Odd Fret Leveling Behavior?

Quexoz

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Let me describe this and see if anyone has ever experienced this or similar. Referring to a new, cheap Tele style guitar with a few slightly high frets (narrow/tall, easy to over-do it).
Disclaimer: I do not see any "springy" or not seated frets. They seem solid.

1. I take a rocker tool and check and find it rocking slightly on a few frets, so decide to do a full level job.
2. Neck is off guitar, use slotted level tool and totally flatten the neck (tiny adjustment to remove backbow).
3. Using a level beam (frets marked with sharpie) that is the full length+ of the neck, lightly sand.
4. When just a few edges of sharpie remain and flat spots are visible, check with rocker tool again to see how close we are and if/where problems remain.

The rocker tool tells me there are high frets, where the sharpie says they are low. WTF? Continued sanding does not seem to want to touch those spots, so I stopped to avoid removing too much material, and just touched up the "rocking" spots with a grinding stone. Is there something I am unaware of or missed here?

One thought I have: Someone leveled these (badly) with 12+ fret fall-away (12 seemed highest, and all the way across, not just edges) causing my level to rock between 1-12, and 12-22? If that is the case, how do you deal with a guitar that has had that done, to avoid grinding the middle down way too far? Level in 2 sections, above and below the "fall-away" zone?

EDIT: This is on a $99 Monoprice Indio classic that was actually pretty darned nice for the money. Still, I plan to gut it and replace almost everything, of course...cause that's how I roll!

telefrets.jpg
 
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netgear69

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Maybe the neck is flexing under the pressure and some spots it is just removing the ink ?
Removing the spots that are still rocking with a diamond file etc is perfectly acceptable
 

Freeman Keller

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Without seeing it its pretty hard to diagnose. On a screw on neck is should be possible to eliminate the fall off and make it perfectly flat before leveling. I might consider pulling frets and flatening the board. On an acoustic or set neck you might have to deal with the hump.

My rule of thumb is to make the truss rod neutral, make the neck perfectly flat, install the frets - they should take minimum leveling. Let string tension pull whatever relief into the neck, correct with the truss rod. If you build a hump or fall off into the board then you just have to deal with it.
 

monkeybanana

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mmhmm
Maybe the neck is flexing under the pressure and some spots it is just removing the ink ?
Removing the spots that are still rocking with a diamond file etc is perfectly acceptable

I agree or a loose fret. Loose frets are the devil!

I also had a new neck that I couldn't get to stop buzzing. I put it down and a few days letter the neck settled and it has been fine.

There is a reason why the pros charge for this job!
 

Quexoz

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Thanks for the input. The fall off I mentioned is a deliberate fret leveling technique, not a bow in the neck. It may be flexing a tiny bit, though the head stock and heal are pretty even and firmly planted. I was not applying much pressure.

There is not a hump in the wood. I think someone leveled it doing "fall away" or "step down" after the 12th making a "hump" in the frets, or "stairs" going down from the 12th to the 22nd which would manifest as a hump relative from 1-22. I do that myself, but never considered how to deal with a guitar later, after that had been done. I'm thinking you treat it as "two" sections on the same neck. 1-12, and 12-22, with the downward steps after 12. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I got it sorted before removing too much material. There was no/minimal fret buzz before, but the action was higher (would buzz if lower) than what I am going for once all my parts come in and I do the electronics, tuners, etc.

Just wanted to see if there was something I should learn about this odd behavior in the meantime. I do all my own setup work, but am still a novice. I have done 8-10 fret levels, and a complete refret on a cheap SG copy, that came out really well, that had a "springy" fret, and the local guitar shop (Firehouse Guitars, MI.) I paid to level it just ground the frets down to nothing, not noticing the springy fret and gave it back to me in worse, un-playable shape than when I took it in. Since then, I do ALL my own work!
 
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Quexoz

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Your leveling process should be using no pressure--only gravity pulling on the leveling beam.

Agree. By "not much" pressure, I meant just the tiny bit it takes for my hand to hold the beam in place and move it around, not actually pushing down on it. Also, it was just an aluminum level beam, so very, almost too light, but it's all I have access to.

Side note: It surprised me how quickly these narrow frets recrown compared to the typical jumbos most guitars have these days. It was much faster and easier to crown them.
 
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FenderGyrl

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One thought I have: Someone leveled these (badly) with 12+ fret fall-away (12 seemed highest, and all the way across, not just edges) causing my level to rock between 1-12, and 12-22? If that is the case, how do you deal with a guitar that has had that done, to avoid grinding the middle down way too far? Level in 2 sections, above and below the "fall-away" zone?
View attachment 916155

Yes...
Put a straight edge across the fretboard over the center of the frets, from first to last.
Press lightly over the 7th fret so that straight edge is touching 1 thru 12 and raised over 13 on up.
Run a sheet of paper under the straight edge ... over each fret from 13 on up. It should pass under the straight edge over all the frets.

Work on frets 1 thru 12 as if they are on their own. Make sure fret 12 is still higher than fret 13.

Work on frets 13 on up as if they are on their own.

May the force be with you.

When working on 13 and up...
Dont be afraid to break it into smaller portions...13 to 15, 16 to 18, 19 to end.
FG
 

Freeman Keller

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Most necks act kind of like this.

Neckprofile.JPG


What you do at that body/neck joint both with and without tension can determine how it plays in the upper neck. On an acoustic where nobody plays above the 12th fret I like a little fall off. On an electric where people do I like to minimize the transition. The smoother the wood is in that area the less metal you'll have to remove from frets.

