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Some Frettying Questions


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I'm currently contemplating build another guitar, because I'd like something a bit lighter, smaller (an iceman has a big honkin' body), different, and something a bit more playable- which is where this thread comes into play.

95% of my problems with the iceman arise from the fretboard and nut. I bought to wood and radiused it myself. I cut the slots and used CA put the frets in. Sounds dandy until you realize that I didn't do it too terribly well. Being a poor high school student, I decided to make my own radius block, use a cheap saw for the fret slots, which is oversize, and the list goes on and on.

Now that I've started to get a bit better at guitar (did I mention that I'm teaching myself/getting tips from friends who take lessons with Neil Zaza) I've tried to set the guitar up better. This made me realize how bad the fret job was. When the action was uber high, I had no problems with fret buzz. I've lowered it to something more normal, and I got a bit of fret buzz. I probably have 1/16" between a few frets- nowhere near what it needs to be to have this guitar play good. I've leveled them a bit, but I really don't have the equipment, or the money for the equipment, to crown them, and even when most of them are level, there are still a few that are way too low. Also, as I've gotten better, my pitch abilites are getting a lot better. I can now tune it really well with just an a. No more tuner for me! The problem is now I've noticed the intonation is off- not just like adjusting the saddle kind of problem, but like some frets are sharp and some are flat. I'd have no problem pulling this board off and using a preslotted and radiused board... if it wasn't for the fact I used titebond III to attach it (another noob mistake). I'd also like to have it a little wider towards the high end- its just a hair too narrow at the high e.

So that leads my to my questions:

1) Any way to get this board off? I've seen the tutorial, but I'm not sure how well it'd work with titebond III. (Remind me to buy hide glue before I start the next guitar) I'd like to be able to get the neck thinner (another noob mistake) and put a new board on, but I can't for the life of me remember how deep the slot I cut is, and I don't wanna learn the hard way.

2) If I buy a preslotted board and a $5 brass caul to press the frets in with no adhesive, how much leveling/crowning will I be left with, and how would I be able to go about this without having to spend a lot of money on files and the what not? I have a dremel, so I can use that, but I'm not sure how good it'd be for this purpose.

3) The nut- once again, don't wanna spend a lot of money on tools here. I'd like to be able to get it low enough, but not too low. What is the best way of adjusting this?

4) Binding- I love the look and feel of a bound neck. The problem is that when I put the frets in I would have an occasional spot where the binding would break. I trimmed the tang of the fret down (probably a bit too much) so how can I avoid this? Any tutorials for this?

5) Trimming the frets- once I have the frets in, I cut them with a dremel last time. I think this wasn't the best because it probably pulled them a little and weakened the CA with the heat. I have tools to cut them close, but what is a good (inexpensive) file I can use to get them flush, and then to cut the bevel on the side?

6) Fret markers- if I get a pre radiused board, and I install fretmarkers, how should I go about leveling them without messing up the radius? Do I really need to have a radius block for that, or can I get away with a block of wood with sandpaper on it?

Anything else a beginner should know about fretting and the related tasks? I'd like to know, so I can do this right. I can't think of anything else to ask, but I'm sure there is a lot more I should know.

edit- what tool would be best for thinning the neck? I have a cheapo block plane and jack plane, but they don't work too well- they need to be sharpened. Would that be better than sandpaper, or a belt sander?

Edited by rubber314chicken
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I'm currently contemplating build another guitar, because I'd like something a bit lighter, smaller (an iceman has a big honkin' body), different, and something a bit more playable- which is where this thread comes into play.

95% of my problems with the iceman arise from the fretboard and nut. I bought to wood and radiused it myself. I cut the slots and used CA put the frets in. Sounds dandy until you realize that I didn't do it too terribly well. Being a poor high school student, I decided to make my own radius block, use a cheap saw for the fret slots, which is oversize, and the list goes on and on.

Now that I've started to get a bit better at guitar (did I mention that I'm teaching myself/getting tips from friends who take lessons with Neil Zaza) I've tried to set the guitar up better. This made me realize how bad the fret job was. When the action was uber high, I had no problems with fret buzz. I've lowered it to something more normal, and I got a bit of fret buzz. I probably have 1/16" between a few frets- nowhere near what it needs to be to have this guitar play good. I've leveled them a bit, but I really don't have the equipment, or the money for the equipment, to crown them, and even when most of them are level, there are still a few that are way too low. Also, as I've gotten better, my pitch abilites are getting a lot better. I can now tune it really well with just an a. No more tuner for me! The problem is now I've noticed the intonation is off- not just like adjusting the saddle kind of problem, but like some frets are sharp and some are flat. I'd have no problem pulling this board off and using a preslotted and radiused board... if it wasn't for the fact I used titebond III to attach it (another noob mistake). I'd also like to have it a little wider towards the high end- its just a hair too narrow at the high e.

So that leads my to my questions:

1) Any way to get this board off? I've seen the tutorial, but I'm not sure how well it'd work with titebond III. (Remind me to buy hide glue before I start the next guitar) I'd like to be able to get the neck thinner (another noob mistake) and put a new board on, but I can't for the life of me remember how deep the slot I cut is, and I don't wanna learn the hard way.

