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Fretting issue that is making me lose my career


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So it takes a lot for me to post this. If any potential customers see this, my career is over. But i need help.
Even back when i built my first few guitars from scratch, i didnt have this problem. I literally use an old rubber mallet to pound in my frets, didnt check with a straight edge, and they played fine. No fretbuzz.

But in the past year, around 17 of my guitars have had this unbearable buzzing.

Not normal buzz like one dead fret or anything. Literally every single fret buzzes the same. The same type of buzzing you get when you lower the action too far.

But even with absurdly high action, it still buzzes.

Ive used multiple straight edges, leveling files and crowning files. And nothing makes a difference.

If i cant figure this out, i cant keep building.

Some of them are still usable, but not ideal.

2 of them that ive made are literally unplayable. Not a single note except the last fret doesnt have buzz. No matter how much fall away i apply, the string still hits the fret before it.

It literally doesnt even seem possible. But i cant find my way around it and it is making me lose my mind.

Last fall i made 4 guitars in a row that were the exact opposite. I couldnt even get them to buzz if i lowered the action beyond what is considered low. And Ive build them all in an identical method.

Here is what im describing:

 

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Ouch!

You're obviously far more experienced than I'll ever be so take my pondering with some salt.

That sounds like a fret buzz indeed.

8 hours ago, killemall8 said:

Not a single note except the last fret doesnt have buzz

Have you tried lowering the last fret only? That's a PITA to check since there's no reference point for a fret rocker and even with a straight edge laid on the frets the height difference can bee too subtle to be seen as the polished metal reflects the light coming between the fingerboard and the frets.

If lowering the very last fret doesn't help, other potential culprits are the pickups but you've most likely set them low enough already.

If the leaving edge of the bridge saddles is off, it can cause buzz as well.

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Have you tried putting any relief in the neck, could it be too flat or back bowed? What about the bridge, are the saddles causing a vibration? That's the only other point that's totally consistent when you're playing every fret, and what about string gauge/scale/tuning? if they're low gauge strings tuned down, they will be at lower tension and potentially causing buzz. Obviously I am only speculating, but it might be worth swapping the bridge out with a different model and/or changing string gauges to eliminate a couple of things as well as truss rod adjustments. 

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9 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

Ouch!

You're obviously far more experienced than I'll ever be so take my pondering with some salt.

That sounds like a fret buzz indeed.

Have you tried lowering the last fret only? That's a PITA to check since there's no reference point for a fret rocker and even with a straight edge laid on the frets the height difference can bee too subtle to be seen as the polished metal reflects the light coming between the fingerboard and the frets.

If lowering the very last fret doesn't help, other potential culprits are the pickups but you've most likely set them low enough already.

If the leaving edge of the bridge saddles is off, it can cause buzz as well.

I actually have fall away milled into both the fretboard and the frets themselves. The last fret is a little lower than all of the other frets.

The buzz happens with no pickups in the guitar and with 2 different types of bridges.

4 hours ago, ADFinlayson said:

Have you tried putting any relief in the neck, could it be too flat or back bowed? What about the bridge, are the saddles causing a vibration? That's the only other point that's totally consistent when you're playing every fret, and what about string gauge/scale/tuning? if they're low gauge strings tuned down, they will be at lower tension and potentially causing buzz. Obviously I am only speculating, but it might be worth swapping the bridge out with a different model and/or changing string gauges to eliminate a couple of things as well as truss rod adjustments. 

Yes, ive tried with both a relatively flat neck and with extreme relief.

Not a vibration issue, as its happend on multiple guitars with different bridges.

All in standard tuning, standard 10-46. 10-52 helps a little bit since there is more tension, but still noticeable.

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Double Ouch!

You've pretty much checked for every culprit mentioned in the book.

Loose tuning pegs? Although that shouldn't affect fretted notes.

Bridge saddles leaning to each other rather than standing on the adjustment screws?

Bridge being partially loose? Not likely, but what if there's a screw that is rather lifting the bridge than attaching it? That could be possible if the bridge screw holes are tight.

Humidity and temperature? I believe you already know more about it than I'll ever learn.

Ball ends not sitting tight in the bottom of the ferrules (in a string through)?

Again, just trying to thing of any potential issues without actually knowing anything...

 

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43 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

Double Ouch!

You've pretty much checked for every culprit mentioned in the book.

Loose tuning pegs? Although that shouldn't affect fretted notes.

Bridge saddles leaning to each other rather than standing on the adjustment screws?

Bridge being partially loose? Not likely, but what if there's a screw that is rather lifting the bridge than attaching it? That could be possible if the bridge screw holes are tight.

Humidity and temperature? I believe you already know more about it than I'll ever learn.

Ball ends not sitting tight in the bottom of the ferrules (in a string through)?

Again, just trying to thing of any potential issues without actually knowing anything...

 

All of those things are solid. The real problem is no matter which fret i have pressed, the string partially hits the fret in front of it and makes it buzz.

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So it's always the next fret and you're sure that it's a fret... That would explain why the last fret rings cleanly. And you even have a fall away both on the fingerboard and the frets...

On an acoustic I'd suspect the common neck joint hump but not on an electric guitar.

One option that would explain the next fret until the last one issue might be that the neck break angle is too steep. That should be visible, though. One should see even without measuring if the string height on the first fret is equal or higher than that on the 12th or 16th fret before the fall away starts.

Also, if the neck/fretboard was heavily S-shaped that might cause a similar issue but it would be easy to check with a straightedge which you've done.

Have you tried eliminating all other potentially buzzing/rattling elements i.e. taken all the electronics out. Pickups, wiring, pots, switches, everything?

 

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3 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

So it's always the next fret and you're sure that it's a fret... That would explain why the last fret rings cleanly. And you even have a fall away both on the fingerboard and the frets...

On an acoustic I'd suspect the common neck joint hump but not on an electric guitar.

One option that would explain the next fret until the last one issue might be that the neck break angle is too steep. That should be visible, though. One should see even without measuring if the string height on the first fret is equal or higher than that on the 12th or 16th fret before the fall away starts.

Also, if the neck/fretboard was heavily S-shaped that might cause a similar issue but it would be easy to check with a straightedge which you've done.

Have you tried eliminating all other potentially buzzing/rattling elements i.e. taken all the electronics out. Pickups, wiring, pots, switches, everything?

 

Again, it does it with no other hardware other than the bridge and tuners on. And its happened identically with over 10 guitars.

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You asked for help regarding this issue a while back:

Were any of the ideas discussed in that thread helpful at the time? Note that some of the discussion in that thread will appear a bit disjointed as a number of posts have been deleted.

I would say that the video you've posted, above, makes it a bit difficult to tell exactly what the buzz is. Could just be my interpretation, but you do seem to be playing with a strong picking hand, like you are really digging into the strings. If I play any of my guitars as strongly as it appears you are none of them are buzz free. It's also a bit tricky to tell how bad the buzz is based on only plucking staccato notes. A few sustained single picks may reveal more.

Is it possible that you're over-leveling the frets at the nut-end of the neck? If you were to level the frets such that the crowns gradually got higher towards the bridge you'd probably never pick it up using the 'traditional' methods - a fret rocker wouldn't show you anything as no fret would be higher than the one adjacent to it, a straightedge laid on the fret tops wouldn't show anything unusual as all you're doing is proving the fret crowns are the same height relative to themselves, leveling the frets wouldn't change anything as they'd be level with respect to themselves but not to the fretboard surface. But if each fret crown was progressively higher than the previous one you might see something like buzzing at all positions except the 24th, even with reasonable amounts of neck relief and action. The only clue you might see is that the action above the fret crowns may increase from the nut to about the middle of the neck as you'd normally expect, but then stay constant for the remainder of the length of the neck instead of gradually creeping higher.

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2 hours ago, curtisa said:

You asked for help regarding this issue a while back:

Were any of the ideas discussed in that thread helpful at the time? Note that some of the discussion in that thread will appear a bit disjointed as a number of posts have been deleted.