Fwiw - someone gave me one of those expensive StewMac leveling beams, I probably never would have bought it myself. I use it almost daily.

IMG_3688.JPG
 

NoTeleBob

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FWIW, fall off above 12 isn't and issue except for action height. It reduces buzzing, it won't add to it. If it's very small, I certainly wouldn't level the rest of the neck to try to correct it. Work with what you have, for better or worse.

That's assuming none of the other issues raised above are behind the measurements.
 

Quexoz

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I intended to add a small bit of fall away myself. I think what happened, is it already had some, intentional or not. Anyway, I just got real close and then tossed a couple layers of painter tape onto the 12th, and hit the last few a bit more for fall away. I'm not expecting perfection with my limited skill and tool set. I'm just going for as good as I can get for a cheap Tele. We'll see how it worked out after my other parts come in and get installed! If it comes out too bad, I'll "fix" it some more, or even refret if I bork it up too bad.

I think I will look into what Uncle Daddy said too. It is a cheap rocker tool and may well be a bit off. Might have to level my leveling tools. /facepalm
EDIT: Yep, there were some little rough edges/protrusions, similar to "flash" on edges of plastic so when laid on a level I could see light under it. I "leveled" that a bit with my leveling beam too.

What you do at that body/neck joint both with and without tension can determine how it plays in the upper neck.

That's just where I keep my extra frets that I don't use. :p

Thanks again for the info & ideas.
 
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Boreas

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I agree with checking out the fret rocker. You can always double check with a fairly new credit card. The first cheap rockers I bought both had bellies on several of the legs. Both were returned and I bought a StewMac which arrived flat.
 

hopdybob

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Most necks act kind of like this.

View attachment 916210

What you do at that body/neck joint both with and without tension can determine how it plays in the upper neck. On an acoustic where nobody plays above the 12th fret I like a little fall off. On an electric where people do I like to minimize the transition. The smoother the wood is in that area the less metal you'll have to remove from frets.
not wanting to hijack the topic.
but what if that curve you show is with a glued on neck?
i have such a situation where i have a nice relief and like you have drawn a hump

for the TS when you checkt on loose frets, did you do that with the neck in a forced backbow ?

i could imagine that when the neck would have a backbow, frets that don't have a tight fit can move, but when the neck is getting in relieve they get tight again.
Dan Erlewin i think wrote in his book that he use some superglue from the side to fixate frets to be sure
 

Freeman Keller

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not wanting to hijack the topic.
but what if that curve you show is with a glued on neck?
i have such a situation where i have a nice relief and like you have drawn a hump

for the TS when you checkt on loose frets, did you do that with the neck in a forced backbow ?

i could imagine that when the neck would have a backbow, frets that don't have a tight fit can move, but when the neck is getting in relieve they get tight again.
Dan Erlewin i think wrote in his book that he use some superglue from the side to fixate frets to be sure

That is alway a problem and depending on the guitar I will approach it differently.

First, if it is a new guitar I try to eliminate the hump from the start. I level the top of the neck and the extension over the top as one unit - basically set the neck so the geometry is perfect then plane the entire neck and extension so it is flat. When I glue the fretboard on it will be flat, after leveling the frets they will be flat. The problem is when string tension pulls the relief, the hump comes back. The way I attempt to minimize that is to run minimum relief, you need some but with perfect frets it can be very low. 5 thousands is a good target, my absolute maximum is 10 (and that would be an acoustic with more tension).

I might do a little dressing on individual frets but I don't like that approach, it just seems wrong to file down one or two frets because you can't control what is going on below them. On acoustic guitars I might let the action creep up a bit to give more next fret clearance, knowing that very few people play about the 12th fret and if they do they're just going to have to push a little harder.

However you are right, its a problem with necks that are all ready fretted and a big problem with electric guitars where that is sweet spot of play. But usually the combination of level frets, low relief, reasonable string tension and reasonable action will make a playable guitar.

ps - I do not force a back bow or do any sort of intentional compression fretting (I know that there is some compression trying to back bow the f/b but I still try to make the fret plane perfectly level). I do use a couple of very small drops of medium CA (or HHG) when I fret a board - that has several functions. I think that having the fretboard and neck flat before you start is a big part of it.

Hope that helped
 

Quexoz

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not wanting to hijack the topic.

Hijack away! It's pretty well run its course for my OP.

I don't build like Freeman Keller, so if I had a set neck guitar with a neck joint hump causing more than a sliver of light (that I could correct by filing frets) under a leveling tool on an otherwise straight neck, I'd send that sh$$ back. Barring that, correct as much as you can, then raise action to playable and call it...a POS. I did/do not force back bow to check loose frets either. I mess with truss rods as LITTLE as possible as they tend to jam up or break a lot on cheap (all?) guitars. I just get it as straight as possible, let it sit a few minutes to settle, check straightness again, inspect frets for high, loose/springy ones (glue and press/clamp down if springy), then commence leveling.

If I found any springy ones, I'd likely glue them all at that point assuming the fret channels were cut a tad wide or whatever.
 

Peegoo

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Lots of different ways to do things.

Absolutely. You can approach this stuff from several different angles and have a good outcome.

You can also royally mess things up if you dive in without doing your homework (this thread is good homework!) or go in really heavy-handed.

The vast majority of civilians have no concept of or use for dimensions as small as 3 or 5 thousandths of an inch. Us Guitar Soldiers are well aware of these small dimensions; we can even feel and hear a difference of .003"-.005" when playing.
 




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