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Fret leveling beams

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by chinjazz, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. Hi folks!

    I’m researching fret leveling beams, and found this one:

    Fret/Fingerboard Leveler - for Flat Frets

    The 16” one for 19.95 seems like a nice deal, and they’re steel.

    Can I get by with a shorter than 24” one, or does the extra 8 inches make a big difference?

    I’ve been looking at a bunch of options here in TB LC...

    Thumb n Fingers likes this.
  2. Thumb n Fingers

    Thumb n Fingers

    Dec 15, 2016
    Bookmarked that site. Been looking for one but didn't want to spend the $40+ for a StewMac model. I would think the 16" would be great. Gotta be better than using shorter fret leveling files I would think.
  3. Arie X

    Arie X

    Oct 19, 2015
    fwiw: ime, well installed and well bedded new frets in hardwood fingerboards require very little leveling. probably since i use an arbor press and fret offline. doing it this way is very consistent and i'm seeing no more then .002 height variance and often less, (i check each fret with a dial indicator) making spot leveling super easy. taking a lot of metal off during "leveling" means doing a lot of work crowning and long term, you're just robbing the instrument of usable fret life. imo, it's just best to get them in as accurately and consistently as you possibly can in the first place.

    imo, leveling beams can work very well (leveling beams are a cottage industry it seems) during repair work where you have to establish a new baseline fret plane in order to restore playability. when i need to do this i use a sharpie marker and a diamond lapping plate like the kind used for knives. no fussy paper, psa, or other bs. very manageable and never (almost never) wears. -everybody's different though
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
    hombass, mikewalker and chinjazz like this.
  4. Hey Arie, thanks for that feedback. Good point on not needing to remove much with brand new frets. It’s seems practical to not generate extra work for myself.
  5. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar (former username: smithcreek)
    Scrap wood jointed flat with a #8 plane and checked against a straightedge, and sticky back sandpaper. Good for fingerboards and/or frets. No need to spend money you don't have to.

    gip111, nbsipics and chinjazz like this.
  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    No, you don't need a 24" long beam to level frets. I find a beam that long to be clumsy to work with. For years, I did all my leveling with an 8" long stone. An 8" to 12" beam is enough, if you use some care and watch the overall picture with a straightedge.

    I recently made an 18" long leveling stone bar, using 6 replacement stones for an automotive engine cylinder hone. It works very well. Here's a thread about it:

    Special Tools: Stone Bar For Leveling Frets

    Yes, I agree with ArieX that, when building a new instrument, getting the fingerboard surface straight and installing all the frets uniformly saves a lot of work. You still need to level the frets, but you should only need to take off a few thousandths' here and there.
    chinjazz and bholder like this.
  7. Arie X

    Arie X

    Oct 19, 2015
    sure thing.

    now you're getting to the stage where good electric instruments are defined. if one can't play it -then nothing else matters.
    chinjazz likes this.
  8. Definitely, and on some coincidence of sorts, it brings me back to my initial tinkering with set ups a while back. Even though I had just a few files and straight rulers around, I got pretty good at setting up and tweaking my Basses to play great. I’m almost full circle I guess.
  9. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    If you can find a scrap piece of granite countertop, have it cut to size, it is milled within a thousandth of on inch.
    chinjazz likes this.
  10. Marhmol

    Marhmol Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2016
    Bay Area Ca
    Means2nEnd likes this.
  11. Marhmol

    Marhmol Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2016
    Bay Area Ca
    Fair enough, I tend to sometimes shop with the "cool" factor. as for length 24 would be fine unless you guitar buddy wants to borrow it. Someone will...
    8 just seems too small. for me anyway.
    chinjazz likes this.
  12. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Redding CA
    I've used a long flat fine tooth file, an aluminum level and also square steel bar stock. All are cheap and work fine.:thumbsup:
    chinjazz likes this.
  13. nbsipics

    nbsipics My Best Playing Happens Only in my Mind Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    Good thread and good link to a place I never heard of before. Unless some of the tools there I see are crap ( which I doubt ), then they have reasonable prices from what I can tell.

    Don't fret over your decision op.. :)
    mikewalker and chinjazz like this.
  14. gip111


    Nov 13, 2012
    A 16" to 18" cheap level will do.
    gidbass and chinjazz like this.
  15. shodan


    Mar 23, 2005
    Central Midwest
    If you have a salvage yard near, see if you can find a section of "T" aluminum extrusion. Put some sticky backed sandpaper on a good flat surface (I used the milled steel top of my table saw). Flatten the top of the "T" on the sandpaper. Put some scrap wood on the leg of the T for a handle. IMG_0097.JPG
    chinjazz likes this.
  16. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    I use a long spirit level available at most diy shops and attach sand paper with double sided tape.
  17. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I bought a 24" long box tube aluminum one like the Etsy link, 24" long. It seemed to do a nice job, I still don't see how people can get a set of level frets using a shorter beam, particularly the short fret files. The theory and practice escape me. I keep it in the shipping tube it came in, should last forever in my case. After the fact, I realized the old cast aluminum level I inherited is probably damn near as straight. D'oh!
    chinjazz likes this.
  18. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az

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