Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 31

Thread: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

  1. #1
    Ultimate Tone Slacker Mr. B's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    2,615

    Default If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    I don't know how many guitars and basses I have seen over the last couple of years that had extremely high frets causing buzzing and dead spots somewhere on the fretboard. I'm not just talking about entry level guitars either. Brand new Gibson Les Pauls, SG Standards, US-made Fender strats and Teles, and also Squiers, Schecters, Ibanez, MusicMan/Sterling, and Epiphone. I've seen fewer on Jacksons and PRS's SE line than others, but I have still seen a couple. It seems I have rarely picked one up lately that did not have some problem with the frets. Are companies unable or unwilling to even try to sell a finished product in 2019?

  2. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Posts
    10

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    I have yet to see a really good fret job on new guitars.

  3. #3
    Toneologist JMP/HBE's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Posts
    657

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Ive had my Luthier do fret levels on all my guitars new & old.

    After he did the first one the difference was so dramatic i did them all.

  4. #4
    Administrator Mincer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Tampa Bay area, Florida, USA
    Posts
    21,273

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    I think many new players don't know anything about setting up a guitar for years after they start playing. They learn on whatever they have. Difficulty in playing might even stop new players from continuing.
    Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

    My Guitar, Gear, and Music Webpage

    Gear pics and more on my Instagram.

  5. #5
    Mojo's Minions
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    3,745

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Buy Japanese or you only have yourself to blame (well, also the Americans, Koreans, Mexicans, or Chinese who made it so haphazardly...but mostly just yourself)
    "New stuff always sucks" -Me

  6. #6
    Super Toneologist DavidRavenMoon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    1,173

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    As a luthier, I can attest this is a real problem. Generally the cheaper guitars are the worst. But I’ve made brand new expensive guitars play better after fret leveling.

    There’s a few reasons for this. Fret work is labor intensive. That cost money. But even with more expensive guitars. You see this with Gibson. Things like “faded” finishes is their way to not have to pay a worker to buff a guitar.

    The other thing is wood moves. Factory guitars are built so quickly that sometimes the wood wasn’t done moving.

    I find that even factory guitars with good fretwork often play better after they are leveled again.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Ultimate Tone Slacker Mr. B's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    2,615

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    You are correct about uncured wood being a culprit. I have done a complete fret level on a couple of low end guitars only to have them returned for another (very much needed) fret level in the same year. I just finished leveling two high frets on a brand new Sterling Ray24 bass today. That isn't the low end model. The frets were so high that the entire E string was practically dead from the 14th fret down.

    I sponsor a student guitar club at our school, and do work on student guitars often. I work on guitars for free, and over the years, I have invested in many leveling beams and fret files to help improve the playability of my own guitars as well as those of students and friends. I never expected to be wearing out multiple diamond fret files on higher end Gibsons and Fenders like I have lately.

    Thing is, 99 percent of buyers out there don't have the tools or skill to correct bad fret work, and it is rendering guitars costing a thousand dollars or more pretty useless if you want to learn to play well. I just feel sorry for people buying new guitars now. Odds are against buyers getting one with no issues.

  8. #8
    Mojo's Minions Diego's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Santiago, Chile
    Age
    34
    Posts
    8,083

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    I've noticed most G&Ls have a very decent fretwork out of the box, normally able to get low, even action across the fretboard with little buzz.

    Same with Chapman and Reverend guitars.

    Any resources for us that don't know how to dress frets? I'd love to learn.
    Epiphone LP Standard PlusTop Pro
    Ibanez SZ320 / A2P neck + Custom bridge
    Ibanez RG270 / Screamin' Demon bridge

    Egnater Tweaker 15 Head / Laney Cub 8 / 2x12 - Celestion V30+K100
    Line 6 M13 and plenty of stompboxes I rarely use!

  9. #9
    tonewood instigator
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Richmond, Virginia
    Posts
    5,524

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Working on guitars is fun because it means that with my own skill I can have a guitar that is ten times better then the exact same guitar as the guy next to me, even if I keep it stock.
    Like the fool I am and I'll always be
    I've got a dream, I've got a dream
    They can change their minds but they can't change me
    I've got a dream, I've got a dream
    Oh, I know I could share it if you'd want me to
    If you're goin' my way, I'll go with you

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    78

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Quote Originally Posted by Chistopher View Post
    Working on guitars is fun because it means that with my own skill I can have a guitar that is ten times better then the exact same guitar as the guy next to me, even if I keep it stock.
    Agreed. I was looking at a used guitar the other day, and checked the relief and neck (for twist), but didn't even play it. The salesguy said, "Don't you want to check fretwork", and I explained that I didn't care; I was going to level, crown and polish regardless.

