What's the learning curve on fret leveling?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by johmica, Oct 16, 2021.

  1. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    75
    Posts:
    12,640
    Joined:
    May 1, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    I would encourage any considering setting up to do fret leveling... check out my thread before ya run out and spend considerable $$$ on tools you probably do not need, or, can find at your local Lowes or Home Depot.. the only tools that can't be found in any good hardware store tool department are the nut slot files (DO NOT USE welding tip cleaners, often sold as nut slotting tools) . . and the fret crowning file... and a few others you may want to add later as the need developes..

    Lutherie, including fret leveling is an "art" meaning you wull develop your own methods..Your. unique method may need some tools others do not require.. or you may not need tools others suggest. Such does not make you better or not so much.. it only means you have refined your processes to the point you know what you're doing..

    Start simple, on a beater, get the hang of what is required before ya run out and drop hundreds on useless stuff....
     
    Cyberi4n, kafka and Boreas like this.
  2. COOPSTER

    COOPSTER TDPRI Member

    Age:
    57
    Posts:
    85
    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2020
    Location:
    Canada
    Levelled and crowned one of my teles the other day with no special tools (just a couple blocks and various grades of sandpaper).

    See Fabian's DIY instructions:

    My results after level and hand crown (it had a polish after these pics)...

    Of course, if I was doing more of this work I would buy a good levelling bar and fret crowning tool, but I'm not and I like a challenge. Nice and slow is the key, think about each move twice before doing anything.

    IMG_2284 (1).JPG IMG_2286.JPG
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
    johmica likes this.
  3. Chuck berry

    Chuck berry TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    94
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2016
    Location:
    Memrancook nb Canada
    Well it depends. You might get lucky and do a good job or you may fail. But hey don't put yourself down though. Today people are more lucky than many would admit. You have vedeos that shows you all that needs to be done. Most tools if your handy at fabricating things you can make yourself. Others unfortunately you have to buy.
    The guy that showed me the placing or frets leveling etc., told as my 1st lesson when you look at your instrument in repair, look at it as if its an expensive one. This way you will be as careful as you can be. He said for ex: if you change your plugs in your car and you forget to intall the wire on what of your plugs your engine it'll run rough.This is not to put any stress or pressure on you. Its think twice before starting.
    Dan Erwine of Stew Mac he's got really good vedeos on all you need to do and actually shows you. So go at it and good luck.
     
    johmica likes this.
  4. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,701
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2006
    Location:
    Near Athens GA USA
    LOL! So true, $199 plus $24 shipping.
     
    johmica likes this.
  5. Frankentronics

    Frankentronics TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    90
    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2020
    Location:
    New York City
    Not wanting to sound negative, you can buy plenty of used guitars, under $300, at the Guitar Center, or on eBay. You do not have to send money Chinese counterfeiters (which is BTW a federal felony), just to be able to practice on junk guitars.


    I'll focus on these questions, in mixed order.

    Silly question. Is experience vitally important in doing any high skilled work? C'mon, you know the answer to that one.

    That depends on the person. Some never learn, some are naturals. It helps if you can do other similar skilled work. There is no answer to that question. I know of of full time tech that still doesn't know how to do this job, yet, he is very confident. Some techs exhibit a high level of confidence because they've done it a million time, they do it every day, they know all the tricks an nuances. With this tech (who shall remain unnamed) the situation is different. He exhibits a high level of confidence because he is so clueless that he doesn't even have the capacity to grasp how clueless he is. But he's do it and he thinks he's done great work because the frets were shiny after the polishing. When a customer comes u to his bench, the customer is under the impression that the tech knows what he's doing, because the exhibits a high level of confidence. God help the customer leaving their vintage Martin. Just to give you an example of how clueless he is, he once opened up the control cavity of a Les Paul and was asking me for some advise on rewiring. Then, he said something about, "...but there are these transistors here," while pointing to capacitors. But, hey, he's confident.

    you never know what kind of tech you land on.

    Anything is possible. It's possible to do a great studio recording on your first try, on the first take. But the reality is that you will see that things tent to improve with multiple trials. You get better at it, as you do more jobs (unless you are like the above-mentioned tech).

    In closing, I might say something about the word "professional".

    That word is never used properly. The word professional means (in this context) that you paid a professional to do the job, so you got a professional job done. That only means that the pro is someone that does that kind of work for a living.

    The unnamed tech is a great example of a professional that does professional work and #uck's it up almost every time. He once string up a Bidgsby incorrectly, so the strings went straight from the Bigsby's vibrato bar onto the bridge, without running the strings under the retention bar, so without any break angle. So, there was buzzing, duh. So, to eliminate the buzz he simply kept raising the action on the bridge until it was high enough to produce a somewhat sufficient break angle on the strings.

    I've also seen two headstock repairs by that guy. Both completely botched up.
     
  6. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    733
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    nowhere anymore/UK
    i once had a gtr plekked=result...it buzzed and still needed a set up etc.
     
    johmica likes this.
  7. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    733
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    nowhere anymore/UK
    every l and c is a challenge to overcome =every gtr is [subtly]unique. confidence is.. the key.=practise, practise, practise=there is no short cut.. never was nor will be.
     
  8. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    75
    Posts:
    12,640
    Joined:
    May 1, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    While it's been a few years ago now... I gave my Gibby playing Son 'in Law a Gibson LP.. The one USA made and pleked at the factory... what ya see is one pass with the level beam... I use the LMII tool too.

    well I level frets on about every guitar that comes across my desk, so as I was getting in to it... I thought these photos would go to show what I mean when I say the neck is in a constant state of flux...

