Fret leveling tool length

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by j_micho, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Oct 28, 2012
    Largo Fla.
  2. rdrr


    Mar 29, 2005
    Newburyport MA
    Instead of going through Stewmac I would, and have myself, order some aluminum rectangular tubing. It is plenty strong enough and way,way,way less expensive than the Stewmac levelers. I bought a 12" and 24". The 24 is overkill for at times and I found the 12" to be a fairly happy medium between an 8 and a 16. You just need to sand the edges down a bit to smooth them out.
  3. TheJoshinator


    Sep 23, 2012
    Without tension, and with the truss rod neutrally adjusted, the neck is flat and can be fret-leveled. Unlike the website's diagram, however, necks don't normally crinkle and get wavy under string tension because the string's force only pulls upward on the end of the neck. They usually bow upward smoothly, and that is what the truss rod corrects for. Unless it's a poorly-made neck, the truss rod will bring it back to just as flat as it was without strings, making the fret-leveling job plenty accurate for real-world applications.
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Those stewmac blocks are rip off as far as I am concerned. $75 for a two foot piece of square tubing should be a crime.

    Especially when one of these works just as well
  5. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Oct 28, 2012
    Largo Fla.
    Thank You, So basically that is only really useful for a slightly screwed up neck?
  6. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    I use a six inch diamond sharpener and check my work with a straight edge. Haven't had any problems so far. I might want a really long block when building a neck to make straightening the fretboard a bit easier, but it's not critical. Checking fret-height with a fret rocker pretty much takes care of the frets you're concerned with while actually pressing down on the string while playing IMO.
  7. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    I use a 12" whetstone. Works great...
  8. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    I'll have to look over that rectify thing, but I'd be surprised to hear that tens of thousands of luthiers over hundreds of years have been doing it wrong...
  9. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    I use 24" quartz leveling beams, 1 is 1.25" wide, and the other is 2.5" wide, they are essentially dead flat. They work great, but I also have a neck jig to ensure the flatness of the fret surfaces before starting to level. As said above, a good flat box tube, whetstone, or block will work fine. Would go for atleast 12" as I like covering the most expanse for level across the fretboard. Just my personal taste.
  10. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    The rectify thing is certainly interesting.... ESPECIALLY from a tech perspective. It's something I've been discussing extensively (leveling frets with the neck under tension) with a tech friend of mine. His thoughts: it's essential. Though, he uses the Stewmac neck jig...

    From a builder's perspective, I know if I've taken care to properly dress the fretboard, install and level frets, I'll get the results I want. I do on occasion level/spot level while the guitar is under tension, but I just use a small piece of anlgle iron (perhaps 4-5") with sandpaper taped to the bottom. It fits under the strings. Otherwise I use the Stewmac Aluminium radius beams.

    I've learned that fretwork/setups etc. is a totally different game when you're a tech vs. a builder.
  11. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    if only :rolleyes:

    the twisting force of the strings pulling up on the headstock is a big factor, and lots of necks do indeed have warps and humps that disappear when you remove the force of the strings, and then remove the force of the truss rod by loosening it. (the "ski ramp" that forms where bolt-ons transition from round to square is a big one.)

    you might do sort of OK with shorter blocks and no tension while leveling, but if you want to really solve neck issues and get "better than what's hanging in the music store" results, you very much do have to account for the effects of neck tension.

    for me it's a stew-mac type neck jig and the 24" sanding beam; anything shorter and i'm just going "up the hills and down the valleys" with the sander, rather than knocking the hills off, so as to correct the profile.

    it's the difference between tracing a perfectly straight line with a ruler and trying to sketch one freehand!
  12. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    what the best ones have been doing for all those years is consciously or unconsciously remembering the warps and twists they see in the board when it's strung up and "sculpting" them away freehand when it's not; it's amazing, and i can't freakin' do it, so it's the tension jig and the long sanding beam for me.

    the idea of sanding while it's strung up is really cool, but i suspect pretty time-consuming, since you can't use much sanding motion when the nut is still in place and you have to stop to reposition the bar between each pair of strings.
  13. I asked my question to stewmac, here's the answer I got:

    "The 16" beam would work for either guitars or basses. The 24" would probably get in the way of nuts or bridges when leveling guitar frets."

    Makes sense...
  14. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    A sixteen inch beam is long enough-just. Much shorter and the beam will ride up and down the frets. Twenty four inches is better, especially if you employ a fret jig. With the nut removed and the guitar in a jig, a thirty inch beam is fast, efficient, and makes the most economical use of abrasives.

    All of this underscores the necessity of having the proper tools to dress frets. This is not an inexpensive procedure. Neither are the tools.
  15. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    and properly leveled and crowned frets might be the number one reason why a $2000 bass plays better than a $200 bass!

    it's very much worth getting this exactly right.
  16. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    16 works well for filing a fall off onto the upper frets. I use 320 on about 1/2 of it and 4 layers of masking tape on the 11th fret. The un-sandpapered 1/2 rides the masking tape and creates the fall off ramp. I sand until my sharpie marks disappear from the 14th fret. If the lower frets are are right, you can get some real buttery action, even if you tend to play too hard.
  17. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    And reasons 2-6, or so.