    Larry

  11. #11
    Mojo's Minions Ascension's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Birmingham Alabama
    Age
    61
    Posts
    4,978

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. B View Post
    I don't know how many guitars and basses I have seen over the last couple of years that had extremely high frets causing buzzing and dead spots somewhere on the fretboard. I'm not just talking about entry level guitars either. Brand new Gibson Les Pauls, SG Standards, US-made Fender strats and Teles, and also Squiers, Schecters, Ibanez, MusicMan/Sterling, and Epiphone. I've seen fewer on Jacksons and PRS's SE line than others, but I have still seen a couple. It seems I have rarely picked one up lately that did not have some problem with the frets. Are companies unable or unwilling to even try to sell a finished product in 2019?
    Every Carvin/ Kiesel guitar I have ever built were perfection in the fret work out of the box so---.
    Last edited by Ascension; 04-23-2019 at 12:02 PM.
    Guitars
    Kiesel DC 135, Carvin ST 300, DC 400, DC 127 KOA, X220C, PRS Custom 24, Fender 99 Mex modded Strat, Washburn USA MG 104, MG 122 proto , MG 102, MG 120, Taylor 115
    Amps PRS MT 15, Mesa Subway Rocket, DC-5, Carvin X50B Hot Rod Mod head, Zinky 25watt Blue Velvet combo.

  12. #12
    Ultimate Tone Slacker
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Location
    In a Studio with your Mom
    Posts
    2,794

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Thread title is a bit much ... but who doesnt negotiate a full setup and any fret corrections before a new purchase anyways. I mean if you are experienced to recognize the issues make the store luthier dress it up AFTER negotiating on price.

    And if you dont know, ask the store to double check -if its any store worthy of doing business with long term theyll recognize an issue for a young player.
    “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” Yvonne Chouinard

  13. #13
    Ultimate Tone Member Peter Crossley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Metung Australia
    Posts
    574

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    fret levelling is surprisingly easy, you just need a few essential tools.
    1/ flat diamond coated sharpening stone, people used to use the stone ones, but these will wear after a couple of uses, only use the extra fine edge
    2/ crowning file, again diamond coated, StewMac has some good ones, or go the traditional 3 corner file with the edges removed
    3/ a fat chisel shape Sharpie/Marking pen
    4/ a dremel with a buffing wheel and the fine white jewellers rouge..
    5/ some of those stainless metal fret protectors that StewMac sells.

    First make sure the neck has no twists or bows, adjust these out first.
    then run a line over each fret, the chisel shaped marking pens are great, only one stroke required
    now get your diamond sharpening stone (the longer these are the better) and proceed to run it up and down the neck in long strokes
    you will soon see where the low frets are, as they will stil be covered in the marking pen..
    also its not unusual for a particular fret to be high at one end and low at the other
    keep stroking the diamond stone until all the frets are showing metal.
    now.
    remark the frets again with the marking pen
    crown the frets using your preferred tools.
    you should be left with a thin black line right through the centre of the fret.
    now get your dremel and buff , and using the fret protector, apply rouge to the wheel, (dremel on full speed)
    make sure you really get a lot of the rouge on.
    start to buff.
    the frets will shine up like new, and also remove the dressing marks left by the stone and the crowning file..

    tip..
    you need at least 2 of the protectors, leave one as nature intended, but cut the sides off the other with a sharp pair of tinsnips to use on the upper regesiter frets..


    I'm sure there must be something on you tube or other media about this..
    I learned a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... before the interwebz..

  14. #14
    Mojo's Minions ItsaBass's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    U.S.A.
    Posts
    11,579

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Yup. The number one difference in quality between a guitar that feels expensive, and one that feels cheap, is in the frets and nuts. You can improve almost any cheap guitar (any many mid level and expensive ones) by having the frets leveled, crowned, end dressed and polished, and a new nut fabricated, right off the bat.

    I think a lot of these companies think that "PLEK" is synonymous with "Lazy Maker." PLEKs are great, because they do the time consuming grunt work. But it still takes a human to come in afterward and get things perfect...and the PLEK breeds manufacturing laziness/cheapness in that regard. It has happened at G&L since they got a PLEK, and it happened big time at Gibson when they got one. Fender's reissue and Custom Shop instruments have seemed to maintain great (or at least very acceptable) fret work IME, and the standard production ones are OK (not great). You can take a MIM Fender or a Squier and make it feel as good as or better than a vintage reissue, because the main difference in playability on the MIM and Squier guitars comes from the frets and the nut.

