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Perfect Fretboard


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I was looking at stainless steel frets at LMI's website and they had a blurb about stainless steel frets being hard to level and redress, so they are ideal for luthiers who construct immaculate fretboards.

I am starting a project, and would like some ideas/experiences of making setups that required little fret touch up. I would rather spend a lot of time setting up the neck and fretboard, than any time filing frets.

My initial idea is to jig up tension on the neck while radiusing the fretboard in order to create a fretboard that will be flat when strung up.

Another option could be to taper down the fretboard surface of the neck to some pre-observed specification so that the fretboard ends up level when strung up.

Not real sure where the truss rod fits in all this.

Thanks

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Yes you should have a close to perfect fretboard...for any frets...but it is not so hard to do...Just use proper craftsmanship,common sense,and PATIENCE...I have not had to level frets on any except for my first guitar neck...and man,did I screw that fretboard up...

SS frets are hard to recrown...so Yes,it is best to not have to level them...Mine play like butter...or something...

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My initial idea is to jig up tension on the neck while radiusing the fretboard in order to create a fretboard that will be flat when strung up.

Another option could be to taper down the fretboard surface of the neck to some pre-observed specification so that the fretboard ends up level when strung up.

Not real sure where the truss rod fits in all this.

Thanks

I might be wrong, but I thought the whole point was to NOT have a flat board. You need the relief (curvature) to allow the strings to vibrate without buzzing. The truss rod just allows you to control how much relief you have.

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I might be wrong, but I thought the whole point was to NOT have a flat board. You need the relief (curvature) to allow the strings to vibrate without buzzing. The truss rod just allows you to control how much relief you have.

generally with the average guitar neck it will be the string tension that pulls the neck into relief and the truss rod that stops that going too far.. most builders will still aim to build the board perfectly level rather than building relief into the neck although it is also not unusual for people to use the truss rod to create a slight back bow, then level perfectly flat before removing the tension on the rod to create relief. it depends on the neck materials you use... woods, truss rods and any other reinforcement you add

personally i go for the perfectly flat fretboard with frets evenly installed for the minimum of levelling (rarely none though :D) and i leave the relief for the truss rod to sort out

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personally i go for the perfectly flat fretboard with frets evenly installed for the minimum of levelling (rarely none though unsure.gif) and i leave the relief for the truss rod to sort out

Yeah..I would NEVER try to build a fretboard with a bow in it...but I don't believe in neck relief...not in a modern guitar with a two way truss rod.

Funny thing is,every time I play a japanese jackson or an Ibanez,they don't have neck relief either..and to me they play far better than a Gibson or Fender with all that forward bow.

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"Relief" is the slight bow you get in the middle of the neck to allow the strings to vibrate freely when you're fretting between the nut and about #9. If all the frets are seated well on a perfectly level board, it normally requires no work on the fret tops to achieve it, you just allow the strings to pull the neck into that position and then tweek the truss rod until you have it where you want it. On a brand new neck that has not yet settled in under string tension, you'll need to check this part of the setup a couple of times in the first two months.

Then there's "fall-away" on the fret tops that starts around #12 to #14 and gets progressively lower to the end of the neck. This is to prevent buzzing when you're fretting at and above #9, and the amount of fall-away depends very much on your playing style, mainly how heavy you are with your strumming hand. If you have perfectly level fret tops from #1 to #12, you should aim for a fall-away that finishes anywhere from 0.003 (very light touch) to 0.015 (heavy downstroker...that's me) at #24. It will also depend on your choice of string tension (little fall-away for high tension-long scale and/or heavy gauge; more fall-away for low-tension-short scale and/or light gauge).

Now...fall-away is normally milled into the fret tops (ideally with the neck jigged or with the strings on) and you can certainly achieve this with diamond fret tools. Pricey and requires effort and patience, but it's done all the time. The other option would be to try to mill this into the fretboard, provided you know how much you need. If you have a guitar that you really like the action of, you can try to take measurements from that (good straighedge and feeler gauges) and reproduce the fall-away on the slotted fretboard before you fret.

Lastly....to keep the neck as straight as possible during glue-up, it is preferable to:

*fret the board before you glue it to the neck, then flex it to allow the barbs to bite into the sides of the nut slot and thereby work out any bow from fretting

*rough out the back of the neck (neck contour) so that you relieve any accumulated stress, then plane down the surface for the fretboard to perfection

*THEN glue the board to the neck using epoxy (not wood glue) and using a clamping caul that is radiused to match your fretboard radius, and making sure you have even clamping pressure all along the neck.

Epoxy is preferred over wood glue because the latter always has some water in it, which will swell the fibers of the neck wood but not the fretboard wood (if it is ebony or rosewood), causing the neck to bow slightly during fretboard glue-up.

It is possible to do all this by eye and feel, but I prefer using a good straightedge and feeler gauges to I can measure exactly where I am in the whole process. Is it more work that just levelling the frets? Maybe....but the effort is distributed to different jobs that I rather enjoy, instead of accumulating on a single task (fret levelling) that I don't particularly care for.

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I might be wrong, but I thought the whole point was to NOT have a flat board. You need the relief (curvature) to allow the strings to vibrate without buzzing. The truss rod just allows you to control how much relief you have.

generally with the average guitar neck it will be the string tension that pulls the neck into relief and the truss rod that stops that going too far.. most builders will still aim to build the board perfectly level rather than building relief into the neck although it is also not unusual for people to use the truss rod to create a slight back bow, then level perfectly flat before removing the tension on the rod to create relief. it depends on the neck materials you use... woods, truss rods and any other reinforcement you add

personally i go for the perfectly flat fretboard with frets evenly installed for the minimum of levelling (rarely none though :D) and i leave the relief for the truss rod to sort out

I thought that was what I was saying :D

As I read the OP, he is going to put it under tension (same curvature as if it had strings on it, not back-bow), then level it while it is in that state. I can't see it being playable (fret buzz), unless the theory about why you need relief in a neck is wrong of course B)

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Thanks for all the responses.

That was an awesome no-nonsense explanation erikbojerik! I didn't know about the moisture difference between wood glue and epoxy. I haven't seen that order for fretting and gluing the fretboard before either.

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Then there's "fall-away" on the fret tops that starts around #12 to #14 and gets progressively lower to the end of the neck. This is to prevent buzzing when you're fretting at and above #9, and the amount of fall-away depends very much on your playing style, mainly how heavy you are with your strumming hand. If you have perfectly level fret tops from #1 to #12, you should aim for a fall-away that finishes anywhere from 0.003 (very light touch) to 0.015 (heavy downstroker...that's me) at #24. It will also depend on your choice of string tension (little fall-away for high tension-long scale and/or heavy gauge; more fall-away for low-tension-short scale and/or light gauge).

Now...fall-away is normally milled into the fret tops (ideally with the neck jigged or with the strings on) and you can certainly achieve this with diamond fret tools. Pricey and requires effort and patience, but it's done all the time. The other option would be to try to mill this into the fretboard, provided you know how much you need. If you have a guitar that you really like the action of, you can try to take measurements from that (good straighedge and feeler gauges) and reproduce the fall-away on the slotted fretboard before you fret.

All of my neck have a slight amount of fallaway past the 15th-17th fret to accomodate wide bends with low action without fretting out. Its milled right into the fretboard. The rest of the neck is dead flat and if the neck ins't too stiff, the string tension will add a bit of relief. if not, I typically induce it with a 2-way rod.

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Lastly....to keep the neck as straight as possible during glue-up, it is preferable to:

*fret the board before you glue it to the neck, then flex it to allow the barbs to bite into the sides of the nut slot and thereby work out any bow from fretting

*rough out the back of the neck (neck contour) so that you relieve any accumulated stress, then plane down the surface for the fretboard to perfection

*THEN glue the board to the neck using epoxy (not wood glue) and using a clamping caul that is radiused to match your fretboard radius, and making sure you have even clamping pressure all along the neck.

That is so not how I do it....I think you may be one of the few that does it this way...

I attach the board to the neck blank(with titebond original...because epoxy requires a slight gap to reach full strength,where wood glue does not)

I let it sit for a week,then I cut the taper,cut out the profile,final shape,final sand,add the side dots,drill tuner holes,basically complete the neck...THEN and only then do I fret....final results are immaculate every time.

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I attach the board to the neck blank(with titebond original...because epoxy requires a slight gap to reach full strength,where wood glue does not)

I doubt that the fretboard/neck bond actually requires all the strength that most bonding projects offer. I hope this won't come back to haunt me though.

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