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fret leveling tools...your pref?


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Hi all. Since this is my first post, let me introduce myself. My name is Merritt Gant and I live in south Jersey. I have been fascinated with the guitar since the age of 9 and started playing when I was 12. I have done some professional work, my timeline is here: http://www.bloodaudio.com/identify.php

Moving on, I am planning on doing work on my guitars and others that I usually hand out to a local shop. My first project will be leveling and dressing frets. Setting truss rod, etc....

I have a very nice bench with hold down clamps and a set of straight edges, along with notched straight edges and a set of neck radius gauges.

I was planning on buying one of those fret leveling tubes from stewmac, probably 16" that you stick sand paper to. What do you folks use for leveling? A big flat file? Or some fashion of a steel plate that you adhere paper to? Also, do you find radius sanding blocks to be a must have for doing good work?

Thank you in advance for any input!


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I've tried a few different tools. Started using a long, fine bastard file but its only about 1" wide so you have to be careful at maintaining your fretboard radius. Stewmac carries sanding blocks with a variety of fret radiuses (radii). They are handy if you are worried about compromising curves. But I found that the sandpaper clogs easily. I finally settled on a 6" long stone with coarse on one side and fine on the other. Its about 2" wide so there is less lateral movement required.

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For YEARS, I've used a Ken Donnel fret plane I bought from stewmac in 1987. It's about 13" long, and about 3 inches wide (I'm not going into the shop right now to measure). With glass bottom that's very flat, and you can clip sandpaper on it, but i often use adhesive backed sandpaper on it, which makes it work even more precise . I also made a pile of radius sanding blocks with a special jig I made years ago. I made sure they were very flat lengthwise. But, I don't like them so much anymore, since I prefer to level the board following the path of the strings, to get a "compound" radius. The radius blocks are no good for this method. I was planning on buying one of those bars from stew-mac, but then I got the idea to use my precision straight edge as a router guide, and I made my own 18" leveling block out of a heavy piece of oak. I'ts basically like a precision machined wood block. I love how heavy it is. With the weather changes, I have to keep checking it against my straight-edge, and when I see it's gone off from being dead flat, it isn't getting used until I re-machine it again. The Donnel plane does absolutely fine, though. Doesn't matter all that much which tools you prefer, it's the final end product that counts. I play around with different methods, tools and ideas that pop into my head, but the end result must always be the same.


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