fret levelling with strings on (Full Version)

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johnnefastis -> fret levelling with strings on (Mar. 23 2023 21:27:04)

Hi there, I am not a luthier but interested in getting a nice comfortable set up on my guitars.

A local luthier who deals mainly with steel string acoustics did a great job of levelling a single high fret with this fancy stewmac fret kisser. (obviously he took strings off and crowned an pollished after filing it).

He was suggesting using this other tool to do a more complex levelling job on another guitar.

Just wondering if you guys use this stuff? I mean I cant imagine the old greats did. Do flamenco necks even move enough to make it worthwhile.


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estebanana -> RE: fret levelling with strings on (Mar. 24 2023 1:46:56)

Most of us have a few of those fret rocker things. Any accurately cut piece of steel can be used. Mine are pieces cut off of a stainless steel round stock.

Stew Mac sells their own versions of tools we make ourselves, sometimes better than shop made others not as good. Guitar makers are tool makers.

I’ve always taken the strings off, but if you have a fret end that’s lifting maybe you can touch it up with the strings on. But usually fret ends that pop up can be pressed back down and glued with a drop of CA

The last fret job I did scarcely needed any fret leveling because I paid attention to the installation of the frets and the shape of the fingerboard. I plane mine so there is a slight angle sloping from treble to bass side to keep the saddle more even or parallel to the top. ( I could explain if it’s not clear why)

Repair work or refret work, I find taking the strings off even if I think it’s one specific area to be easier than working around the strings. Steel string guitars, some repair people think it’s faster to work on spots with the strings on under tension because of the way they adjust the truss rod to shape the neck relief, but I don’t work that way on steel strings.

Flamenco guitar necks can move or bend, but it’s usually if it gets left in the window on a very hot day, or in a car. Otherwise a well built guitar with a good stick of wood for the neck shouldn’t move.

johnnefastis -> RE: fret levelling with strings on (Mar. 24 2023 15:15:47)

Thanks estebanana! Thats good to know. Sounds like you can do a great set up.

So I have a beautifull 2016 traffic cone. But I can spot a few raised frets so I don't know whether to get them levelled a little bit or just to leave it.
My understanding is that even if it was set up perfectly in 2016 the ebony can move a bit over the 7 years so it might be worth doing. I can basically rock the level a tiny bit on 3 or 4 of the frets.


Stu -> RE: fret levelling with strings on (Mar. 30 2023 12:04:53)

Whats the issue with removing the strings to carry out and fret dressing Simon? or maybe thats not what you were asking?!

It's the luthiery task ive done more than any other and i must say i dont really enjoy it. but the results when playing are worth it.

I guess if you're reluctant to do it and the slightly high frets aren't causing you any sound issues or playing issues then maybe its ok to leave.

I mean is there a tangible problem?

johnnefastis -> RE: fret levelling with strings on (Mar. 30 2023 17:24:19)

Hi Stu,

Thanks for chipping in. You will know much more about this than me but as I understand luthiers who work with steel strung guitars experience a situation when they get the frets level and then find that things go out of whack when the strings are tensioned.

This is to the extent that some people have one of these crazy contraptions.

I just have a few frets to lower and was getting curious about it as the luthier I spoke too started talking about this stuff. There is a distinctive buzz on one place and I can wobble a straight edge enough for me to think its worth doing.

I am imagining that with flamenco guitars the tension is low enough to not be an issue but it got me wondering.


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Stu -> RE: fret levelling with strings on (Mar. 31 2023 8:19:05)

jeez thats quite a contraption! medieval.

I probably dont know that much more than you simon really. haha.
I hadn't really thought of that tension issue but I see what youre saying.

I've done some random, small fret levelling with the strings on as I simply couldn't be bothered to remove them for one small high point on a fret. I did it and got away with it. however it wasn't a nice experience. all noisy and scrapy and fiddly. strings getting in the way feeling like you need two more hands etc.

(i did release the tension on the strings to do it though)

I'd say take the strings off and do it. then restring and see how it is. If it is the same or still bad now things are tensioned try with strings on.

Firefrets -> RE: fret levelling with strings on (Mar. 31 2023 9:08:18)

The jig simulates string tension. The basic concept of repairing with the strings on is so that you're adjusting the guitar in a real world playing position, as opposed to doing the work, then finding out when you return to the playing set up, it isn't quite right.

If you only have a few frets to lower, first check they are seated properly, in case they're springing up, (glue down if needed) and then just use a little sand paper to knock the high spots off.

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