I would say that the video you've posted, above, makes it a bit difficult to tell exactly what the buzz is. Could just be my interpretation, but you do seem to be playing with a strong picking hand, like you are really digging into the strings. If I play any of my guitars as strongly as it appears you are none of them are buzz free. It's also a bit tricky to tell how bad the buzz is based on only plucking staccato notes. A few sustained single picks may reveal more.

Is it possible that you're over-leveling the frets at the nut-end of the neck? If you were to level the frets such that the crowns gradually got higher towards the bridge you'd probably never pick it up using the 'traditional' methods - a fret rocker wouldn't show you anything as no fret would be higher than the one adjacent to it, a straightedge laid on the fret tops wouldn't show anything unusual as all you're doing is proving the fret crowns are the same height relative to themselves, leveling the frets wouldn't change anything as they'd be level with respect to themselves but not to the fretboard surface. But if each fret crown was progressively higher than the previous one you might see something like buzzing at all positions except the 24th, even with reasonable amounts of neck relief and action. The only clue you might see is that the action above the fret crowns may increase from the nut to about the middle of the neck as you'd normally expect, but then stay constant for the remainder of the length of the neck instead of gradually creeping higher.

Unfortunately not. I never figured that guitar out. Same issue though, on a bunch since then.

I purposely level the higher frets more than the lower frets. I always start at the higher frets so i know for sure they have less taken off . I usually dont even level the first fret.

Its just mind blowing. I dont understand how people can rough in a radius with a 4" block, smack in frets with a hammer, level and not crown, and it doesnt buzz. But i spend hours on my fretwork and they look immaculate, and they buzz on every fret .

In reference to my picking, yes i am picking hard in the video. but even lightly picking the notes die out fast. I even compared it to a facotry guitar with one of my friends and his doesnt buzz at all at that same action height.

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I reckon you need to go back to levelling on one of them and get all frets perfectly level with a beam, put strings back on prior to crowning and see what the buzz situation is like. I did actually have a similar issue twice last week. I was doing a refret on my mates les paul and my yellow DC that I just finished. Got them all level on both guitars, crowned, polished up nicely with the dremel and I had a load of buzz on both guitars, the gibbo had a totally dead 14th fret too 👎  so I levelled again, put strings back on and had no buzz, then I did the crown and polish all over again and it's great. My mistake was relying entirely on the disappearance of the Sharpie line and not checking they were level with a fret rocker. 

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5 hours ago, ADFinlayson said:

I reckon you need to go back to levelling on one of them and get all frets perfectly level with a beam, put strings back on prior to crowning and see what the buzz situation is like. I did actually have a similar issue twice last week. I was doing a refret on my mates les paul and my yellow DC that I just finished. Got them all level on both guitars, crowned, polished up nicely with the dremel and I had a load of buzz on both guitars, the gibbo had a totally dead 14th fret too 👎  so I levelled again, put strings back on and had no buzz, then I did the crown and polish all over again and it's great. My mistake was relying entirely on the disappearance of the Sharpie line and not checking they were level with a fret rocker. 

The guitar that i did the demo with in the video has had them leveled twice, with a beam.

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1 hour ago, curtisa said:

Any chance you're letting the neck flex while you're leveling and giving you a 'false level' on the crowns?

Not that i can tell. 5 and 7 piece necks are super stiff anyway. I also used a precision straight edge to check after and a feeler gauge and there are no gaps

 

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Fret crowns too flat?

Could you be building necks too stiff, making them difficult to control how and where the relief occurs along their length?

What about taking some measurements of a known good guitar and comparing it against one of your problem ones:

  • Use feeler gauges to measure the gap between the underside of the string and the fret in front of a known buzzy fret (eg, if the 3rd position is buzzy when fretted, measure the clearance between the string and 4th fret with the 3rd fretted)
  • Compare relief and action given the same setup at all frets. Tabulate the results and compare the two.
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3 hours ago, killemall8 said:

5 and 7 piece necks are super stiff anyway.

