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Understring Fret Leveling?

Discussion in 'The DIY Tool Shed' started by Speedfish, Mar 1, 2021.

  1. Speedfish

    Speedfish Tele-Holic

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    Anyone use the understring fret levels? I have a guitar that buzzes on the A and low E strings. No buzzing anywhere else, and I've already raised the strings higher than I like. I've used the traditional method to level frets, but this looks like a good alternative and being able to get immediate feedback by not having to remove and replace the strings is very attractive. There are several companies that make these, but here's a look at StewMacs:

    StewMac Fretbar Understring Leveler | stewmac.com



     
  2. SamIV

    SamIV Tele-Holic

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    I bought the longest of the ones Stewmac offers. Did not work our for me. Went back to my old method. But I still do under tension.
     
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  3. Speedfish

    Speedfish Tele-Holic

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    SamIV,

    what didn't work or what did you not like?

    Thanks,
     
  4. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    I didn't know such a thing existed, it's interesting!
     
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  5. SamIV

    SamIV Tele-Holic

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    Found it real tight up against the strings in the nut area for me even with the piece of plastic they give you to raise the strings at the nut. It would angle the frets toward the nut. Could have been my ineptness though. I tried it in the playing position as well. But Stewmac did give me my money back on it after I tried it on a couple of guitars. Apparently their guarantee is total satisfaction or your money back. I like very low action and use a different method that works for me. This method is not everyone's cup of tea though, and I am ok with that. All of my guitars have been done this way and play very well for me. See below. He has several video's on his method.

     
  6. Whatizitman

    Whatizitman Friend of Leo's

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    I just recently used the stewmac bar on my daughter's epiphone hummingbird. That and a fret rocker. It seemed like I got all the bumps out ok, but it still buzzes horribly on the A and E if I straighten the neck much. In fact, I don't recall it buzzing that bad before. FWIW, I did shave the bridge down a bit a while back. Maybe a bit too much? Don't ask me. I'm no tech.

    I'm getting up the nerve to try again on my electrics. But I need to still figure out what I'm missing.
     
  7. Skydog1010

    Skydog1010 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    I have never seen that tool before.

    I work under tension to hunt down a lone buzzer, as stated above. I guess I use antique tools. This photo has most all of my fret wire working tools.

    IMG_20210301_165523.jpg
     
  8. jvin248

    jvin248 Doctor of Teleocity

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    .

    I use a modified Matt-Vinson-style fret leveling jig. Stewmac sells an all-aluminum deal that works the same way. You stress the neck just like the strings do and level there.

    PLEK leveling machines load up the neck like strings too.

    +1 the Sam Deeks 'banana' process seems to work, though I haven't tried it.
    Which is like the Stewmac I-beam method that is similar to a process called 'the katana' that is similar.

    Most think the neck bends like a bow and arrow but it's not uniform. First is you have strings that go up over the nut from the tuners which creates a moment about the nut. The rest of the neck resists this bending which puts more of an "S" curve in the neck. And then add on the tapered shape of the neck, skinny near the nut and wider at heel, the heel geometry, and a neck does not bend evenly like the 'freehand'/unloaded method of leveling frets assumes.

    .
     
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  9. Speedfish

    Speedfish Tele-Holic

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    This company has a different string lifter, that only raises two strings at one time, and looks as if it lifts higher. Maybe it would work better?

     
  10. SamIV

    SamIV Tele-Holic

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    This looks promising. Only $40 for the device, but $35 for shipping. Out of stock as well.
     
  11. kbold

    kbold Friend of Leo's

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    E and A need more room to vibrate. Increase neck relief and/or increase bridge height. A spacer under the bridge may be needed.
     
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  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I start by building my necks perfectly flat with the truss rod adjusted to neutral. I level the fretboard so it is perfectly flat. When I install frets they are perfectly flat or very close to it. I then level the entire board with a long flat beam and 400 grit paper

    IMG_3688.JPG

    Recrown the frets, they shouldn't need much.

    Now just lightly snug the truss rod and string it up, when its strung measure the relief. With most of the necks I build, whether acoustic or electric, string tension will pull 3 or 4 thousands relief, if there is any more I use the truss rod to bring it back. If there are individual issues like a 14th fret hump I deal with them individually.

    I've seen little fret levelers that people use for spot leveling with the strings on - personally it struck me that they don't want to take the time to do it right.
     
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  13. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I agree. Plus, wouldn't be easier with the strings removed?? If I have a fret that stands proud, I will take it down a notch by using a Fret Stick or similar. Tongue depressors to hold the strings up a tad.

    But usually one fret doesn't jump up by itself, so I will usually to a L/C/P. It is kinda like rebooting a neck.
     
  14. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I will add that I did a lot more fret leveling on my early necks than I do today (I do almost none now). I think that is because I'm building them better. At the same time I am totally anal about frets - I want them perfect before I do any other setup work.
     
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  15. Speedfish

    Speedfish Tele-Holic

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    I've already tried this.

    Thanks,
     
  16. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    I don't understand how you can 'level' the frets when there is relief in the neck...I can't make sense of that. What I envision is taking a huge amount off of frets 1 - 4 (or so) and off frets 12 and up...something like that. Why would you want to try and flatten a curved plane like that?!! Then when you're done and the frets are level under tension wouldn't you then need to adjust the trussrod to put relief back in the neck? I don't get it. What am I missing?

    And I've seen this idea sold on Ebay for quite a few years...under string leveling.

    EDIT: Okay...just watched the StewMac vid....it looks like you straighten the neck (take the relief out) while under tension. Now that makes some sense.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2021
  17. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    I can't make sense of this. How is this leveling the frets? First of all he's not creating any reference as you would with putting magic marker on top of each fret to see your progress and where the high spots still remain. Frets are levelled in relationship to each other...if you have no way of seeing the relationship (ie. magic marker on fret tops) then you are just randomly taking of various amounts of fret. Secondly he's not scrubbing the frets with that thing equally in each position that he moves it to. The whole thing seems very random with no attempt to accurately monitor exactly what's happening. I don't get it.

    EDIT: Okay...just watched the StewMac vid....it looks like you straighten the neck (take the relief out) while under tension. Now that makes some sense.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2021
  18. SamIV

    SamIV Tele-Holic

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    I agree that he should mark the fret tops and with that tool the fretboard should be level. I do as Sam Deeks does in his video and set the truss to the contour of the neck. But those that have much more experience than I, have leveled frets without the neck under tension. Just my way of doing it. It works for me, but might not be your cup of tea.
     
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  19. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Holic

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    Any fret leveling sort of tool that is made to very accurate tolerances is ganna be at least a $200 tool. Look at starrett straight edges( not necessary for guitar work) and their tolerances. These ‘fret level’ tools are a waste of money.
    Get yourself a piece of granite or something that is machine more accurate than .001” accuracy.
    Any ‘$35’ tool is not ganna be machined that accurately.
     
  20. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Holic

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    Sounds like maybe the neck wasn’t straight enough before you did the leveling.
     
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