Is there any "leeway" in fret heights?

Southwest

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I'm a complete noob to guitar repair/modification, so apologies if this is a stupid question. Having completed my cheap LP kit I'm looking to improve it, and learn some things along the way. Next up is a fret job. I straightened the board using a notched straight edge, then used a fret rocker to test for high frets.

They're all over the place! Virtually every other fret is high/low at some place across the board (low E, middle, high E) which surprises me as apart from one fret, the neck plays really nicely with no choking, sitar or fretting out at all. Is that usual? Every video I've watched stresses how important it is that the frets be perfectly levelled on pain of death. Just looking to understand a bit more before I take my fret file to the guitar. Thanks in advance.
 

rfrizz

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I'm a complete noob to guitar repair/modification, so apologies if this is a stupid question. Having completed my cheap LP kit I'm looking to improve it, and learn some things along the way. Next up is a fret job. I straightened the board using a notched straight edge, then used a fret rocker to test for high frets.

They're all over the place! Virtually every other fret is high/low at some place across the board (low E, middle, high E) which surprises me as apart from one fret, the neck plays really nicely with no choking, sitar or fretting out at all. Is that usual? Every video I've watched stresses how important it is that the frets be perfectly levelled on pain of death. Just looking to understand a bit more before I take my fret file to the guitar. Thanks in advance.
Did the kit come with the neck already fretted? If so, wouldn't this be grounds for a replacement? Beyond simple mods & fixes, I am also a "complete noob" and I wouldn't dare try a complete fret relevel. That is a pretty advanced task.
 

Roxy13

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If it's playing fine with the action you like you could just leave it alone :)

Generally frets that aren't level cause more of a problem for those who like low or very low action.
 

fatdaddypreacher

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the first thing i'd check is to be sure all frets are seated completely. i would hold the guitar at an point where you can see light underneath the straight edge, on top of the frets. i would use a straight edge that covers the length of the fretboard. gently rock the straight edge on the highest fret, looking underneath for light between it and the frets. once you've located the high fret, check to see if it's seated completely. i generally take a small piece of hardwood or brass that spans at least three frets, and lay it across the frets, and gently tap it to seat the fret. work the complete fretboard like that and see what you end up with. dollar to a donut, you will remove much of the problem, but don't be surprised that you won't get it dead flat. like roxy says, depending on your playing style, it may get you in the running.
 

Joe Desperado

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While perfectly level to .001" would be ideal, to be honest, they don't need to be that accurate. Height of the bridge dictates everything on fret height. The lower the action, the more consistently level iit needs to be. A very level fret job, can allow action way down under 3/64 on the treble side. A high action can make even the worst fret job work fine. So its a balancing act. But with that said, I have had frets with a little rock (from Fret Rocker) and they played fine for the average setup. On my personal guitars, I get them to play how I like them and stop messing with it. Some of mine could use a level and crown from the looks, yet play beautifully. On customers guitars, I try to work them as level as possible and adjust to taste.

So bottom line, its only an issue if its an issue… If you have one fret that is obviously higher than the rest, I would re-set it with a hammer or fret setter. I started off 40 years ago with a small ball-peen hammer for frets and probably did 500-600 fret jobs before I finally bought a StewMac hammer so. So you don't need speicallized tools for everything..
 

Southwest

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Thanks guys. Makes sense. I'll tackle fret 2 ( the problem child) with a small hammer over a piece of scrap, then take it down with a file if it needs it.

I'm more than happy with 3/64 and 1/32 (high/low) action so will stick with that for now.
 

LtDave32

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Are the frets high and low and "all over the place" as per what the fret rocker tells you?

I never trusted those things. They don't tell the whole story. Not long enough.

The way to do this (for the novice ) is to get the neck as straight as you can, mark each fret with a sharpie, run a long beam with abrasive paperbstuck to it flatly across th fret surface over its entire length (don't need to on the first fret) and see what is shiny, and what is still sharpie-marked. The shiny spots and frets are higher than the frets with marker still on them.

File a bit, re-mark and do it again.

Don't go crazy, do all this lightly.

when you have no more ink marks, your frets are relatively level to each other

There are other considerations and pro tricks & techniques , but this will get you in the ballpark.
 

Southwest

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Thanks Lt Dave - this was indeed going to be my next step and I got one of these to do it.

1631788612686.png


6 1/4" length, and seems decent quality. Good reviews from what I have seen. I also have the tri-cornered file for crowning and a thin one for fret edges (which all need doing, though they aren't dreadful).

The reason for the question was that the YT vids I've seen make such a big deal about absolute accuracy of filing that I was surprised that mine plays so well (fret 2 excepted) despite almost every other fret showing inconsistencies, some across the whole fret, most just in places (mainly the bass side - no idea why that would be). The joys of trying to learn from YT I guess :) , and the reason I'm grateful for the good folk on here explaining that at my current action height it's not so much of an issue.

To answer rfrizz's very valid question up-thread about returning it, the kit was dirt cheap and I'm using it as a learning platform in the full understanding that the more I try on it, the more risk there is of turning it into a non-playable wall hanger. In a perverse way, the more problems it has the better for me! I absolutely would not recommend it to someone to build as their only guitar though - some of the issues are really bad and at my level of (in)experience, you just don't know enough to identify them in time to send it back. My next one will be a much better quality body and neck only, and I now have a list of things to check for when it arrives.
 

pshupe

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Thanks Lt Dave - this was indeed going to be my next step and I got one of these to do it.

View attachment 561065

6 1/4" length, and seems decent quality. Good reviews from what I have seen. I also have the tri-cornered file for crowning and a thin one for fret edges (which all need doing, though they aren't dreadful).

The reason for the question was that the YT vids I've seen make such a big deal about absolute accuracy of filing that I was surprised that mine plays so well (fret 2 excepted) despite almost every other fret showing inconsistencies, some across the whole fret, most just in places (mainly the bass side - no idea why that would be). The joys of trying to learn from YT I guess :) , and the reason I'm grateful for the good folk on here explaining that at my current action height it's not so much of an issue.

To answer rfrizz's very valid question up-thread about returning it, the kit was dirt cheap and I'm using it as a learning platform in the full understanding that the more I try on it, the more risk there is of turning it into a non-playable wall hanger. In a perverse way, the more problems it has the better for me! I absolutely would not recommend it to someone to build as their only guitar though - some of the issues are really bad and at my level of (in)experience, you just don't know enough to identify them in time to send it back. My next one will be a much better quality body and neck only, and I now have a list of things to check for when it arrives.
I'm not sure what that is but I would not use it for "leveling" the frets. I use the Stew Mac fret leveling beam. It's 16" long and thin and I use 320 grit paper on it.
Capture.JPG

I also use this as Dave suggests. Normally only takes a few swipes in the string path direction. IMO the fret rocker is to find problem frets, if you are having issues. If you are not having issues and it plays fine. Why look for issues that are not there?

Cheers Peter.

PS - you do not have to buy this tool. Anything straight, about this long, and thin will work. Some people use an edge of a steel level. I find leveling is one of the easier parts of fretting. IMO Crowning, dressing, and polishing take a lot longer and require more attention.
 

hisasahisasaki

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Even if you install the frets with the neck straight, the high register frets will be relatively high if you put the strings and keep the relief on the neck.
Therefore, the frets of the high register are often cut low. (Fall off)
 

LtDave32

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above my pay scale

zdog
Second time you commented in this manner. I deleted the other useless post in the other thread .

If you have nothing to add or no question to ask, then find a thread where you can.
 

Southwest

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Thanks Lt Dave and thanks to to all who contributed suggestions and advice. It's much appreciated.

I got to this today. Since the board as a whole is not causing issues I didn't file all of the frets down. If I decide to do that later I will definitely use a long beam rather than the file I bought. Makes much more sense for a novice like me.

I spot filed fret 2, using the rocker after every few strokes of the file to make sure I didn't file too deep. Then crowned it using the three cornered file. I used the sharpie mark to gauge the crown and the intonation line, before sanding from 220 to 2500 then polishing with micro-mesh to 12000.

As a first attempt I don't think it's too bad, though I won't know for sure until I get the strings back on. I have some other things to get to before that (will be a new thread) so it will be a while, but I will report back.

For anyone thinking about doing this for the first time, some thoughts from someone who was in the same position until earlier today:
1. If you love the guitar, don't do it. Take it to a pro.
2. Go slow. Check carefully and very often as you go. I didn't take notice of exactly how long I had my hands on the guitar, but including breaks I was at it for two hours.
3. Don't panic. Sounds obvious, but it's scary as hell looking at a totally flat fret top, and I was really tempted to rush straight into crowning. I could feel the panic rising and forced myself to walk away.

Thanks again for the help and advice. Feeling pretty good about this one.
 

ARandall

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Second time you commented in this manner. I deleted the other useless post in the other thread .

If you have nothing to add or no question to ask, then find a thread where you can.
Just so you know.....there are many more times when he's done this. Maybe 20 or 30 that I've seen.
 

Roxy13

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^ Yep. They are all over the forum.
 


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