What's the learning curve on fret leveling?

Cyberi4n

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Can you explain why and exactly how you use a notched straight edge.

Once the strings are off the guitar and the neck has settled I use a notched straight edge to make sure the fingerboard is level. If it isn’t, I adjust with the truss rod until the fingerboard is perfectly level - measured with the notched straight edge and a feeler gauge. Once I’m satisfied the fingerboard is level, I can begin taping off the finger board with masking tape, until it’s all protected.

Once that is down, I use a fret rocker tool up and down the neck to identify proud frets. These proud portions I mark with a blue sharpie. Once they’ve all been found, I mark the rest of the fret tops with a black sharpie. I now have an idea of what’s going on all over the neck - which frets are proud etc.

the whole point of the exercise is to level the frets, which would suggest that some of the frets are proud. In that case, a straight edge laid over the frets won’t be as accurate because one or more of the frets are proud. Better to use the fingerboard itself.
 
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Addnine

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There's a difference between tweaking an errant fret here and there, on the one hand, and leveling the whole shooting match on the other. Generally a new guitar will only need the individul tweakage. As long as you spend a lot of time with your credit card or with your larcenously-priced Sacred Fret Object from Stewmac, carefully determining which fret(s) actually needs to be addressed, and bear in mind that fret leveling is a purely subtractive process (so go slow), it's not that hard.

FWIW, i no longer do the credit card thing. I bought one of those scalene quadrilateral metal gizmos. $199 at Stewmac, $7 elsewhere.

I would second the thing about popped frets; make sure they are all securely set before you do anything. It'd be drag to level the frets, then to find that they boing up and down, in and out of whack.

Give it a try. Life is short.
 

Freeman Keller

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Once the strings are off the guitar and the neck has settled I use a notched straight edge to make sure the fingerboard is level. If it isn’t, I adjust with the truss rod until the fingerboard is perfectly level - measured with the notched straight edge and a feeler gauge. Once I’m satisfied the fingerboard is level, I can begin taping off the finger board with masking tape, until it’s all protected.

Once that is down, I use a fret rocker tool up and down the neck to identify proud frets. These proud portions I mark with a blue sharpie. Once they’ve all been found, I mark the rest of the fret tops with a black sharpie. I now have an idea of what’s going on all over the neck - which frets are proud etc.

the whole point of the exercise is to level the frets, which would suggest that some of the frets are proud. In that case, a straight edge laid over the frets won’t be as accurate because one or more of the frets are proud. Better to use the fingerboard itself.

I've never found one to be useful and I've built a few guitars, refretted a few more and set up a couple. I build my necks flat, make sure they are flat when I refret and when it comes time to level the frets themselves its too late to do anything with board. A good straight edge tells me what the crowns of the frets are doing which is what seems to be important.

As a practical matter I build and set up everything from ukuleles and mandolins to baritones and basses. If I had to have a notched straight edge for every critter that crosses my bench I'd be a poor technician.
 

Cyberi4n

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I've never found one to be useful and I've built a few guitars, refretted a few more and set up a couple. I build my necks flat, make sure they are flat when I refret and when it comes time to level the frets themselves its too late to do anything with board. A good straight edge tells me what the crowns of the frets are doing which is what seems to be important.

As a practical matter I build and set up everything from ukuleles and mandolins to baritones and basses. If I had to have a notched straight edge for every critter that crosses my bench I'd be a poor technician.

Good for you. I’m proud of you. I do it my way, you carry on doing it your way, and we’ll both be happy. Have a good day :)
 

Dacious

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Sharpie pen
Large flat bastard file or radius file
Small flat bastard file fine
Large straightedge
Crowning file
200, 400, 800 wet and dry
Metal polish
Masking tape
Slotted metal fret protectors - for dressing fret ends

A fret rocker is handy, plus a small plastic hammer..

Get the neck flat by backing off the trussrod verified with straightedge mask all the fretboard between frets.

Its worth checking with fret rocker for any individual proud frets and tap them down. Often that alone fixes many unevenness issues.

Mark the top of the frets with Sharpie pen.

Take an even first cut across all the frets. Then again slightly in from the edge if using flat bastard file - being careful to follow the radius.

