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 Post subject: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 1:25 pm 
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Koa
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I've done a bunch of fret dresses now, and I always try to take as little material off the frets as possible. But a question occurred to me this morning when I was dressing my D-18's frets. An acoustic guitar typically wears a lot more on the treble side, developing the little divots. To get the frets down to the lowest point and remove those divots I inevitably take more material off the treble side than I do on the bass side. Meaning the fret will end up being slightly taller on the bass side than the treble side. Is this typical, or is it a problem? Should I be trying to make sure the bass side is even with the treble? It doesn't seem to be an issue from a playability point of view as the action is derived from the relationship with the top of a fret and the height of the nut slot and saddle, and the actual height of the fret doesn't really matter, as long as its not too low. I suppose it does skew the radius though...


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:11 pm 
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I try to keep them level all the way across by watching the width of the flat I am filing across the frets. Of course - I also measure from the top of the fret to the fingerboard as a check. This assumes the fretboard is perfectly surfaced.

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These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: Conor_Searl (Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:23 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:19 pm 
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Koa
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Chris Pile wrote:
I try to keep them level all the way across by watching the width of the flat I am filing across the frets. Of course - I also measure from the top of the fret to the fingerboard as a check. This assumes the fretboard is perfectly surfaced.


What works for you use as a levelling beam? the guy that taught me uses a smooth bastard file epoxied to a square piece of wood. It seems to work pretty good, but it does leave a lot of chatter which I then clean up with progressive grits of sand paper.


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:34 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I think files are way too aggressive and crude for this work. I use a 24" carpenter's level that has smooth sides with sandpaper glued to them. Start off with 220 grit then move up to 320. Just as good as a high price leveling beam. I've been using this level for over 35 years and it has done hundreds of guitars.


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:36 pm 
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Koa
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Location: Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada
First name: Conor
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Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
Country: Canada
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Barry Daniels wrote:
I think files are way too aggressive and crude for this work. I use a 24" carpenter's level that has smooth sides with sandpaper glued to them. Start off with 220 grit then move up to 320. Just as good as a high price leveling beam. I've been using this level for over 35 years and it has done hundreds of guitars.


Thanks Barry, that's the conclusion I've been coming too as well. I'm glad I was prompted to ask that question this morning. It's easy for me to just put my head down and do things the way I've always done them (even if that hasn't really been that long of a time), rather than taking a moment to step outside of the situation and see about a better way to do it.


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:21 pm 
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Quote:
What works for you use as a levelling beam? the guy that taught me uses a smooth bastard file epoxied to a square piece of wood. It seems to work pretty good, but it does leave a lot of chatter which I then clean up with progressive grits of sand paper.


Conor - I use a specially made fret leveling file given to me by Dan Erlewine, a sandpaper file with a glass sole made by Ken Donnell, a diamond leveling plate, an ancient Nicholson smooth bastard file that I safed back in the late 70's, and a very hard oak sanding board wrapped with sandpaper.

If your file is leaving chatter marks - it's possible your technique that needs to changed.
Are you using too much pressure?
Are you aware a file only cuts in one direction?
Do you lift the file as you move back for the next cut?
Is the file brand new? New files can actually be too sharp.
Are you left handed? Most files are made for rightys...

Let me know...

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These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: Conor_Searl (Wed Jan 30, 2019 9:08 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 9:13 pm 
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Koa
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Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:09 pm
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Location: Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada
First name: Conor
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City: Duncan
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
Country: Canada
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Chris Pile wrote:
Conor - I use a specially made fret leveling file given to me by Dan Erlewine, a sandpaper file with a glass sole made by Ken Donnell, a diamond leveling plate, an ancient Nicholson smooth bastard file that I safed back in the late 70's, and a very hard oak sanding board wrapped with sandpaper.


All of those every time!?! Or do different jobs dictate different tool choices?

Chris Pile wrote:
If your file is leaving chatter marks - it's possible your technique that needs to changed.
Are you using too much pressure?
Are you aware a file only cuts in one direction?
Do you lift the file as you move back for the next cut?
Is the file brand new? New files can actually be too sharp.
Are you left handed? Most files are made for rightys...

Let me know...


I'd say too much pressure is the likely culprit, although I do slide it back and forth. I figured it didn't matter so much since the file only really cuts one direction as you mention. The file is pretty new although it doesn't feel excessively sharp I am right handed, so that's probably okay. Thanks for the info Chris, I'll try going easier and lifting my hand after a pass next time.


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:28 pm 
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I don't think anyone would notice if there is a discrepancy in fret height (unless too low of course) or radius. More attention needs to be paid to recrowning. You might need to adjust the individual string Heights at the Saddle. Obviously easy on a strat, more sweat on bone and impossible on a Les Paul.

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These users thanked the author Pmaj7 for the post: Conor_Searl (Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:05 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 1:07 am 
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Quote:
All of those every time!?! Or do different jobs dictate different tool choices?


No, in order of my preference when doing the job. It helps to have different tools for special situations.

I should mention that you need to check that your file is perfectly flat on a piece of glass, stone countertop, etc. You would be surprised at the number of files that have slight curves. If you can see light under the middle or the ends of the file... that's an insurmountable problem.

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These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: Conor_Searl (Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:05 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:04 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Pmaj7 wrote:
I don't think anyone would notice if there is a discrepancy in fret height (unless too low of course) or radius.


I don't understand your point here. The frets HAVE to be very level if you are going to get a low, buzz-free action.


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:11 am 
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I think he means discrepancy in fret height across the fret i.e. the frets being slightly taller on the bass side but all the tops being level with regard to the string paths.

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These users thanked the author Bryan Bear for the post: Pmaj7 (Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:46 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:16 am 
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Theoretically, you could have a playable guitar with frets higher on the bass side than on the treble... UNTIL you started bending strings more than a half-step.... Then it all goes out the window. So, get them ALL level.

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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:21 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Bryan Bear wrote:
I think he means discrepancy in fret height across the fret i.e. the frets being slightly taller on the bass side but all the tops being level with regard to the string paths.


Oh, that makes sense. I don't worry about that either.


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:40 pm 
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I went to the local metal salvage yard and picked up a piece of "Tee" extrusion. My table saw has a machined cast iron top, so I leveled the extrusion on sticky back sandpaper attached to the top. This gives me a level surface that is long enough to cover most of the fretboard.

In the pic is a set of nippers that work well for fret removal, and a set of files.

I think I had less than $5 in the whole lot. Just a thought...


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:22 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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That is quite a bit wider than you need, but it should still work.


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 Post subject: Re: Fret Levelling
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:55 pm 
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Barry Daniels wrote:
That is quite a bit wider than you need, but it should still work.

It does, quite well actually.


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