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Completing setup before or after finishing?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by reverendrally, Dec 22, 2013.

  1. Hi all,

    As many of you know I just put my coffee table bass together for a quick play the other day. I have some questions re some fretwork on the bass to allow best setup.

    The bass has a few highspots on different frets. Not the whole fret, but just the odd highspot. This is the first 6 string with a radiused board I've built, so obviously there are some tricks re leveling I'm still yet to pick up.

    I know I can sort the frets by filing. These are my questions;

    1. Should I do it now BEFORE oiling or after the bass is finished?

    2. What process would people use for leveling small highspots on otherwise well leveled frets?
  2. Before and a radiusing block.
  3. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    for a fretted bass:

    - level the fretboard with a radius block - min 8" in length

    - set the frets evenly. I prefer to press them in using an arbor with cauls that match the fretboard radius and fretwire size

    - bevel the fret ends and do an initial dress-up

    - mask off the fretboard leaving only the frets exposed. use a wide sharpie to color the fret wire tops. use a long straight bar (16" or longer is preferable) with fine grit paper (I start with 300 grit and work to 1500) to level the frets along each string path. long passes until you have all the sharpie removed along the string path

    - re-crown the frets, detail the ends, and get those frets polished and shiny

    - remove the fretboard masking

    I would never use a radius block to level the frets, as you won't be able to impart the correct compound conical shape along the string path. tried this approach in my early building days, and now know the better way :)

    same said for detailing the fingerboard on a fretless - those radius blocks aren't going to get you to that perfected final happy place, just to a frustrating 'almost there' point that will leave your customer looking for a new tech

    what process would I use to level a high spot? it would depend on how high and where it was. if you want the lowest action possible, address a high spot all along the string and not as if it was an island-like anomaly in an otherwise calm sea of frets

    all the best,