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Fret Leveling

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Luke Sheridan, Oct 13, 2005.


  1. Luke Sheridan

    Luke Sheridan Commercial User

    Dec 30, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I build guitars and sell them. Strings, too
    So i have a Warmoth neck on my bass and we tune to Low C. I get lots of fret buzz this way. I took it to a local guy who checked my setup (which is fine) I asked why my 83 precision doesnt get buzzing in this tuning and he explained that there's 20+ years of wear on those frets.
    So my question is how well leveled are Warmoths out of the shop? I'd like to attempt some finer leveling myself and am wondering if anyone has tips, methods, suggestions I could follow. How much can I expect to take off with a few strokes of the file, etc??
     
  2. I don't level with a file. I don't see how you could accurately do it. I use a 24" aluminum bar with 120 grit emery cloth on one side. That levels the entire length of the neck together so that adjacent frets are level with each other all the way down the neck. You'll be taking a lot less off this way and they'll still get level. It IS possible to do too much and a file leaves marks that will have to be polished out, taking even more off of the fret.

    But that doesn't totally explain your buzz. IF your strings are the same height from the fretsas the P, you shouldn't have a problem at all - even with the same amount of neck relief. Essentially the strings are further away from the neck itself although they are the same distance from the newer frets. Your tech is blowin' smoke IMO.
     
  3. Luke Sheridan

    Luke Sheridan Commercial User

    Dec 30, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I build guitars and sell them. Strings, too
    The neck sounds pretty good in E-flat. Just dropping to C and its clackety-clack. I'm going to order a string height guage from Stews to check out the heights between the two basses myself. Is your aluminum bar radiused? I guess it shud be, right?
    I'm placing a new tool order for building my first neck. In addition to the guage and the correct radius block, what else should I be looking for in terms of neck tools? I always forget something when I order.
    I'll be needing fret wire, a fret saw, and perhaps their Mitre box, (or will any do?) I have nut files, a caliper and truss rod.

    tnx!!
     
  4. The bar doesn't need to be radiused but you can use a radius block. Just keep in mind that the radius won't perfectly match the arch of the fret because it's larger than the fretboard itself. The bar is simple and can be used in other areas as well. I use the technique of making 2 passes centered where each string would rest on the frets. That does a good job. The StewMac leveling bar is designed for this. Then when you re-crown, you'll take out any peaking that might have occured.

    If you get their saw, their mitrebox is a good bet. It's smaller and has nice stops built in to repeat the proper depth. It also has a registration pin for their fret scale template. I've got one and it's neat.
     
  5. a question I've always had about fret leveling...how do you ensure that the fretboard (when performing the leveling function) is maintained completely flat (no bows)?

    I would imagine that if you tried leveling a board that had a bow, you'd end up with a big MESS.
     
  6. Rene

    Rene

    Mar 8, 2004
    Canada
    !) Make your self a sanding block out of wood
    2"x2"x2"x13 or 14 inches long (make sure all faces are flat and straight) You staple a piece of sand paper 80 or 120 grit on the flat surfaces
    2) Remove the strings and all the tension from the truss rod
    3) You sand the top of all frets from the nut to the last fret
    and you check with a straight edge to see if they are all level and at the same height following the radius of you fingerboard
    4) after it is done accurately, you need a special file to crown all frets ( because from the sanding, the top of your frets will be flat and they are supposed to be round for an accurate intonation)
    5) After the crowning is done properly, you sand all frets starting with 320 to 400 grit to remove all scratchs on frets and finally you finish the job with 0000 steel wool.
    6) You remove any scratch on the fingerboard and finally you use linseed oil on a rag,wait 2 minutes wipe it and put another coat wate 2 minutes wipe repeat till satisfied and let it dry 24 hours
    7) Put strings back on, tune the bass at 440set height of strings, adjust the truss rod, ,do the intonation
    8) If everything is OK, play and enjoy the bass for at least 3 to 4 hours if you like
    Good luck (that's my way of doing a major set up)
     

  7. Good stuff everyone...more questions...

    do you mask your fingerboard? I think masking it off first would be a good idea...

    instead of a wooden block... how about using spray adhesive onto a short metal carpenter's level and then sticking emery cloth onto it?

    instead of 0000 steel wool...how about using a dremel buffing pad with some scratch remover?

    and how about lemon oil on the fingerboard instead of linseed?

    I think the only "specialty" tools required for the job would be a good crowning file...is this correct?

    also, someone once mentioned "marking" the tops of all the frets first with a black marker, as a good guide to see how the sanding was going...does anyone do this? and will it help?
     
  8. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Rene, thanks for the comprehensive instruction!

    YOu don't necessarily need a special fret file. It does indeed simplify the work, but an ordinary triangle file can be good enough. As long as you can handle it... ;)

    To the other questions:
    I would mask the board.
    If possible, I'd find an alu profile instead of a wood block, because it would be less affected by climate in the room.
    Any oil is ok, except engine oil...used... :eyebrow:
    Marking the fret tops does help, but don't accept too much help...check well, anyway!
     

  9. doesn't the block need to be radiused? i'm confuddled :eyebrow:
     
  10. Rene

    Rene

    Mar 8, 2004
    Canada
    The block doesn't necessarily need to be radiused, but if you have enough patience to do it then it will be easier for you to do the job and more precise.
    The main thing is having all the frets level and at the same height, use the way which is less difficult for you.
     
  11. dooft11

    dooft11 Supporting Member

    Dec 30, 2003
    HongKong
    Hambone, can you share more about the technique you mentioned? - 2 passess centered? thats what i want to know
     
  12. Why not get a B string and tune it up?
     
  13. yes...or even raise the action...but since the title of the thread was made to be "fret leveling" we've successfully hijacked it from its original intent and are now using it as a very informative thread of "fret leveling"...

    how about that?...go figure...:)
     
  14. Luke Sheridan

    Luke Sheridan Commercial User

    Dec 30, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I build guitars and sell them. Strings, too
    Deviating from my original post about leveling frets, but I'm placing a large order with Stew's to build a neck and was wondering about the needed tools, mainly for fret work, as Stew's offers so many choices.

    I reralize that they have some very specialized tools and this is a very specialized task, but if something can do the job for less, then I'm game.

    Do I NEED to bend the frets with a bending tool to my radius before pressing them or does the fret cauls take care of that during the press?

    Is it necessary to use their fret cutter or can someone suggest a worthy substitute?

    Has anyone used Stew's caul attachment for the drill press rather than buying their arbor press? All this is adding up to quite an order and I'd like to keep the costs down, but I'll spend if I NEED to. This is a first attempt at neck building, BTW.
     
  15. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca