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Fret Rocking Gauges - Do They Work?


DaveC
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Guess I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, so excuse the question. I blame it on the 60's, and some of the 70's too. I've used small straight edges before to do the same thing, but never trusted that I understood the difference between finding a high fret with the rocking vs. a low fret? And so this question. Say you are bridging the first three frets with the tool and there is no rocking. Unless you check the middle fret with a feeler gauge (which I have never see shown on the videos), how do you know that the middle fret isn't LOWER than the two end frets? If the two end frets are level, no rocking would occur.

Then you move up one fret. Now the "low" fret is on one end. If the other two frets are level wouldn't the tool still rock some since one end fret is lower than the other two? And if you start leveling based on measuring three frets at a time, seems to me you will never get all frets equally level?

Seems to me that unless you straighten the neck, color the tops of all frets, and then take a 18" straight edge across the entire fret board and look at the marks left by the straightedge, you really won't know which frets are really the high ones and which are really the low ones?

Since "real" luthiers (I am not) use these tools they must work...but I just don't get how you can be certain you have a high middle fret and not a low end fret? What am I missing?

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Guess I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, so excuse the question. I blame it on the 60's, and some of the 70's too. I've used small straight edges before to do the same thing, but never trusted that I understood the difference between finding a high fret with the rocking vs. a low fret? And so this question. Say you are bridging the first three frets with the tool and there is no rocking. Unless you check the middle fret with a feeler gauge (which I have never see shown on the videos), how do you know that the middle fret isn't LOWER than the two end frets? If the two end frets are level, no rocking would occur.

Then you move up one fret. Now the "low" fret is on one end. If the other two frets are level wouldn't the tool still rock some since one end fret is lower than the other two? And if you start leveling based on measuring three frets at a time, seems to me you will never get all frets equally level?

Seems to me that unless you straighten the neck, color the tops of all frets, and then take a 18" straight edge across the entire fret board and look at the marks left by the straightedge, you really won't know which frets are really the high ones and which are really the low ones?

Since "real" luthiers (I am not) use these tools they must work...but I just don't get how you can be certain you have a high middle fret and not a low end fret? What am I missing?

Well, just to confuse the issue, if you colour all the fret tops, and there is only one high fret, when you put a straight-edge/file on the neck, you will find it marks 2 frets - the high one, and whichever one is nearest one end (or the other) of the edge/file (depending on which way you "rock" the straight edge and how long the straight-edge/file is). Also, with 2 high frets, if they are close together, you may still only find one of them, because the angle of the edge/file makes it climb over, and miss the second high fret that is hiding just next to the other high one..

I read one description of fret levelling, that puts it differently. They said to mark the frets, then file them down until the marks disappear off all of them. The lowest frets will retain the marks longest. When all marks are gone, they are level.

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Well, just to confuse the issue, if you colour all the fret tops, and there is only one high fret, when you put a straight-edge/file on the neck, you will find it marks 2 frets - the high one, and whichever one is nearest one end (or the other) of the edge/file (depending on which way you "rock" the straight edge and how long the straight-edge/file is). Also, with 2 high frets, if they are close together, you may still only find one of them, because the angle of the edge/file makes it climb over, and miss the second high fret that is hiding just next to the other high one..

When I read that back, it sounded confusing, so I'll try some (poor) ascii art showing exaggerated high frets. Picture the straight edge contacting frets at the two x's below and extending on. The 2 high frets are shown with h below them. The straight edge will miss the leftmost one in the diagram.

                    x
| | x
_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_
h h[/codebox]

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Well, just to confuse the issue, if you colour all the fret tops, and there is only one high fret, when you put a straight-edge/file on the neck, you will find it marks 2 frets - the high one, and whichever one is nearest one end (or the other) of the edge/file (depending on which way you "rock" the straight edge and how long the straight-edge/file is). Also, with 2 high frets, if they are close together, you may still only find one of them, because the angle of the edge/file makes it climb over, and miss the second high fret that is hiding just next to the other high one..

When I read that back, it sounded confusing, so I'll try some (poor) ascii art showing exaggerated high frets. Picture the straight edge contacting frets at the two x's below and extending on. The 2 high frets are shown with h below them. The straight edge will miss the leftmost one in the diagram.

                    x
| | x
_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_
h h[/codebox]

Thanks Bluesy. I get it. So I think you are agreeing with me that those Fret Rocker gauges might be OK as a guide if you know what fret to level, otherwise not the best approach. As you mentioned, leveling all frets makes sense, but then you are going to have some frets that are much wider in crown (the ones that have the most crown removed) as oppsoed to those that just get lightly taken down (the low frets). Even with recrowning, the radius would have to be different? Man..maybe I am over analyzing this?

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Thanks Bluesy. I get it. So I think you are agreeing with me that those Fret Rocker gauges might be OK as a guide if you know what fret to level, otherwise not the best approach. As you mentioned, leveling all frets makes sense, but then you are going to have some frets that are much wider in crown (the ones that have the most crown removed) as oppsoed to those that just get lightly taken down (the low frets). Even with recrowning, the radius would have to be different? Man..maybe I am over analyzing this?

I am sure there's plenty of people who use rocker gauges, and may disagree with me, but I don't bother - for the reasons given. If someone hands me a guitar, I spend just a few minutes going over the general setup, and fretting up and down each string. It is usually soon obvious where the problems lie. This is why, on the necks I have made myself so far, I put on a set of strings and try them out before I think of touching them up with a fret levelling file.

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how do you know that the middle fret isn't LOWER than the two end frets? If the two end frets are level, no rocking would occur.

Check the next 3 frets ie. no. 2, 3 and 4. If no 2 was lower than no. 3 when checking frets 1, 2 and 3 then the block should rock on fret no. 3 when checking 2, 3 and 4.

I only use rocker gauges for spot checks and that is rarely. I've gotten the whole fret levelling, crowning and polishing down and don't like to waste time and effort, so yes you could be over-analysing. Stop looking at the individual trees and look at the whole picture (forest thru the trees analogy, right? :D )

When someone brings me a guitar and says, its buzzing here and here and here and sounds dead over here, I don't mess around and try to fix those individual areas. I go right for the throat and do the entire fb. Knocking only one fret down could simply make the problem recur at the next fret, fix that one and then the same problem with the NEXT fret and so on. Before you know it you've done the whole friggin' neck anyway!

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When someone brings me a guitar and says, its buzzing here and hee and here and sounds dead over here, I don't mess around and try to fix those individual areas. I go right for the throat and do the entire fb. Knocking only one fret down could simply make the problem recur at the next fret, fix that one and then the same problem with the NEXT fret and so on. Before you know it you've done the whole friggin' neck anyway!

Bingo. That's what I was thinking. Glad to know I'm not way off base. It's what I've done to a couple of guitars I've bought that needed fretwork. I'm not even sure how you'd accurately do "spot" fret levelling unless you were working on all frets above a certain fret.

What the fret rocker has been good for me in the past was identifying that a fret was not seated properly - perhaps the tang lifted, or I didn't press it in completely. In which case you can replace it or fully seat it before levelling.

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