step? Frankly, I find it quite easy although you should have the right tools to do it without a lot of experience. I think final shaping and string height adjustment at the nut is much more challenging.

    Cheers Peter.
     
  13. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Not sure I follow. If you level your frets then you've made a mess of them and they all need to be crowned. Repair techs can recrown individual frets that have flattened out or have some sort of damage to them due to playing them, and you could take a fret rocker tool to your guitar and knock down a high fret here and there. But what I'm talking about is the decision to level the frets on a neck (or guitar) that you have purchased new. They are almost never leveled when you buy them, unless otherwise noted. But usually they show up in a pretty acceptable condition to just play.

    As to whether its important, that was the thrust of my earlier point. I believe its important and a worthwhile use of my time, though I can't say that the difference is that huge. In reality, if you play every single note on the guitar and they all ring just fine then you've got yourself an acceptable instrument. It works the way its supposed to. Whether leveling the frets make a huge difference, I think is probably subjective. Like I said, I believe that it does, but I can't argue that point with any hard and fast evidence. It's not like I become a totally different guitar player once I've killed an afternoon leveling and crowning my frets. But if you think its the most important step in assembling a guitar, that's fine too.
     
  14. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Start with a perfectly flat fretboard - this means dealing with things like the body joint and extension before you put the frets in. Install the frets so there is absolutely no gap between the crown and the board. They should require some leveling but only a tiny bit. I mark the tops with a felt pen and watch how the marking comes off as I level with a 24 inch beam and 400 grit double stick paper. I then mark the tops again and crown them, I want to see just the finest line of the marking left on the very top of each fret. Then I double and triple check them. If they are perfect, and there is nothing less acceptable, then I polish, do the little end bevel.

    String it up and let the tension pull what ever relief its going to have. Take that down to my target. Check and double check the body joint and extension, it may be necessary to do a little fine tuning there.

    Now, and only now, proceed with the setup. Frets get talked about at post #13 I believe

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/basic-setup.952636/
     
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  15. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yep. And with my tired old eyes, one of these things is a lifesaver. That, and a lot of light and a fresh pot of coffee.

    headlamp.jpg
    Baseball season is the ideal time to level frets; you can listen along to the game on the TV, but if its regular season then you aren't invested enough to care that much. :lol::lol:

    EDIT: enjoyed your thread on this and your post on leveling frets. Great point that I don't always consider, check each fret carefully to make sure its correctly seated before you blast the whole neck with sandpaper and a fret leveling bar. When you are reseating frets, do you hit them with any heat?
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2020
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  16. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    One way to look at this (besides Juneu's visor) is, assuming the open strings play clean, fret a string at the first fret and measure the gap at the second. Assuming that plays without buzzing, if you have the same clearance (or greater) at each next fret up the board the guitar will play without buzzing. It might not play optimally, but it won't buzz. You can also learn a lot about the conditions of the frets and the board by doing this, but it is a test that almost no one ever does.

    Fwiw, I just did a partial refret on an old Guild acoustic over the weekend, first seven. Took all of two hours with pulling the old ones, cleaning up the board, refretting, level, crown and polish. Not a bound board so that makes it go a bit faster. Old nut was fine, saddle had a crack so I made a new one. The guitar has 2 thousands of back fret clearance, 3 of next fret clearance and plays like new.

    Now I've got a couple of mandolins to work on.....
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2020
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  17. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like a higher action, so fretwork is not a concern for me....
     
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  18. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    I like driving on curvy roads so wheel alignment isn't a concern for me.. :rolleyes:
     
  19. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

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    a well set up gtr is like night & day!especially more.... so if the frets have 1st been L & C 'ed to absolute perfection.Effortless to play etc.it takes an acquired skill to attain it though,a learning curve well spent if one has the aptitude,patience and prepared to learn the full understanding of etc.
     
  20. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    If you actually liked driving on curvy roads then wheel alignment would enhance that enjoyment. If you like driving in a straight line at a reasonable speed almost as much as you like playing cowboy chords and singing John Prine songs to no one in particular, eh, you probably aren't going to find that a wheel alignment makes you smarter, taller and better looking.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2020
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