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Fret crown

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Marcus Willett, Jul 13, 2005.


  1. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    (MAYBE should be in "Setup"...unsure...Mods feel free to move if need be)


    Couldn't find anything about this with a search, so I'm hoping some experienced luthiers might have some insight.

    What effect (if any) does the shape of the crown have when you dress a fret? I ask because all my basses (that I had dressed by the same guy) have the frets dressed rather flat at the crown of the fret. They play and sound fine, but the other day I tried a bass that a friend of mine had and the frets were dressed with a very "round" crown...not flat on top at all. And it played wonderfully with almost no buzzing at all. Our action and relief settings were almost identical (a fact we both noticed when trying each others' basses) and even the string brand and gauges were the same...AND it was this was unplugged, so electronics were not a factor...AND the fret size was the same as well.

    It just seemed he had the same kinda setup, but it played much smoother than any of my basses (all 7 of them), so I can't help but wonder...

    Anyone?
     
  2. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    Often a flatter crown will buzz more due to the extra surface under the string. If the back side of the crown is taller at all, the string's vibration will start at that point and therefore the rest of the flat crown will cause some buzz. I definately agree that a rounder crown is easier to play on, since your finger ends up touching much less metal. This makes the frets seem smaller and therefore smoother.
     
  3. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Yeah, that's about what I figured. What I'm unsure of is the difference in doing a dressing that way. I would guess that making the crowns flatter would be easier/quicker..is making them rounder much more difficult?

    In days gone by I had heard about Roger Sadowskys' fret job being very expensive and worth every penny by those in the know...I wonder if it's related to this... :eyebrow:
     
  4. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    First thing you have to do is level all the frets so they're all the same height. This makes the frets have flat tops. Then it takes a proper crowning file to put the arched shape back on to the fret. Then when you're polishing the frets you have to make sure your not flattening them back out. It's a bit of a process. You could level all the frets then polish them, skipping the crowning step, but that's not the way to do it...unless you want flat frets.
     
  5. Also, there's the intonation thing to the fret crown. If you have a flat fret, the fret edge where the string leaves it will be a little more to the bridge than where the fret slot was cut, causing the notes to be ever so slightly out of tune.
     
  6. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Just use tiny frets and be done with it :)
     
  7. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Thing is, I already am. I use Dunlop 6230 size frets which are about as small as you can get until you get to banjo/mandolin wire. The tops are still kinda flat tho, on all basses.
     
  8. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I have Banjo's on mine, I was really just joshing ya, but the smaller frets do tend to intonate better I think. Personally I think its more a matter of feel than anything else though.
     
  9. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    Your guy may have used a crown file that's made for larger frets.
     
  10. I don't know how, if one uses the same tools I use, that one would get that much of a flat top on a fret if they used a fret crowning file at all. As I've taught myself from the resources I've studied, I use the inherent shape of the file to reshape the portion of the fret that has been flattened by the leveling. As I'm passing the file along and across the top of the fret, I'm constantly monitoring the color shift that removing the fret material shows on both sides of the fret in contrast to the constantly narrowing stripe on the top of the fret. I don't completely eliminate the flat top but I make it as narrow as I can. The reason I don't go to a totally rounded top is that I'm wary of creating a round crown that "wiggles" in and out of line along the length of the fret. In my mind that could cause intonation problems at that particular note between the strings that wouldn't be good at all. I just leave a very, very narrow flat ribbon on top and then proceed to polishing. My frets appear to be rounded because the flat spot is so narrow and blended with the rounded shoulders.

    And to tell you the truth, I have no idea if my little technique is correct or not, acceptable or not, but I haven't had any complaints in the short time I've been doing this.
     
  11. 90k

    90k

    May 3, 2005
    Arizona
    check out Stew mac and Dan's methods well worth the effort.

    Dan Erlewine's Fretting Series Dan Erlewine's Fretting Series
    Installation, dressing & refretting — from basics to advanced!
     
  12. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    When I see flat frets I assume they skipped either the crown or polish step. If the flat area on the top of the fret is less than 1/16 wide after leveling I wont even crown it. I don't know what methods everyone is using to polish but the way I do it you can't really end up with flat frets unless you filed the crap out of them during leveling. Even then they get a soft edge on them. I see a lot of production guitars out there that look they aren't polished at all after leveling or maybe only with a very fine grit paper/steel wool.
     
  13. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    That's what I do to, according to Melvin Hisock. Power to the magic marker!:)