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Sharpening stone for fret leveling?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by markw51, Sep 6, 2013.

  1. markw51

    markw51 Tele-Afflicted

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    Anyone ever tried to use a typical hardware store sharpening stone for fret leveling? It would be a cheap alternative if it actually is effective.
     
  2. LightninMike

    LightninMike Tele-Holic

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    a simple flat file will work much better

    the stone will wear away fairly quickly
     
  3. Scrapperz

    Scrapperz Tele-Meister

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    Those stones you speak of may cut really fast. I used a Fine Indian stone made by Norton, which I used while I was machinist. I went over the frets evenly cause it was only 2.5 in. long by 1/4 in. thick by 1 in. wide. Worked like a charm on a very inexpensive Strat copy I acquired about 5 years ago. Still using it, with very heavy strings and what I consider a low action. It's definitely possible depending on how bad those frets really are, lol. The few necks I've worked with needed only the crown of the fret taken off. IMO, If you wear a stone down to the point it's no longer flat your using the wrong tool, although it's possible to lap a stone flat.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  4. KevinB

    KevinB Doctor of Teleocity

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    Have you read Ron Kirn's sticky?

    A scrap piece of engineered quartz with sandpaper attached to it is inexpensive and works really well.

    If it's good enough for Ron, it's good enough for me.
     
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  5. BartS

    BartS Friend of Leo's

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    I bought a 7 dollar sharpining stone at home depot it was about 8 inches by 2 inches and has a fine and course side. It works great and I don't think it will ever where out.

    Perfectly level and you dont have to worry about finding someone to cut you a piece of quarts or marble or mess with double sided tape or any of that. Don't knock it untill you try it.

    Infact here it is in my little bag of tricks.
     

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  6. markw51

    markw51 Tele-Afflicted

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    Even if it wore out for 7 bucks who cares?
     
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  7. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    Get ya one of these, have 'em cut it in half... You'll have 2 at 18 inches.... stick some abrasive on 'em.. and you're ready to rock..

    http://www.homedepot.com/p/M-S-Inte...Wall-Tile-THD1WH2X36DB/202195884#.UioF7BZ5n8s

    Now, in marketing ya learn there are just some people that are not "motivated" to go get what they need, and if it's not available through mail order, they aren't interested....

    So what ya do is take one... eBay it... for a few bux... and you break even...

    beat that with a sharpening stone... ;)

    Ron Kirn
     
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  8. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    The bench stone is the original method of levelling frets aka "stoning the frets".
    Ime the result is far better than grit paper. No, no do not use a file, eek!

    You want a big wide plane-blade oil stone, ultrafine. Wide as possible, 3-in or more. The finer the better, I use a big old Arkansas. That is so fine that it polishes, and so minimum dressing is required. Arkansas are hideously expensive but diamond grit stones are rather cheap, 1000 grit or finer.

    I've been using a bench stone to level frets for many, many years: it is the original and traditional method.
    The bench stone is for sharpening very hard plane and chisel blades, frets are very soft in comparison. The oilstone does not wear away or become misshapen. The fretboard is usually radiused (curved) and the stone is flat, so you do have to 'rock' it to ensure even grinding. The oilstone does not become curved to the radius of the frets (a chisel will do that to it though). Keep one side for posh work ;)
    Remove the nut - do not run the stone into the nut!

    [​IMG]

    The frets will need crowning after levelling. A crowning file is the tool. Some of the new ones are a diamond grit 'stone'. I made my crowning tool from an ultrafine aluminium oxide slip stone (small narrow oilstone used by toolmakers). It looks very like some of the diamond grit fret crowning tools. I ran, and ruined, a hacksaw blade into the side edge to form a groove for the fret, it soon becomes rounded over to the right shape.
     
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  9. musicalmartin

    musicalmartin Poster Extraordinaire

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    same here I levelled a Dot that was all over the place and way off.I just straightened the neck and used a stone to work over the frets .Worked a treat .i then restrung it and played it and a good improvement .i then slackened the strings pulled them to one side and radiused the frets .it was perfect and a better player then the Gibbo I tied when buying the dot ,low action and super smooth .I use a small swiss file to contour the frets .You are not supposed to do that either .:lol:
     
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  10. markw51

    markw51 Tele-Afflicted

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    Hey Ron could I go to Lowes instead? ;)
     
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  11. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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  12. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Since I already had a reason to indulge in a 10" DMT diamond whetstone plate (lots of chisels, plane irons, knives, hand plane soles, and other stuff that needs flattening or sharpening), I use that occasionnally for fret dressing. But frankly, the long heavy chunk of granite with peel-and stick roll sandpaper on it - just can't beat it.
     
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  13. Nick JD

    Nick JD Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I like to have a leveling tool that is at least 1.5 times the distance between the first and last frets.
     
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  14. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    My big Arkansas resembles a big heavy chunk of granite, or marble, except you don't have to stick sandpaper to it, nor polish the burrs and scratches out afterwards because there aren't any (I hate steel wool with a passion, it sticks in me and the pickups). It polishes something like 2000 grit, not quite mirror finish.
    It's over a foot long and wider than any plane blade. It is more than big and heavy enough for the job.
    An Arkansas that size would be prohibitively expensive these days, I'm not made of money, I inherited it.
    Diamond grit looks promising because it goes finer than most other bench stones, I bought a 200/400/600/1000 grit combination diamond grit bench block just the other week but have yet to try it out. I do have a couple of levelling jobs waiting for a tuit. I want to get a diamond fret dressing tool first.

