Assistance with refretting and getting low action in the process

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by fourstringbliss, Nov 4, 2015.

  1. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    I bought a G&L L2000 Tribute bass, which is great except for the fretwork. I couldn't seem to get the action low enough without buzzing, even after setting string height and adjusting the truss rod. I also had some frets which were not seated correctly at the ends.

    So, I decided to pull the frets and refret with shorter vintage type frets. I used my fret puller, cleaned out the slots, installed the new frets, cut the end with my fret cutter, leveled them with a radiused sanding block, recrowned them, beveled the ends, and sanded everything smooth. I still buzzes in the upper frets and still can't get the action right. I even used a metal "fret rocker" to find high frets, but they're all level.

    I've decided to pull the smaller frets and reinstall medium jumbos. I also have a fretting saw on the way with a 0.22" kerf to almost match the tang width.

    How do I work the fretboard and install the new frets so that I can get low action and no buzzes in the upper frets?

  2. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    Maybe the neck pocket is a little higher in the back than the front (tilting the headstock end back, making the upper frets higher). Try adding a thin (.020) shim in the front of the headstock to see if that gets the desired results. Or, maybe there's a shim already in the back of the pocket keeping that end high. If so, remove it.
    If all that fails to show something, you can give the fingerboard a little 'falloff' if it's just the way upper frets affected, then dress the frets accordingly.
    If it's just mild buzzing, you may be able to take care of it just by dressing a little fall-off to the frets.
  3. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    I do have a small shim in the rear because otherwise the E and G saddles are bottomed out. I may need to do a full length shim to bring the whole thing up. I'm with you about the fall-off though. I've done that before and was able to get super low action without buzzing.

    I was thinking of pulling the current frets, leveling out the fretboard with the radiused sanding block, installing/leveling/dressing the new frets. Does that sound about right?
  4. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Sounds like a lot of work for what sounds like a setup issue. I mean absolutely no disrespect, but have you achieved the action you're looking for on several basses previously? Its pretty challenging to get "super low action without buzzing" on a bass without also playing with a light touch just due to the amount of deflection that the strings go through when vibrating. I've got really low action on a bass here but it comes with the price of some buzzing frets when digging in...
    Manton Customs and Will_White like this.
  5. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    Have you used a good straight-edge to check the neck? If it's straight, then there's no need for pulling frets/ redressing the board.

    Maybe the bridge plate is too thick or the saddles too thick, and cannot be adjusted low enough. Not a good reason to shim the neck, if that's the case. Even, so, that shouldn't cause buzzing if the neck is straight (slight relief) and the action is set up.

    Strings that are more flexible (round-core, Dunlop SBs, TIs, etc) need a little higher action to keep from buzzing than less flexible strings. Are the strings on the bass the same as others you are used to?
  6. Igor Porto

    Igor Porto

    Mar 6, 2013
    Leveled fretboard and frets do not guarantee low action alone. There are several other factors involved.
  7. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    I think I've solved the problem to some extent. I had a rear shim which I removed, and then I installed a two-layer full shim which raised the neck overall. This gave me string height I can work with. The E-string saddle is still all the way down, but that's okay.
    RĂ´ckhewer likes this.
  8. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    How long is the radius block?

    If it's a short 6" block, it will only achieve spot leveling (localized fret leveling). The overall fret "path" can still be wavy over the length of the neck. A long leveling beam is best for new fret work.

    Also, neck shims will only change the neck angle or height in relation to the bridge and saddles. Use shims to achieve the string height needed with the saddles somewhere in the middle portion of their adjustment range. A bottomed out saddle indicates a thin narrow shim at the inner end of the neck pocket is required. You get a better break angle and some room for future adjustment.


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