The Great Casino Fretjob Caper

Discussion in 'Other Epiphones' started by Brians Evil Twin, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    I've been on a quest to improve my fretwork skills significantly and this a pictorial of the work I'm doing on my Inspired By John Lennon Casino.

    This is the MIC version with the USA guts that's just been discontinued, but it could be any old Casino, 335, Sheraton, Riviera, what have you.

    [​IMG]

    I should start by saying that the factory setup on this guitar wasn't terrible, I just really wanted to see how much I could improve it and make it more fun to play.

    I should also tip the chapeau to Master Luthier Roman whose "Complete EPI custom setup" thread generously reveals his pro tips, gave me the confidence to attempt this level of work, and ultimately inspired this post. Apologies in advance for any redundancies or plagiarisms, but as they say, "good artists copy, great artists steal".

    Here's the board at the start. It has that pale, dry, waxy look that a lot of new Epis seems to have:

    [​IMG]

    So we'll carefully remove the nut and scrape 'er down with a razor per Roman's method:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    On Casinos, the neck pickup is butt up against the fretboard and since it's a P90, can't be lowered like a Humbucker, so it has to be removed.
    Note the notched center strip - this runs under the pickups and down to the bridge for support strength:

    [​IMG]

    Next, we'll look at how flat the neck is between frets 1 and 12:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It's about 7 thousandths of and inch bowed so we'll need to fool with the truss rod until it's flat.

    [​IMG]

    While we're at it, lets look at the neck a bit closer to the body:

    [​IMG]

    Still pretty close to 0", so we can proceed to looking for high frets. But just for shits and grins, let's double check the whole board with a precision straight edge:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    OK, now we know the board is really flat from end to end and can start looking for high frets:

    [​IMG]

    I used to use a string height gauge for this, but this little fret rocker works much better and makes a solid little "click" when it rocks:

    [​IMG]

    Plus it has different dimensions on each side, so easy to fit across any set of 3 frets:

    [​IMG]

    As I go, I mark the tops of each fret with a magic marker where the frets are high. I make sure to check all the way across the board because frets aren't consistently high from side to side. Where there's no click, I don't mark it so I know not to bear down on that spot. Another tip: don't use a black marker, it's impossible to see on a fret. Blue seems to work well but red, green, purple are fine too.

    I also need to know the board radius so I don't over-file the edge of the frets:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Regardless of what the specs say, I think this unit has a 16" radius. I'd rather err on the side of caution anyway, so the 16" block will get used with 400 grit 3M Stickit paper.

    [​IMG]

    (I have several of these blocks in different radiuses (radii?) so I've marked them in big black numbers so I don't grab the wrong one.)

    Here you can see the high marked areas getting sanded off:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Dan Erlewine says that beginner fret jockeys tend to file off too much metal and this reduces the number of fret jobs possible until a refret is necessary.

    I won't make that mistake.
     
  2. paruwi

    paruwi Kraut-Rocker Super Mod Premium Member

    Messages:
    19,013
    Likes Received:
    24,566
    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
    I like what I see and read

    :applause::applause::applause:
     
  3. g8tr

    g8tr Elitist Club Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    1,003
    Likes Received:
    885
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2011
    Nice instructions so far Brian.
     
  4. Requiem4agreen

    Requiem4agreen Senior Member

    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    255
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2013
    Nice, I wish I had the cojones to attempt things like this. Can't wait to see further updates.
     
  5. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    Here's a coupla shots of the board after leveling, nice and tidy:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Time to start crowning:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The object here is to restore the crown up to, but not past the level marks.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Once all the frets are rough-crowned to satisfaction, I use this little guy with 400 or 600 grit wet/dry paper, then move up to 1000 grit or higher as needed:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After the first pass, the frets are starting to look normal again:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now I go over them again with the same grit with my fingers, just to ensure that the surface is consistent, and to rub the fret ends smooth:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Then I do the whole thing again with the super-fine >1000 grit papers:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Several hours of work into this already and my hands are getting sore. But I still need to go over every fret with 0000 steel wool. This is where the mirror-like shine starts:

    [​IMG]

    It's getting pretty shiny, but there's more to go. Gotta get that pesky tape off and treat the board:

    [​IMG]

    I like this stuff - it's cheap, readily available and has no silicone in it:

    [​IMG]

    The board is really thirsty, look at the difference between wet and dry:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Another level check, everything looking good:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    15 people like this.
  6. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    A final buffing with 3M polishing paper, and it's ready for it's close-up Mr. DeMille:

    [​IMG]

    Next, it's time to build a bone nut:

    [​IMG]
     
    11 people like this.
  7. SGeoff

    SGeoff Premium Member

    Messages:
    3,009
    Likes Received:
    3,438
    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2013
    Lookin good, Brian. I do believe I have just the neck for you...we'll chat soon!
     