    I have also used an 'ordinary' extra fine aluminium oxide bench stone, you /can/ get them in larger than the common small brick size. They seem to be getting smaller every time I see them on sale. A 10-in stone is more than adequate length. Sometimes an even smaller stone is useful to treat a problem area such as a raised fret or compensating for neck-hump. Despite being a fine grit and more even than paper, they do cut quickly, so care is needed.
    I have tried sticking 1000 grit to the base of the 15-in long plane but the Arkansas is definitely superior. The aluminium oxide stone does require the frets to be polished but the fret dressing takes care of that anyway.

    The other thing is that any woodwork workshop should have several and various oilstones already to sharpen the planes and chisels and spokeshaves and draw-knife and marking knife and bradawl and gouges and etc.
     
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  15. Soapbarstrat

    Soapbarstrat Tele-Meister

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    Can you buy a dead flat stone these days? I have no idea. What I have seen is that stones were common for fret leveling before the 80's. Then in the 80's glass "fret planes" and such came along and the fret leveling got better, shredder guitarist took playing to another level after that, with better leveled frets. Seems that way to me, at least.
     
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  16. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    sure, stones work, sorta. but after a few weeks or months or years or decades of doing the fret leveling thingy, you'll realize what works best for you and the type of worn frets yer about to make playable.

    for the most part, with frets that have noticeable divots and flats, you will need a good and proper file to start off, not a stone.

    after the filing, and the fret tops are leveled, it will take a succession of abrasives to reorient and make lots smaller all of the fret scratches from the filing. this is not about crowning the fret tops, it's about dressing them smooth and polished, with the scratches oriented length-wise of each fret, for a better fretting finger/string feel.

    using a stone, or stones, will limit, to a reasonable degree, the progession of grit used to de-scratch and polish the fret tops. as an example, after the leveling and crown rounding, i run a progression of 9 abrasive grits from 600 to 12'000 in order to polish and smooth the fret tops. and, fwiw, i never use a stone - they wear fast and they lose their flatness far too fast. if i need a very fine and light leveling, i might use a diamond "stone" - i have them in a variety of grits.
     
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  17. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    Are you referring to a crowning file Rob?

    I find the silver-steel of the frets to be soft enough to go straight in with an extra-fine stone. They can be very fast cutting and make very short work of removing dings, divots and flats at the same time as levelling.
    So fast cutting in fact that one has to be careful not to over-do it. A few passes is generally all that's needed to re-level, rather more work if it is a re-fret job.

    I've been using the same hard stone for over 30 years and have not managed to put a curve into it. It does put a flat top onto the fret but this is polished and needs no de-scratching. What they will need is a little re-crowning, and for that I use another extra-fine stone.

    On a rosewood fretboard I might clean and polish with powdered pumice (wood finishing type) because it is more pleasant to use than steel wool. A poly/maple neck might see some >4500 'grit' auto paint polish (can be used to optical polish lenses). But that is final dressing to tart it up.
     
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  18. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    my crowning files are a set of those excellent pre-radiused diamond concaves from stew-mac - i'll never go back to a tri-file for crowning fret tops. i also have diamond fret leveling "files/stones", but as mentioned i rarely have a need for them.

    i have two "go to" files for the intial fret leveling on dinged frets - a coarse one from stew-mac for frets in really bad shape, and one of the newer stew-mac smooth cut leveling files that i use with a magnetic "handle" i made w/three neo mags to hold in the file (i have a few different types of files that "snap" in as needed) - this is an awesome fret leveling file that allows going to 220 grit for the cleanup/polish start rather than beginning that process with 80 grit (all cleanup grits are sticky backed 3m gold abrasive).

    i use 5 different grits of stone for knife and broadhead sharpening only, not for fret work, but that's just me and what i prefer, stones are fine in their own way. i just don't like the way stones *can possibly* wear unlevel - been there, seen that, done that. ime, if the full length and width of a stone is always used, they typically wear and stay quite level. no such problem with steel files or diamond "stones/files".
     
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  19. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    The soft carborundum stones do wear quickly from sharpening a chisel. I've got one, I don't use it, a soft stone that it, I have many chisels. Soft stones can be corrected if one has the time and patience.

    I wouldn't dream of hitting frets with anything under 800 grit let alone 80.

    Did I mention hitting the nut. Don't hit the nut. Poor little nut. Take it out first ;)

    I normally use the very big hard stone. I may use one of several small stones to correct a problem like an S-curve where the neck may go flat with the strings off but pull up into a hump with them on, sometimes the frets can be adjusted to fix that. That the stones are flat and the frets curved it not a problem, I rock the stone and watch what I'm doing. I also keep them clean so they're not clogged and do cut very fast. I have a tuit job where I shall have to pull the frets out and do a fancy bit of planing to correct the neck hump.

    There again, I'm doing re-levelling not building necks, although I do re-fret.

    But going back to where we started, "stoning the frets" is the original method, going back to the first instruments with metal frets, at least as early as 16th century (1500 on). Mainly because a woodwork workshop would have bench stones to hand.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
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  20. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    ALL stones can and will be made unlevel, even hard arkansas whetstones - been there, done that. i work on fretted instruments 6 to 7 dayze a week and while limited and careful use of stones for leveling DOES work for some, i find their use not in my the best interests. there are better and easier ways to get frets leveled, crowned and polished.

    really? please help me understand how you would level highly dinged frets with nothing more abrasive than 800 grit, because i wouldn't use anything finer than a mill bastard file for starters.
     
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