    I don't post this to discredit a Plek Machine, but rather to illustrate how a fully leveled neck isn't really level.. Heck... If I had a hundred K to throw around, I'd probably buy a Plek too... But Caitlyn wants a new BVLGARI bobble, and the hundred large will at least hold it till I get summore jing to throw at it.. :p


    DSC_7688.JPG DSC_7689.JPG DSC_7690.JPG DSC_7691.JPG
     
    johmica and COOPSTER like this.
  9. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    76
    Posts:
    7,690
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2018
    Location:
    Washington
    I've heard it said that the Plek is only as good as the operator and several tech's who I respect say they always check the guitar after its been Plek'd.
     
    johmica likes this.
  10. wstrnswingster

    wstrnswingster TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    83
    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Location:
    Bay Area, USA
    One thing I would add, own the guitar for a while. I waited a year to do a L&C on a new guitar.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
    johmica likes this.
  11. Bob J

    Bob J Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    796
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2010
    Location:
    Portland OR
    I just finished my third level and crown. First was on a prebuilt neck from a kit, I thought it was a pretty good neck until I leveled and crowned it. Turned out ok but I’m a beginner and don’t have much experience to go on. My second was on the first neck I built, I thought it was an ok neck until I leveled it, what a mess! Still it turned out ok and is reasonably playable. This third one is my second build, again what a mess! Some frets are really flat while others are barely touched (before crowning). We’ll see if it is playable in a few weeks, but clearly I need more practice building necks.

    For me, that’s where the tough learning curve is.
     
    johmica likes this.
  12. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    733
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    nowhere anymore/UK
    im still not convinced plek [cnc] approach is far superior than typical l and c ing a gtr.
     
    johmica likes this.
  13. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    733
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    nowhere anymore/UK
    newly installed frets require l and c'ng...to leave them level.crowning also..needs to be done with precision..otherwise it will buzz etc.
     
  14. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    733
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    nowhere anymore/UK
    there is no short cut.
     
  15. chazo64

    chazo64 Tele-Meister

    Age:
    57
    Posts:
    190
    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2021
    Location:
    Chipley ,Florida 32428
    Cheap guitars are great for learning how to maintian and customise guitars the fret work is very easy yes there is a learning curve but you tought yourself how to play guitar .....get a good fret crown file make sure to tape everything off well. you have to start by gett that neck truss rod in a playable position before you even know if your frets NEED to be leveled. Most of the time they just need a little dressing and polish. if you dont have a notch straight edge place a straight edge on the back of the neck and get it sraight it needs tho be flat then check your frets with the striaght edge.
     
    johmica likes this.
  16. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    733
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    nowhere anymore/UK
    all gtrs have frets=newly installed frets=they will require l and c 'n g.a light fret dress is l and c 'n g the frets regardless=same preparation required.
     
  17. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    733
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    nowhere anymore/UK
    you still need to know 100% what's entailed etc ,...to do a full set up after l and c'n g completion=that is the learning curve.
     
  18. enorbet2

    enorbet2 Tele-Meister

    Age:
    75
    Posts:
    103
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2019
    Location:
    Viurginia, USA
    It is possible to do a decent job on the first try IF you have proper tools and make certain the NECK is straight... perfectly straight, no "relief", before you put a straight edge on the frets. The shadow of the strings is a decent indicator of neck condition. Assuming the guitar isn't awful to start with it's best to apply "less is more" and not take off too much metal from the frets, unless you really like that "fretless wonder" effect and don't care much about string bending. Be sure to mask off the fingerboard at the very least before crowning and polishing. I like to treat raw wood fingerboards with Woodwind Bore oil,,, even works on ebony.
     
    johmica likes this.
  19. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    75
    Posts:
    12,640
    Joined:
    May 1, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    a setup IS absolutely necessary as a follow-up to the fret leveling.... but for those with a bit of "shop acumen" it's pretty easy... as is the actual fret leveling.... For those that must study the instructions that come with a hammer.... well y'all might do better leaving it to a tech.

    If ya want to know how, there is only one way... get that beater, open the thread I did (see below) and get at it.. the info below is free... and . . . mean a real free.. not like a Politicians "free" where it doesn't cost ya anything, but your taxes just doubled...


    http://www.tdpri.com/forum/tele-technical/201556-fret-leveling-yer-tele-101-a.html

    https://www.ronkirn.com/books-1
     
    oldgofaster and johmica like this.
  20. drumtime

    drumtime Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    70
    Posts:
    1,229
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2018
    Location:
    the mountains of Virginia
    Everything you need to know is in Ron Kirn's guides, which he links to above. Do what he says, and you'll end up with a better-playing guitar.

    I bought a $140 Douglas guitar from Rondo to practice on, and used a piece of marble threshold with stick-on sandpaper. Bought a Grizzly crowning file, more sandpaper, and blue masking tape. That's it for tools. If you're doing a complete L&C, no real need to identify high frets, IMO, but no harm either. A credit card works fine, but a fret rocker is a bit better.

    I've done a lot of work with tools all of my adult life, so I started with some basic skills, which no doubt helped. At any rate, the Douglas came out so good, after a setup (also my first) that it's the one I play most these days.
     
    oldgofaster and johmica like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.