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Level as radius beam?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by krfoss, Sep 28, 2017.

  1. krfoss

    krfoss Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2007
    Orange County, CA
    So, I could spend $42- $85 on this (http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Tools_by_Job/Tools_for_Sanding/Fret_Fingerboard_Levelers.html) fret leveling beam from Stew Mac, OR I could spend $20 on a new level from home depot that has one side ground completely flat.

    Is there any reason I shouldn't just go for the level for its dual use as opposed to the more expensive single-tasker? I am not a pro luthier (I'm a bass player who owns tools and hubris), so having the precision tools seems like overkill. I want to do a good job, dont need it to be a perfect job, but want it to be at least good'nuff.

    (FYI, I also have the stewmac fret file, so the post-leveling job is taken care of. Yes its a uni-tasker, but its an ultra specialty tool)
  2. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    They do completely different jobs.... what do you aim to be able to do? A level won't give you a radius and a radius block won't follow string paths.
  3. krfoss

    krfoss Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2007
    Orange County, CA
    Generally make the frets as even as possible to get the smoothest and lowest action.
  4. If it's genuinely ground flat and level and, unfortunately, the only way to really check that is with something else that's ground flat and level, I wouldn't hesitate to use it to level frets. Get some self stick 220 (or grit of your choice ) and off you go.
  5. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I have an old cast aluminum level that reads extremely level against my expensive straightedge. I realized this AFTER buying a precision ground tube aluminum fret leveling beam, of course. Many swear by the Stewmac aluminum radius beams, as they can do double-duty as fret levelers as well. You may well find a very straight and well ground level, but won't know it unless you have a good straightedge to check it against, the Catch 22.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  6. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    You don't need a radius block to level frets, in fact following the string paths with a flat beam or similar will give better results.

    You need something truly flat to stick abrasive paper to, or a file or decent stone. I like a stone personally. You'll also need a precision straight edge to check your work. You do not need a notched straight edge either (not that anyone mentioned one)
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  7. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    You can cross-check the straightness of a ground level by mating the surfaces of several of the same levels face to face. This actually works quite well, but requires that there are three or four to work with.

    I purchased a very heavy cast and ground 24" level many years ago for jointing edges (probably the same brand that Gilmourisgod found), but I haven't seen any new ones in several years that were made in a manner that I'd consider reliable.

    The ones I've seen in the big box stores have obviously been rough milled and NOT surface ground, and they aren't made in a way that looks like they will remain flat for very long. Far better to get a ground edge bar from the usual supply houses if you need something truly level and flat.

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