You can visually see as metal is removed in Sharpie marks the depth and evenness. Any divots will be obvious as will any low points.

Once you have the tops level the small fine file or can be used to get rid of file marks.

Then the crowning file is used to round the shoulders of the frets. If you leave them sharp they divot quickly.

You can then use your three grades of paper to further smooth the frets followed by metal polish. I use a dremel very sparingly - heat the fret too much, some frets are glued and may loosen.

I round the ends of the frets with fine file and smooth with wet and dry and polish. Jobs good.
 

aging_rocker

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I did my first fret-level on an old Ibanez, which is still my only electric. It had fret wear, rather than any general problems. I did it very slowly, having read lots on here. I've since tackled a couple of frets on my bass, but not a full level, because it doesn't really need one.

I spent the first half of my working life handling tools, so I have some agility, which helps.

So, read up, gather a few tools and approach the job with huge amounts of caution and you'll be fine.

If you actually need to, of course!
 

Cyberi4n

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not at all. I’m not here for approval or validation, or to be told what I do is right or wrong. I do it my way, he can do it his way, and we can both be happy with our results. It’s all good at the end of the day.
 

Addnine

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not at all. I’m not here for approval or validation, or to be told what I do is right or wrong. I do it my way, he can do it his way, and we can both be happy with our results. It’s all good at the end of the day.

lol. I didn't realize you were so happy. I thought you were miffed. Maybe for a moment there you tipped over into full-on delirium. Happens to me all the time.
 

Boreas

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I bought a notched straightedge, but rarely use it. They can be useful in diagnosing a problematic neck (hump, dogleg, etc.) but isn't critical for the typical neck in order to level frets. Mine wasn't real expensive, so I don't feel it was a bad purchase. But I haven't run across a bent neck yet!
 

Dacious

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The fret rocker is one modern innovation I've found very useful. I built a couple kit guitars where one small section of fret is proud. Without even removing strings, just loosening, I've been able to carefully tap the fret down. The result is a buzz free guitar with low action.
 

jaxjaxon

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When I did one of my guitars I used a metal yard stick and cut it down to 18" and used the left over to make fret rockers. I bought a radius block the radius my frets where about 10" long. sandpaper, jewelers files, and a small block of wood to make a crowning tool. I looked all of what was needed to do a level and crowning off the internet. It came out well enough.
 

Jim_in_PA

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A carpenters level is as straight and flat as they come. 2 grits of sandpaper - one on each edge.
Straight and flat is kinda dependent on the quality of the level...but yes, the shorter ones should be usable. If there's a known flat surface available, like a cast iron table saw top, put some abrasive paper down and flatten the level "more" before sticking paper to it to use for budget fret leveling.
 

Thebluesman

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maintain a radius.[imperative]

a fall away is not necessary....unless a hump',or a'rise' is traced at the end of the fb. [common on set necks[and acoustic gtrs by design]
if the leveling procedure and crowning procedure is completed without error=any action now attainable.
 

NoTeleBob

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I'd make a WAG that you'll only need to tap down a few errant frets or perhaps hit them with the a couple strokes of the bastard file then crowning file. Often the fret ends aren't done well. Likely will need a fret polish with very high grit paper and or polish.
 

Boreas

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I don't do fretwork professionally. I usually use a S/M 8" (7 1/4" or 9 1/2") radius wood sanding block with self-adhesive sandpaper. If I could get one in 14-16" length, it would be perfect. I like it because it helps maintain the fretboard radius at the crowns across the fretboard. It has been working well for me. But with ANY method, one needs to make sure you are sanding perfectly parallel to the center of the board. If you use a radius block, make sure you don't twist it - very light pressure only. Some people will follow the edge of the fretboard, but because of the taper, that can be problematic.
 

NoTeleBob

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maintain a radius.[imperative]

a fall away is not necessary....unless a hump',or a'rise' is traced at the end of the fb. [common on set necks[and acoustic gtrs by design]
if the leveling procedure and crowning procedure is completed without error=any action now attainable.

Why would an acoustic/set have a hump by design? Doesn't seem like a feature for a good action. Tell me more.
 




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