  8. DennisMiller

    DennisMiller Member

    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    54
    Joined:
    May 9, 2012
    Very nice work! Something I found that polishes frets very nicely is jeweler's rouge. It's gentle and doesn't scar the fretboard the way I've done with steel wool.

    I'm still waiting for the big brown truck to bring the new ES-335. I wonder what I'll have to do to it?
     
  9. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    Now I don't have to give you a tutorial, you can sit at the bench and start right off...
     
  10. Paulie C

    Paulie C Senior Member

    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    357
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2013
    Nice job and display of craftsmanship, Brian. Question, I noticed you didn't mask off the fret board until you were at the sanding stage. Is there an advantage to not masking after the scraping? Thanks
     
  11. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    I find that the tape can get in the way when crowning, and since this is my personal instrument I didn't bother until the sand paper came out. It's difficult to keep the crowning file from slipping and marking the board (which it did a few times) but I knew I was going to buff the frets and board with steel wool, so it was a calculated risk.

    On a client's guitar it would be taped up like ten men throughout.
     
  12. RaSTuS26

    RaSTuS26 Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,064
    Likes Received:
    2,284
    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2011
    Excellent tutorial Brian, and some marvelous pics (as always) to explain the steps along the way, very well done mate.
     
  13. Alty

    Alty Senior Member

    Messages:
    588
    Likes Received:
    501
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2013
    Fantastic thread BET, hope it doesn't get lost down the line when you've finished, as a lot to learn from this.

    Keep up the excellent work and thanks.

    :)

    P.S. I see you didn't do any work on the fret edges, are yours OK or is it something already done or planning to do/include?
     
  14. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    Thanks Alty. Thankfully this guitar didn't have fret-end issues as you can see below.

    [​IMG]

    Considering they were selling for $999, they shouldn't have. I did round them over slightly during the crowning process, and when smoothing things out by hand with the 600 and 1000 grit papers.

    And frankly, this guitar wasn't unplayable before the fretwork, it'll just be easier to play (lower action), especially when the new nut is finished. Perhaps I'll do a fret-end tutorial next, I've done a few of those too, but they're a ton of work and not much fun.
     
    4 people like this.
  15. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    OK, here's the nut job.

    The most important thing to know about Epiphones nuts is that they are 1/4" thick, not 3/16" like Gibsons.
    If you try to fit a pre-slotted Gibson nut to an Epi, you will have a very noticeable 1/16" gap, so you either have to carve a nut from a raw piece of bone or order a pre-slotted nut specifically for Epis.
    Here's what an Epi would look like with a Gibson nut:

    [​IMG]

    All Parts BN-2808-000 pre-slotted nuts are 1/4" thick so the correct size for Epiphone and other non-Gibson LP copies (despite the wrong dimensions listed on the website).
    I have the tools for making nuts from scratch, but pre-slotted save a ridiculous amount of time, and at $6.50 each, not expensive enough to offset the effort.

    Anyway, the first thing you need to know is the height of fret 1.
    A standard automotive feeler gauge and a straight edge will give you that info.
    Hold the straight-edge across frets 1 and 2 and try different combinations of gauges until they just barely slide through with no gaps:

    [​IMG]

    On this Casino, it happens to be .039" or 98mm:

    [​IMG]

    Now add to that between .005 and .010".
    The higher number is safer and you can file the slots lower later if need be.

    [​IMG]

    Now you know where the bottom of the string slots need to be for starters.

    [​IMG]

    Pre-slotted nuts will be way high, so you need to sand off quite a bit of the bottom to get the slots down close to where they need to be.
    For this I use 3M Stickit paper adhered to a metal sanding rail. This will keep the bottom of the nut flat.

    [​IMG]

    The piece of wood is to keep the nut square as you sand:

    [​IMG]

    After a lot of trial and error, I get the nut down to where there's little or no gap between my .049" feeler gauge and the strings:

    [​IMG]

    In the meantime, I have been adjusting the radius to match the fretboard, rounding of the corners, fine sanding and burnishing:

    [​IMG]

    This is an extra-fine sanding sponge from Home Depot:

    [​IMG]

    Then the 0000 steel wool:

    [​IMG]

    Checking to maintain my 16" fretboard radius constantly:

    [​IMG]

    It's looking good but doesn't match the binding very well:

    [​IMG]

    So....

    [​IMG]

    Take a look at the plastic factory nut vs. the Allparts bone unit:

    [​IMG]

    Notice how deep the slots on the factory nut are:

    [​IMG]

    This is no good, will cause string binding and reduce sustain.
    The new slots are a shallow "U" with half the string above the nut.
    With the new nut in place and strings at tension, I can start fine tuning the slots with my feeler gauge keeping me from filing too deep:

    [​IMG]

    A word about nut files: you must have them.
    This is the set Stewmac sells, but for guitars you really only need the first 3, the 4th one is for bass and extended range guitars.
    As long as you don't use them on brass nuts or to sharpen mower blades, they should last for many years.