    Every Gibson I've ever owned from the Henry J. years has needed a major fret crowning, end rounding, and polish – and most, a new nut, and at the very least some nut refinements. That said, the 2019s I have played so far have been improved in this area, and I like the new lineup and its specs.

    IMO, it helps to be able to do it yourself, but for only about $125–$150 total for this fret work and a new nut, it's not an exorbitant fee to not have to spend the time bothering. I just consider it part of the cost of buying a cheap guitar (or a Henry J. era Gibson).
    Last edited by ItsaBass; 04-30-2019 at 12:53 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by LesStrat View Post
    Yogi Berra was correct.
    Quote Originally Posted by JOLLY View Post
    I do a few chord things, some crappy lead stuff, and then some rhythm stuff.

  15. #15
    Bacteriaolgoist GuitarDoc's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Calif
    Age
    72
    Posts
    12,705

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Crossley View Post
    fret levelling is surprisingly easy, you just need a few essential tools.
    1/ flat diamond coated sharpening stone, people used to use the stone ones, but these will wear after a couple of uses, only use the extra fine edge
    2/ crowning file, again diamond coated, StewMac has some good ones, or go the traditional 3 corner file with the edges removed
    3/ a fat chisel shape Sharpie/Marking pen
    4/ a dremel with a buffing wheel and the fine white jewellers rouge..
    5/ some of those stainless metal fret protectors that StewMac sells.

    First make sure the neck has no twists or bows, adjust these out first.
    then run a line over each fret, the chisel shaped marking pens are great, only one stroke required
    now get your diamond sharpening stone (the longer these are the better) and proceed to run it up and down the neck in long strokes
    you will soon see where the low frets are, as they will stil be covered in the marking pen..
    also its not unusual for a particular fret to be high at one end and low at the other
    keep stroking the diamond stone until all the frets are showing metal.
    now.
    remark the frets again with the marking pen
    crown the frets using your preferred tools.
    you should be left with a thin black line right through the centre of the fret.
    now get your dremel and buff , and using the fret protector, apply rouge to the wheel, (dremel on full speed)
    make sure you really get a lot of the rouge on.
    start to buff.
    the frets will shine up like new, and also remove the dressing marks left by the stone and the crowning file..

    tip..
    you need at least 2 of the protectors, leave one as nature intended, but cut the sides off the other with a sharp pair of tinsnips to use on the upper regesiter frets..


    I'm sure there must be something on you tube or other media about this..
    I learned a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... before the interwebz..
    Yep, that's the way.
    Originally Posted by IanBallard
    Rule of thumb... the more pot you have, the better your tone.

  16. #16
    Super Toneologist DavidRavenMoon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    1,173

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Quote Originally Posted by Chistopher View Post
    Working on guitars is fun because it means that with my own skill I can have a guitar that is ten times better then the exact same guitar as the guy next to me, even if I keep it stock.
    That’s how I started out doing it for other people. Plus a subpar refret job I had done back in the 70s that I had to fix myself.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  17. #17
    Administrator Mincer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Tampa Bay area, Florida, USA
    Posts
    21,273

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    I've always had others do this, and I appreciate the very cool instructions provided. I'd want to be around someone who does it a few times before I tried it myself. How long does it usually take?
    Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

    My Guitar, Gear, and Music Webpage

    Gear pics and more on my Instagram.

  18. #18
    Ultimate Tone Slacker Mr. B's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    2,615

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    Depends on what tools you have. Radiused sanding beams and diamond fret files speed things up considerably. If you are doing an entire neck and not just one high fret, it can take a couple of hours. The leveling is the fastest part. Its the crowning and polishing that takes so long.

  19. #19
    Glossless SlyFoxx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Age
    52
    Posts
    4,820

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....

    PRS core series. Wood dried to 6% or less. Neck takes about 30 days to complete. Result = neck no move. Actually give a crap about installing the frets correctly and you have a guitar with no problemos. Only other guitar I've ever played that was in the ball park in the fret board department was an ancient Carvin DC127 that I picked up local for 200 bucks. The secret is the wood. All the fretwork in the world means f-all if the neck moves.

  20. #20
    Toneologist JMP/HBE's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Posts
    657

    Default Re: If you can't level frets yourself, don't buy a new guitar....



    I just dropped off my Les Paul Custom for a re-fret. Can't wait to get it back.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •