Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Fret Level and Crown DIY

A few passes with the bevel tool made the fret ends stick out less from the fretboard.  Now I'm moving on to the level and crown.

The method I'm using is Ron Kirn's famous Fret Leveling Yer Telecaster instructions, as found on the TDPRI forums.  Ron builds some amazing guitars, and has shared his knowledge with all of us lowly Tele players.  I'm leaving out a bit of detail, but you can read it all at the link above.

The first tool we need is an extremely flat surface to attach sandpaper to.  Again, luthery suppliers will sell you an expensive (but perfectly flat) piece of aluminum for this purpose, but you can also use a hunk of machined stone.  It's machined to some crazy tolerance, so we can be confident that it's flat.

I actually bought my hunk off the you-know-where auction site for cheap, but you can also procure a hunk from your local stone merchant also.  My piece is 2x8 inches.

You can then use a spray adhesive to attach the sandpaper to the stone.  In my case, the stone came with some nice sandpaper with an adhesive back.

We need to make sure the fretboard is straight before we remove any material.  Mark the frets with a Sharpie/Magic Marker.  I don't want to get any on my nice birds-eye fretboard, so I'm using a Stew-Mac fretboard protector.  Masking tape will work well also.

Mark the tops of the frets with the marker.
Do a scrub up and down the board.  I'm using a fine (320) grit paper.  If your frets have a lot of nicks or wear, you may want to try a coarser grit.

This first pass is to see what frets don't get touched.  They'll be the ones that still have marks.  We're not doing the leveling here - this is a quick pass to adjust the truss rod so the neck is straight.

In my case, a couple of frets near the center still had marks, so I made a small truss rod adjustment to bring them up.  I re-marked the 'outside' frets, then made another pass.  Ron explains this in more detail on the TDPRI site.

With the neck straight, we can do the leveling.  Go up and down the length of the neck, in an oval/circular motion.  This only takes a minute or so.  Check to see that you're removing the marks from all the frets.

In the picture on the left, you'll see a bit of a mark on the first fret.  This came off when I passed the tool over it. 

This is harder to explain than to do.  Basically we're taking a flat tool and sanding the tops of the frets so they're all the same height (level).

Now we need to crown the frets.  This is the process of filing the curve on the top of the fret surface.

This is the one place where you will absolutely need the correct tool.  No homebrew solutions here.  What's needed is a crowning file.  They have a concave surface on two sides for different fret sizes.

The one I used here is for small and medium frets.  The small side is for instruments like mandolins and ukuleles, and the other side is for smallish, narrow frets like vintage Fenders.  I have Dunlop 6230 fretwire on this neck, and the file is perfect.

With a couple of files to cover 3 or 4 fret sizes, you'll be set for most jobs.

We just pass the file over the frets a few times, and get a nice crown.

 After the crowning, (makes me think of Swedish money - kronor - or a coronation!) we just pass some 320 grit paper over the frets to take any filing marks off.  A couple of swipes will do it.

If you wish, you can polish the frets with a polishing compound, using a machine or by hand.  I did mine by hand with a fine rubbing compound.

Here's the finished job.  Level, and nice and incredibly smooth.  I'm itching to play it!

But first, I have to string it back up and see if I still have buzzing.  I think my nut slots are too low, but I'm sort of hoping the leveling may have fixed the problem.

I use my handy Jim Dunlop string crank to restring the guitar.  Best $1.79 I ever spent.  I like it so much I have 2 of them.

Long story short, after restringing and adjusting the truss rod, I still have buzzing on the high E string at the first fret.  So I take the nut off and go to cut another one.

Here's the original one - I'm using it as a template for the new one.  To be continued.


Post a Comment 1 comments:

  • Anonymous said...
    March 28, 2014 at 2:04 PM
    Thanks. Liked this tutorial

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