2) If I buy a preslotted board and a $5 brass caul to press the frets in with no adhesive, how much leveling/crowning will I be left with, and how would I be able to go about this without having to spend a lot of money on files and the what not? I have a dremel, so I can use that, but I'm not sure how good it'd be for this purpose.

3) The nut- once again, don't wanna spend a lot of money on tools here. I'd like to be able to get it low enough, but not too low. What is the best way of adjusting this?

4) Binding- I love the look and feel of a bound neck. The problem is that when I put the frets in I would have an occasional spot where the binding would break. I trimmed the tang of the fret down (probably a bit too much) so how can I avoid this? Any tutorials for this?

5) Trimming the frets- once I have the frets in, I cut them with a dremel last time. I think this wasn't the best because it probably pulled them a little and weakened the CA with the heat. I have tools to cut them close, but what is a good (inexpensive) file I can use to get them flush, and then to cut the bevel on the side?

6) Fret markers- if I get a pre radiused board, and I install fretmarkers, how should I go about leveling them without messing up the radius? Do I really need to have a radius block for that, or can I get away with a block of wood with sandpaper on it?

Anything else a beginner should know about fretting and the related tasks? I'd like to know, so I can do this right. I can't think of anything else to ask, but I'm sure there is a lot more I should know.

edit- what tool would be best for thinning the neck? I have a cheapo block plane and jack plane, but they don't work too well- they need to be sharpened. Would that be better than sandpaper, or a belt sander?

To answer a few questions to level them get some double sided tape and a really flat piece of wood and tape some sandpaper on there. For crowning get a $12 stewmac file and make your own handle (not hard if you have access to a router and an 1/8" bit there are other ways though) there's really no other good way to do it. I use end snips to cut off fretwire it lifts them up a bit so you have to tap them down a little. In the tools thread I have a post on how to make a $4.45 fret press that could be useful for you. You should use a sanding caul after the makers I tried the other way and messed up my fingerboard. If you do a good job fretting barely any of the tops of the frets will be leveled off. I use a random orbital sander for shaping necks a rasp is helpful too if you don't have access to the sander. Also it might be easier not to use CA to put the frets in I only use it if a fret keeps popping up. Steaming the neck off should do the trick pretty good but your glues waterproof so maybe not. If you have access to a planer you could carefully bandsaw the fingerboard off close to the neck leaving just a little bit after removing frets and than digging the truss rod out and attaching a piece of wood to the bottom and run it through the planer assuming it's bolt on.

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To answer a few questions to level them get some double sided tape and a really flat piece of wood and tape some sandpaper on there. For crowning get a $12 stewmac file and make your own handle (not hard if you have access to a router and an 1/8" bit there are other ways though) there's really no other good way to do it. I use end snips to cut off fretwire it lifts them up a bit so you have to tap them down a little. In the tools thread I have a post on how to make a $4.45 fret press that could be useful for you. You should use a sanding caul after the makers I tried the other way and messed up my fingerboard. If you do a good job fretting barely any of the tops of the frets will be leveled off. I use a random orbital sander for shaping necks a rasp is helpful too if you don't have access to the sander. Also it might be easier not to use CA to put the frets in I only use it if a fret keeps popping up. Steaming the neck off should do the trick pretty good but your glues waterproof so maybe not. If you have access to a planer you could carefully bandsaw the fingerboard off close to the neck leaving just a little bit after removing frets and than digging the truss rod out and attaching a piece of wood to the bottom and run it through the planer assuming it's bolt on.

okay, so there are no problems with cutting the fret wire like that then that would be awesome. I saw your drill press jig, and thats what I mentioned with the $5 caul.

its a neck through, so band sawing it isn't an option. I would try the steaming, but the neck is two strips of maple glued together legnth wise. Not using CA would be a lot easier. I'll make sure to just by preslotted fretboard then.

and the sanding cauls aren't that expensive... so I guess I'll have to get one then.

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1. i would try to remove the FB as the tutorial says, but only if you really run out of options. and to thin the neck use sandpaper. go slow, since you don´t know how much material to remove. if you want to remove more wood, then use a rasp (make notes on your next builds so you know how deep the truss rod channel is).

2. after hammering frets on more than 10 guitars, I never used any kind of glue to set them in place, make sure the slots are deep enough and that there is nothing in it (no chips of wood, dried glue, nothing!) I do all my leveling with sandpaper and a ceramic tile (spelling?) glued to a plywood block. then use my fingers and sandpaper to remove the sharp edges. works well enough for me.

3. on this particular task I recommend that you buy the files from stewmac or any other supplier. your work will be much cleaner and the results will be nicer. to check how high the slots are, I fret the string on the 3rd fret, and check the gap between the top of the first fret and the string. there should be a minimal space there. you can tap the string at this spot ( right above the first fret) and hear the sound produced, it there is no sound, then you´ve gone to far.

4. I don´t understand why the binding breaks... it shouldn´t break if you trimmed the tang. make sure the tang is removed completely, and that there´s nothing left, grab the fret with some pliers, turn them upside down, and use a file to make sure it´s flat and "tang-less".

5. any fine metal file would work. use some tape to protect the wood around it.

6. you can use just a block of wood and sandpaper, go slow and sand only where it needs to be sanded.

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