Tru dat. Last night I was thinking about an Ibanez Talon acoustic whose neck was way too flexible for my liking. Remembering that I wondered if you suffered from the same but obviously not.

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12 hours ago, curtisa said:

Fret crowns too flat?

Could you be building necks too stiff, making them difficult to control how and where the relief occurs along their length?

What about taking some measurements of a known good guitar and comparing it against one of your problem ones:

  • Use feeler gauges to measure the gap between the underside of the string and the fret in front of a known buzzy fret (eg, if the 3rd position is buzzy when fretted, measure the clearance between the string and 4th fret with the 3rd fretted)
  • Compare relief and action given the same setup at all frets. Tabulate the results and compare the two.

I had been using a crowning file that made them a little more overall round than pyramid shaped. I bought 2 different style of crowning files to try after that. Finished crown is less than .5mm

All frets are equally buzzy, so the feeler gauge doesnt help much. No fret buzzes more than others. Its not like some are dead frets and others arent.

but i have wondered, what is the ideal clearance between a fretted fret and the one in front of it?

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3 hours ago, killemall8 said:

All frets are equally buzzy, so the feeler gauge doesnt help much. No fret buzzes more than others. Its not like some are dead frets and others arent.

But what I am suggesting is that you compare the measurements of two necks, one good and one bad, and see if there are any clues in the measured shape along the length of the bad one. If they are different, then explore how are they different.

 

3 hours ago, killemall8 said:

but i have wondered, what is the ideal clearance between a fretted fret and the one in front of it?

No idea. String clearance at fretted position +1 isn't something you see discussed too often, but that's another thing you can check by comparing.

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This is just throwing an idea out there. You’re more experienced than I am. But could the frets themselves be rattling in their slots?  I know that you know how to seat your frets, but have you tried using a little CA applied to where you think might be a questionable fret just to rule this out?  
 

My thought process here is that you are using a product that you’ve used many times before and your work flow is consistent and correct, but the product you are using has a slight change in the manufacturing where the nibs on the tang are slightly undersized than you are used to so when you install the fret the anomaly doesn’t show up until the neck is under tension. The frets aren’t loose enough to detect by tactile investigation except when playing.  
 

just throwing it out there.  Outside the norm issues are usually those that happen when I’m trying to be a perfectionist on stuff I work on. Whether it be guitars to working on cars.  So outside the box  ideas are usually where I start thinking first.  Which results in my taking longer on projects at times. I’ll automatically think worst case scenario and work from there. 

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On 11/30/2020 at 7:18 AM, ScottR said:

I went to sleep last night thinking on this. It occurred to me that a neck with a little too much angle would behave just like what you describe. Any wear in your templates that might allow the angle to change so gradually that it wouldn't be noticed until now?

SR

The interesting thing is that these have no neck angle. All of them are flat mounted because the hipshot bridges are low.

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11 minutes ago, killemall8 said:

The interesting thing is that these have no neck angle. All of them are flat mounted because the hipshot bridges are low.

I  wondered about that. I was thinking in terms of unintentional angle. A fretboard that ended up thicker at the high end or something similar. I sometimes get unintentional results, and had to backtrack to see what happened. Some unexpected angle where there was none planned could give you the issues you are describing.

If that's not it....got got nuthin'

SR

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10 hours ago, ScottR said:

I  wondered about that. I was thinking in terms of unintentional angle. A fretboard that ended up thicker at the high end or something similar. I sometimes get unintentional results, and had to backtrack to see what happened. Some unexpected angle where there was none planned could give you the issues you are describing.

If that's not it....got got nuthin'

SR

In my head, that is what i picture it being. I go to great lengths to avoid that. Maybe its a form of that, where i cant see it or measure it.

 

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10 hours ago, killemall8 said:

In my head, that is what i picture it being. I go to great lengths to avoid that. Maybe its a form of that, where i cant see it or measure it.

 

I presume you've put a straight edge across the frets and confirmed the string path is not parallel or less than parallel, but slightly rising above the fret plane?

SR

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