PLEK machine

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by oceanblue, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. oceanblue

    oceanblue Tele-Meister

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    Always wondered what, exactly, the PLEK machine does, and doesn't do, and so for me, this was interesting ;) as it walks you through the process. It is a tool, and can be used improperly, like any other too, but can be great if used correctly by a skilled operator.

    For those of you that do your own fret levelings, there is a part where he talks about the machine taking readings with neck under stress from string tension, and one without, and doing the math to determine what to do to the frets with strings off, to make it right under tension. So how does one determine the difference doing it manually? Sorry never did any fret work, so if this is a silly question, my apologies.

     
  2. john_cribbin

    john_cribbin Tele-Afflicted

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    I get it's a great piece of kit, but ....

    I can't get over the feeling, it's a guitar not the space shuttle.
     
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  3. FenderLover

    FenderLover Friend of Leo's

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    Doing it manually, you're not really concerned about the 'difference'. Start with a straight neck (no tension), level the frets with a flat surface (sandpaper), polish the frets, restring, readjust truss rod tension.

    PLEK works wonderfully. It's the Nth degree of accuracy via machine. Manually is more by feel, like what a craftsman does.
     
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  4. Crashbelt

    Crashbelt Tele-Meister

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    I bought an old ES355 that had just been refretted with very tall stainless steel frets which I hated.

    Charlie Chandlers in West London did a great Plek job taking the top third of the frets away then nicely finishing the frets. It would have been big job to take so much material off S S frets by hand so the Plek was great.
     
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  5. Informal

    Informal Tele-Holic

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    I worked briefly for John Suhr, and he has one..... It's absolutely amazing to watch it work.

    Why every guitar company that mass produces doesn't own one.. is beyond me.
     
  6. Matt Sarad

    Matt Sarad Tele-Meister

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    I had one of my acoustics pleked. It turned out to be computerized crown and polish. I had the guitar refrettef to make it playable.
     
  7. SamIV

    SamIV Tele-Holic

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    I have had one guitar plekked that was pretty much unplayable. Made a world of difference.
     
  8. Uncle Daddy

    Uncle Daddy Tele-Holic

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    I've had 3 or 4 Plek setups at Charlies. Each one was fantastic.
     
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  9. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Great machine, but i have read that the human operator has an effect on the results... As in any guitar work, you want a skilled, knowledgeable tech, not a dude doing his third Plek job ...
     
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  10. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    There are IMO two ideas around the plek.
    One is cheaper labor, but just the same basic flat style level & crown with no real skills involved.
    The other is again cheaper labor but doing a job that only more advanced techs are capable of, where the frets are not dressed flat, and instead go up and down depending on what areas relate to what parts of which strings.
    At the most basic level this means adding additional relief under the low strings while either leaving the fret tops straight under the high strings or adding fall away for the player who uses more open chords and uses a heavy RH technique.
    Therefore the second use of a plek is to tailor the setup to the individual player.
    An advanced plek job that makes the guitar better for Peter will make the guitar worse for Paul.

    Part of the reason I say "more advanced tech" is because that tech needs to be able to watch the customer and immediately picture each string moving over each part of the fretboard as driven by that player, then design an architecture for the fret tops up and down the neck.
    Most normal techs who level with a beam cannot do this.
    OTOH most techs who pay big money to put a plek in their shop are capable of the more advanced fret work and player analysis.

    As far as why mass produced guitars don't all get plek'd, IMO a neck being made of wood, and today often being made of less well seasoned wood with little or no rests between milling processes, new necks are not yet settled into the woods final shape.
    So plek at the factory and a year later it's moved and the supposedly superior fret work of the plek looks not so great.

    Some necks move less, and IME better seasoned and selected wood is more stable, while we can still get cheapo necks that don't move much just by luck of the draw.
    Still worth putting assembly line guitars in the plek before shipping, but the machine still takes labor hours and slows production.
    Might be better to have Sweetwater plek for an upcharge (I think they do?) after shipping and warehousing under string tension has at least settled the neck a little more than it would be five minutes after assembling and stringing up.

    As far as putting "string tension" on the neck while leveling frets, IMO/ IME this is only of value with a neck made from wood that sin't straight grained, because a straight grained neck moves in a predictable manner and doesn't do one thing at the 12th fret but a different thing at the 4th fret.

    For these reasons I simply avoid buying guitars that don't have nice straight grain that runs parallel to the neck.
     
  11. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    True in most cases, but for the players whose navigation is at the pinnacle of technique, the more advanced setup may be of value.

    I used to feel a need for a more advanced setup like a plek can do, which is not at all different from what advanced techs have done since way way back I'd guess at least to the 1950s when players routinely used the whole neck and some wanted low action all the way up along with buzz free chording all the way down.

    If you find that low enough action on the highest frets results in some buzzing on the low strings playing chords/ lower on the neck, you might want either a plek or an advanced tech to do one of your guitars in a not-level fashion.
    Either man or machine costs more money, though of course the plek will be cheaper for the same work.

    I think that while the internet has created more numerous, skilled guitar techs, it has also marginalized the most skilled techs by pushing the simplistic beam leveling method as the way it's done.
    It's not that hard to learn more advanced fretwork, we just see less of that on youtube.
     
  12. ElJay370

    ElJay370 Tele-Holic

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    Fret work is one of those things that’s relatively simple in concept and practice, but very easy to screw up. If machinery exists to simplify a process that is somewhat tedious and has a fairly sharp learning curve, why not?

    Does it seem like “cheating”? To someone like me that’s spent a lot of time learning how to do a proper fret job, kind of. But time and technology marches on. The PLEK can probably level and polish 5 guitars in the time it takes me to do one.

    I’ve heard people describe playing a PLEK’d guitar like is a transcendental experience. I dunno....I guess for a very technical player who’s using the entire fretboard it would make an appreciable difference, for the average Joe Power Chord, probably not so much.
     
  13. lammie200

    lammie200 Tele-Afflicted

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    I don’t think that the only advantage is time. It seems like a good fret job can be hard on the hands/wrists, etc. Magnify that by a few dozen and you may be in for a world of hurt.
     
  14. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted

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    Have had a 2 people with custom Les Pauls Plekd without being pleased. They came plekd from the factory and they weren't pleased with the setup so they paid sweetwater to do them again. Still no improvement. Where the frets level? Yes. Where they crowned correctly? Yes. What was missing? A decent tech setting with the owner of $5,000 guitars and setting them up to their personal taste of neck relief and bridge height. They both felt they wasted their money. When my builds were played they were like better for that simple reason. I'm nothing special, I just pay attention.

    I am not saying a Plek can't do excellent work. I am saying it will do no better than the human setting it up or the human setting up the guitar afterwards. The difference between a plek and a good tech is a couple hundred bucks more cost for one.

    Eric
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
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