    [​IMG]

    Keep an eyeball or two on the string heights at the first fret. They should look like this:

    [​IMG]

    You can fool with bridge height at this point and check for fret buzz.
    Now check the height at fret 12. Ideally it should be 3/64" from the top of the fret to bottom of the high E.

    [​IMG]

    And between 3/64" and 5/64" on the low E at fret 12:

    [​IMG]

    Now check your neck bow/relief again:

    [​IMG]

    Between .004" and .014" is acceptable, so .006" ain't bad. Now I can set my intonation:

    [​IMG]

    When setting intonation on the bench keep in mind that the neck will not have the same relief as when you're holding it in playing position.
    Once I get it bench-set, I take it into the practice room and re-adjust the intonation while in normal playing position.

    I usually don't glue the nut down for a few days. I want to make sure I'm happy with everything and let the guitar settle for a bit.
    If it's a customer's guitar, I need to make sure everything is rock solid before it goes out the door, so it needs to be played and checked and re-checked for a few days.

    Next, I'll do a fine intonation and post a demo track.

    Cheers, BET
     
    10 people like this.
  16. g8tr

    g8tr Elitist Club Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    1,003
    Likes Received:
    885
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2011
    Brian, love this thread, keep it coming.
     
    1 person likes this.
  17. lpplayer

    lpplayer Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,205
    Likes Received:
    321
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Excellent work....and great pics of that beautiful guitar! I admire your attention to detail also- staining the nut.....
     
  18. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    A couple of things I forgot to take photos of:

    1. Cleaning the nut slot. It needs to be free of wood, glue, or anything that will keep the nut from seating tightly. Ideally, you want the nut to fit into the slot so tight that it won't move while you're doing your setup and before you glue it down. Stewmac sells special files for this (of course), but a decent straight file from the hardware store works almost as well.

    2. Gluing the nut: Use the absolute smallest amount possible. I usually put a little on the end of a toothpick and put 2 or 3 minuscule drops in the nut slot. If there's any squeeze out, I've used too much. I don't want it to be hard to remove the nut next time around, and I don't want to tear out much if any wood with it if/when I have to tap it out. I use Titebond wood glue, but others here recommend Superglue, it's up to you.

    3. Cleaning: There's always a lot of tape gunk left on the back of the neck and wherever else you've used it. I use Naptha and paper towels and GooGpne to remove sticker residue. For metal parts, I soak them in Acetone overnight (off the guitar only) and rub with 8000 grit 3M polishing paper. For parts that I cant take entirely off like P90 pickup covers, I use GooGone, Windex (poly finishes only), and 3M polishing paper in that order. If there are scratches in the body, McGuires auto polish may help. Any scratches or pitting in metal parts that can't be removed using the above products are better left alone, replated or replaced. For a nitro finished guitar, Naptha (sparingly) and high-quality guitar polish (Martin, Gibson) would be the only stuff I'd let near it.

    4. Vacuuming: You cant see it, but I have a Shop Vac under my bench and I'm using it constantly with a brush attachment. Shavings, filings, and other spooge can damage the back of the guitar when you're not paying attention so keep that work area clean and free of debris at all times. It's one time when being a compulsive neat freak really pays off.

    Some lutherie supply sites:

    http://www.stewmac.com/
    http://www.philadelphialuthiertools.com/
    http://www.allparts.com/tools
    http://www.lmii.com/index.php
    http://www.wdmusic.com/kits_luthier_supplies.html
    http://www.luthiersupply.com/
    http://www.martinguitar.com/guitar-maker-s-connection/luthier-tools.html
    http://www.alliedlutherie.com/luthier-supplies.htm
    http://www.luth.org/resources/lutherie_suppliers.html
     
    4 people like this.
  19. Alty

    Alty Senior Member

    Messages:
    588
    Likes Received:
    501
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2013
    Thanks for the info, I was just curious if the fret ends had already been dressed or came like that, good to know.

    Personally think this should be 'stickied' for future reference as it's one of the best 'Capers' I've seen online....:)

    :)

    Leon
     
  20. Brians Evil Twin

    Brians Evil Twin Poophoria Sōtō Zen V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,730
    Likes Received:
    22,844
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    I've been playing the Casino for a few days now and satisfied that the nut and set up are good, so it's time to glue 'er up.

    Here's the cleaned out nut slot, nice and square:

    [​IMG]

    Tools of the trade:

    [​IMG]

    This nut fits very tightly on it's own, no need to get crazy with glue, just enough to keep it from popping out during string changes:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Clamp it up and wait a few hours:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    6 people like this.

Share This Page