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leveling frets...neck position?

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When preparing to level frets do you adjust the neck for straightness while it is laying on the bench or while holding the instrument? The reason I ask is because a neck that is straight in the playing position is NOT when you put it on a bench. So I assume we re-adjust on the bench prior to leveling??

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i always did mine in a jig that kept a decent amount of pressure on the neck with the truss rod completely loose so it was as flat as possible.

thats how i was taught and people love my fretjobs, i just hate doing them i have no paitence.

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Dan Erlewine uses a neck jig that tilts into playing position. You can read all about it in various Stew-Mac catalogs, videos, and other marketing materials. I like the concept of the neck jig and I understand it. But I use intuition and pre-analysis while the guitar is still strung up to do most of what the neck jig does. So while I use the same philosophy and I believe in it, I never needed the jig. I'll also make some minor adjustments based on the playing style and radius of the board. Like Satriani's tech puts a slight compound radius into the upper 10 frets or so, and I'll do that a lot. Most of the time I'll put it in as a trapezoid starting around the 12th fret between the B and G strings, tapering out to all 6 strings at the last fret. Little things like that make the neck jig less necessary.

If you don't want the expense of the neck jig you can analyze and philosophise about the straightness of the neck in the playing position, not laying flat. Then what you want to do is get the neck to be as close to what it looked like when you were holding it up with strings on it. So that usually means loosening the truss rod a bit and watching for the hot spots where the rod was doing a lot of its work, vs. the areas that weren't really affected by the truss rod. You can use straight edges to read the neck in the playing position or you can sight it. Then you can mark down the high and low spots if there are any under string tension.

The neck jig is good for beginners, too because we all have the tendency to push down hard when we level, and that will actually flex the neck as you're going back and forth. So you won't get a true level anyway, since you're bending the neck with your sanding hand depending on where the neck is supported. The neck jig applies even support all throughout the neck so you don't level the "flex" into the frets.

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Thanks guys! It looks like I am on the right track. One thing I have noticed with the first 3 levels and dressings I've done is more buzz than usual towards the first 5 frets. I put a little relief into the neck to help but it still seems to buzz a bit. Any thoughts? Here is my technioque in brief:

1. completely straghten neck on table. Neck is not supported, body is clamped to table, so neck is "floating"

2. tape off fingerboard

3. magik marker all fret tops

4. run leveling bar with 220 stikit over entire neck, not much pressure.

5. analyze high and low spots.

6. continue leveling until all fret tops shine.

7. gradually lower grit on sanding bar.

8. crown tops

9. final sand and polish

10. remove tape, restring, adjust neck with some relief at 7th fret (between .005" and .015")

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