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Performed my first fret leveling yesterday

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by PilbaraBass, Jun 9, 2007.

  1. I've been reading up on it, and my $80 e-bay auction chinese-knockoff special needed some attention.

    I have the bass tuned BEAD and strung with 0.130-0.100-0.080-0.065 gauge nickel rounds....

    the neck was nice and straight (proper relief), but I couldn't get the action any lower, due to some uneven fretwork...

    finally, I bit the bullet (after months of studying techniques) and I decided to use Dan Erlewine's Bass Player Magazine method (320 grit stuck to a block with carpet tape, and a permanent marker)...

    the most important part is getting the neck as straight as you possible can after you remove the strings. I used a 3" metal straight edge, ad adjusted my trussrod (strings removed), until I got the best straightness I could achieve. This took a good 10 minutes....

    one I got it, I marked the top of all the frets with a marker (red shows up really well)...and then I sanded deliberately and evenly up and down, moving across the board to maintain the radius....I didn't use any pressure, just let the block slide...

    It didn't take long (about 10 minutes)...when it's time to stop, you STOP...then I did what dan did in the BP article...wrapped the paper around two fingers and "skipped" the paper along up and down with really no pressure...on the strokes, you want to angle the paper so that it skips and rounds the hard edge while missing the tops of the frets (as not to lower them any more)...

    this took about 5 minutes....

    then I took 800 grit paper, gave another quick polish (same as the rounding method) for about 2 minutes...

    all up, this took me 1/2 hour (my kids were on me about playing a game, so I had to be a bit quicker than I wanted :) )...

    the end result? I restrung, retightened the TR, tuned the bass, and proceeded to lower the action a WHOLE lot lower than I could before...I now have achieved medium-low action on a $80 bass :)

    it's not perfect, I think I could have done the last few fret "fall away" a little better...but I'm more than satisfied with my first attempt....

    great confidence booster for me...

    the trick to doing frets, is even strokes, and a very light touch, and knowing when to stop...oh, and take your time to get the neck right first, it will make ALL the difference...

    I need to get on ebay and get some more cheap basses to practice on ;) LOL
  2. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Inactive

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    hmmm can you make a list of other threads I should read?
  3. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Congratulations! You have taken a step into a larger world.

    The method outlined in Dan's BP article is a down and dirty fret dress. It does the job. A more expensive instrument is going to require more care and a higher level of accuracy.

    Keep up the good work.
  4. true that...one of the reasons it went quickly is because once i had the frets leveled, i was D O N E...most frets had nearly no metal at all removed...hence, why it's called "leveling"

    because of my time constraint, I probably even took less than i'd wanted to...that's the safe direction...
  5. yes...Dan's method is really for a "quick dress", not really designed for "drastic" fret repair...

    although, i think I can adapt Dan's "down and dirty" method into a more precise system...basically, it will involve breaking it down into finer iterations of the same process...

    but that's why I need more cheap instruments....to refine my technique ... ;)
  6. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006

    Yard sale specials are the perfect guinea pigs. If you louse them up they make extraordinary kindling. If you've gotten this far you probably won't damage one bad enough for the scrap heap.
  7. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Way to go!!

    Now, if you can figure a way to make a good neck jig, without breaking the bank, you'll really be able to go to town.:)
  8. Just so everyone is aware, there are more professional methods out there that involve crowning files to keep the shape of the frets more precise....

    I found one thread by Bardolph which describes him doing his first fret dress on an SX PJ using the same tools and methods his father (a music shop owner) has performed on hundreds of instruments...

    check it out:


    it's good to compare the techniques with the Dan Erlewine method....

    I agree with everything that Bardolph has done, but I feel the removing the neck is not totally necessary, although it may make working easier...

    also note that he performed 3 iterations of his method before he achieved results that he was completely satisfied with...
  9. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Actually, Bardolph did it closer to the way Dan teaches fret dressing, albeit with a few less tools. Dan uses a neck jig and straight edges to get the neck straight at tension and readjusts the neck after removing the strings to the same position. He also uses a number of different crowning files and polishing tools. Taping off is also key. There is nothing wrong with the down and dirty method. It all comes down to the degree of accuracy that is preferred.
  10. by the way...as far as an inexpensive neck jig...

    1...take a good quality metal level....
    2...drill and tap various holes though the side to accept long bolts....
    3...fashion from soft wood, "feet" that will sit on the bolts and support the neck
    4...tack weld nuts half-way down the bolts, to allow for adjustment
    5...put other nuts on the bolts to "lock" the bolts to the level
    6...use two or 3 small nylon strap wrenches to hold the neck firmly to the supports...another way is to "pull" nylon loops taught with small eye-bolts threaded to the level...
    7...weld cross legs to the other side of the level, so that the jig is free-standing on a bench surface

    you can probably do all this for well under $50, and about 4-5 hours work...
  11. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    Nice one! That's about the only thing that I haven't learned how to do yet.
  12. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Inactive

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    this thread needs attention
  13. SGT. Pepper

    SGT. Pepper Inactive

    Nov 20, 2005
    Congrats! More power to you! You have more guts than me to attempt a fret level. Heck, Im even scared to let some luthiers do the job because there aren't too many good fretmen around like their used to be. The last luthier I gave a fret level job to didn't do what I asked. I had one high fret and he charged $35.00 for a partial, $50.00 for the whole neck. So I told his associate to write me up for the whole neck. To make a long story short, he gave me a partial and the high fret was not leveled and still rattled. {Note Rattled not Buzz}. GC wanted $100.00 for a full fret level but I probably would have been better off.
  14. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Feb 25, 2021

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