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Fret Questions

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I've been working on a neck, which has been a tough experience so far. Everything went smoothly from the neck back shaping, to the fingerboard and nut gluing, fret cutting to the neck carving.

Now, I've hammered in all my frets, but some of them needed some serious leveling. Hammering isn't accurate at all, i'll give you that! :D

The slots were clean, for what it's worth.

Anyway, I have been using straightedge and radius sanding/leveling block to determine the overly high frets. After pinpointing them, I "sorta" successfully flatted them out using a straight file. Now, I'm stuck with frets that literally have no crown on them.

Can I get the round shape back? Do square frets cause tone problems? (I imagine)

Also, I'm not sure if I'll ever get all the frets exactly level. It's really tough getting them *exactly level". All I can do is take the sanding block and check all the fret tops "touch" the sanding block. That's the best I can do at this point.

Also, what causes fret buzzing, as far as fretting goes? Is it when a fret is higher than a previous one?

When I fret a note, the string should NOT touch (even barely) any of the following frets right? Or else that will cause buzzing?

It's hard to tell whether or not the neck will cause any buzzing problems, until i hook the bridge up, adjust saddle height etc...some of the frets at the end may very well be 0.01" higher than the ones coming before. If there's a little buzz coming from it, then I won't mind, but if the note is choked completely then that's a problem!

What do you think? What would cause a note (even open string) to not sustain at all?

Thanks for the help, and if you have any advice to give me, I'll appreciate it greatly! :D

Edited by hendrix2430
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Lots of info out there (and in here) about fret problems, so don't fret (sorry :D ).

Lots to read here:


and here:


You've mentioned the use of straight edge etc. thats very good. You need an overall flat surface to start on. Make sure you prebend the frets to a radius that is slightly smaller than your fretboard radius. Hammering them in while straight is asking for a world of trouble. Before levelling I coat the top of each fret with ink (black marker) to monitor my progress. Look at how the ink wears away (high spots) and where the ink stays (low spots). It must levelled evenly throughout the fret range.

And yes, you should "crown" (round the tops) of the frets after levelling. You can buy a crowning file with the matching fret width from a company like StewMac. Or you can give it a whirl with a triangular file (my preference). Once again I mark the top of each fret with ink to monitor my progress. By the time I'm done crowning I hope to see a very fine ink line down the center of each fret with the shoulders nicely rounded.

There are so many different reasons why a fret buzz can occur (check frets.com). You have to systematically rule out those causes. Some are easy fixes ...and some are not. For example: buzzing when string pressed down on first fret. You have to find out where the string is buzzing. If its buzzing on the next fret up then either the first fret is too low or the 2nd fret is too high. Filing down the 2nd fret could cause buzzing on the 3rd fret and so on. Could happen ALL THE WAY UP THE NECK. ouch! If buzzing is occurring farther up the neck then it may be just one isolated high fret causing the problem or it could be a simple need to adjust the truss rod or action.

There are lots of "recipes" out there depends on what tools and materials you have to work with. The main rule is don't look for a quick and easy way. Everything must be done systematically, follow the steps and you can't go wrong.

Edited by Southpa
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