Refretting and carving relief into the fingerboard

cmjohnson

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I refretted a PRS for a friend about six months ago and it came out great but I did have to carve rather a lot of fall-away into the frets over the body. More than I've ever had to do before, actually. And yet the neck is classic PRS...stable and straight as they come.

Well, it turns out that this player is fairly picky about fret height and the fall-away I had to carve into the last few frets caused some playability issues as he could then feel the fingerboard under his fingers.

So he's asked me to refret it again. And that's in progress.

Before I started, I measured the fret heights over the fingerboard, and determined that the fall-away I carved into the frets caused a variance of
as much as 15 thousandths of an inch in remaining fret height. That's a third of the fret height if crown height is 45 thousandths, which is certainly noticeable.

So, after measuring the fret heights several times using my measuring beam (an aluminum beam with a dial indicator in the middle section of it, by which I can measure fingerboard or fret relative heights), I figured out how much relief I need to carve into the fingerboard after de-fretting it.

I used a file to drop the final section of fingerboard, inward of the last fret, to an indicated .015 below that of the rest of the board. I then marked it with a sharpie to use as a witness mark.

I taped a piece of plastic film (old x-ray film) to the fingerboard a fret short of the neck to body joint, to keep from sanding higher up the neck than I intend to, and sanded graduated fall-away into the board and have refretted it. I stopped when I sanded off the sharpie witness mark at the last bit of the fingerboard, which indicated I was done.

So far the results are as I'd hoped for. I'm going to get the low action without having to do more than kiss the frets with the levelling file,
or so it would seem.


I'm not quite sure why this particular guitar wants more fall-away than any other I've ever refretted. But it does.

What are your thoughts on carving fall-away into the fretboard? Just curious.
 

jvin248

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.

Sometimes the neck glue position throws the geometry of the bridge off and you need more fall-away. Bolt-on necks you can shim but you're kind of 'stuck'...

Have you tried a fret leveling jig? I built one vaguely similar to the Vinson model and it gave me an edge on the leveling process. Amazing what a $75 Strat-Like-Object can play like after having a fret level under string tension.

.
 

cmjohnson

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I've never used a levelling jig. I'm pretty good at compensating for neck tension strictly by instinct and feel when doing the levelling.

I've always found it interesting that two guitars that are basically identical can require two very different fret profiling solutions to achieve the same action. One works great when the fretjob is dead straight and level and the other needs relief and fall-away, when the final setup is intended to be the same. (Same scale, strings, action height, bridge and tailpiece types, and so on.)
 

warprider

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You mean fall away into the frets, yes? I've done so on mine.

I've never heard of people doing it into the fretboard. Sounds iffy to me. Frets can be replaced easier than a fretboard removal.
 

cmjohnson

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Ovation used to do this as a matter of routine. The fall-away was in the fingerboard.

Since the need for fall-away is likely to never change for a given guitar, there's no down side to doing it if it's done correctly.

This particular PRS refret is complete and it turned out very well indeed, In fact the action height I was able to get out of it without a lot of effort is among the lowest I've yet achieve. The fall-away is just right. The need for fret dressing was minimal.
 

pshupe

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I try and add a bit of fall away into the board when I am sanding. I accidentally did it one time and said hey that worked well. I'd rather work that into the board than into the frets but I don't really think it makes much difference.

Cheers Peter.
 


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