fret compound dressing: is it possible without a Plek?

Discussion in 'Tech-Talk' started by StratoStrummer, Mar 12, 2021.

  1. StratoStrummer

    StratoStrummer Strat-Talk Member

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    Hi everybody,
    This is my first post and let me say I am glad and proud to be here.
    Lately I've been messing with the setup of my AVRI 70 stratocaster. I had it refretted years ago, and now due to major further fret issues I brought it to the luthier again (not the same one) and refretted again.
    I chose 6105 and they work fine, I like the feeling very much.
    However I like the action to be very low, and don't mind a little string buzzing provided that the notes don't choke off.
    I asked the luthier if it was possible to dress the new frets to a compound radius, so to have a slightly larger radius over 12th fret and avoid the bending choking off. He adviced me not to go this way, so I went for a flat 7,25" radius. But it seems to me that he was simply not prepared for this kind of operation.
    Nearest Plek is several hundred kilometers from where I live, so I cannot consider this option.
    Could a good luthier dress single portions of the fretboard to different radius? Let me know what you know and what you think.
     
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  2. Seamus OReally

    Seamus OReally Mr. Serious Gold Supporting Member

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    A good one? Sure. A guy who knows how to setup a Strat and starts calling himself a “luthier?” Nope.
     
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  3. kurher

    kurher Strat-O-Master

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    First of all, welcome. It is possible to have the frets leveled flatter in the middle creating a flatter radius but only on the frets.
    However, your current radius is also fine as long as the frets are properly leveled and crowned. Another option is to get a new neck with the radius of your choice and save the old one.
    What is wrong with the current configuration apart from wear?
     
  4. StratoStrummer

    StratoStrummer Strat-Talk Member

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    Thanks.
    I like the neck and its 7,25" radius; also I like the frets and I am having an overall good feeling with my current configuration. There is nothing really wrong with it, and there's really no fret wear at all: frets are new.
    I lowered the action to my taste, and the setting is ok for chords and soloing.
    Only issue: if I bend the first string above the 12th frets and over a full tone, buzzing becomes prominent and the note dies. I am almost sure this is due to action bein too low, and not to inaccurate fret work.
    I was wondering if a tailored fret leveling may resolve this.
    Otherwise, I shall be happy to keep the guitar as it is now.
     
  5. Believer7713

    Believer7713 The Pink Bunnyman Frankenstein Silver Member

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    If it's choking out above the 12th fret then I wouldn't try to do a compound radius on the crowns. I would just have the 13th through 21 frets filed shorter with the same 7.25 radius. it would only take a few thousandths to make a big difference. It's called a fall away or fall off dressing. By doing so you can lower your action to a completely different feel.
     
  6. nutball73

    nutball73 Senior Stratmaster

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    Yes. When levelling the frets, if you keep the levelling beam parallel to the centre line, the radius will be simple. If you instead keep the levelling beam in line with the strings, the result is a conical or compound grind, flatter at the higher end of the fretboard.

    I think Ben Crowe has a video on it on the Crimson Guitars youtube channel.

    However as others have said, a compound radius isn't needed to avoid choking while bending - it just allows a lower action at higher frets. I use the "fall off" technique when levelling to help with this, which works fine on constant radius necks (basically you make the higher frets a little lower than the rest).

    Edit - @Believer7713 beat me to it!
     
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  7. hcski25

    hcski25 Strat-O-Master

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    It looks like you already got your answer, but is the rest of the setup done properly? It may need a truss rod adjustment and/or neck shim.
     
  8. dbolt

    dbolt Senior Stratmaster Gold Supporting Member

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    As others have said fallaway is a quite common fix for this. Use higher action or get a compound radius neck.
     
  9. kurher

    kurher Strat-O-Master

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    In addition to has already been said by other members I would add that it would be worthwhile to try a higher action anyway. Your notes will sound fuller with less buzz and you will have a better grip when bending the string especially on the upper frets.
     
  10. systolsys

    systolsys Strat-O-Master

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    Just to add to the above: On a 7.25" board, there isn't enough fret height to re-radius to really give you any difference. Some less than scrupulous operator may take your money to do this, and destroy your neck in the process.

    You could work this out mathematically, or draw it with a compass, but probably the easiest way to get a radius gauge for your desired 21st fret radius (either a physical one, or search for a printable on on google), and put it over your board just behind the last fret. That will show you the shape that the fret would be ground to. Note the gap between the edge of the fretboard and the radius gauge... that's the amount of material that will need to be removed. Even for a 9.5" radius, that's a lot of material off the middle of the frets.

    If you had a 12" board with narrow tall or jumbo frets and wanted to put on a 10"-14" fret radius, you might be okay... but using a 7.25" base isn't something that's going to end well.

    I've never used the fall-off dressing so can't offer an opinion on that, other than to say that geometrically it makes sense. But I agree with those who say that if you want a compound radius, buy a compound radius.
     
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  11. BuffaloHound

    BuffaloHound Strat-O-Master

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    Great responses so far.

    The bottom line is that you need a better guitar tech.

    I would have recommended that you radius the refret to 9.5” if I was your “luthier”.
     
  12. macoshark

    macoshark Senior Stratmaster

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    Take the strings off and check fret height with a good rocker. Then you'll know if one is higher in relation to the other frets. This one tool is worth the dough and it doesn't lie. Talk to your tech and ask him/her how he levels the fall away. It would only be a few strokes on the 12th and higher frets. I tape the 11th fret but going to try a used string slightly higher than the top of the 11th fret. I found out here it's not easy to find a competent tech. Also a tech is way different than a luthier. Just because someone puts a nice guitar together doesn't mean they are good at leveling and crowning.
     
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  13. StratoStrummer

    StratoStrummer Strat-Talk Member

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    Definitely great answers, I agree. Thanks everybody.

    I must make justice to the guy who did the fretwork: he did suggested me to re-do the radius to 9,5 or higher.
    But I have other guitars with 9,5 and 12, I bought this because it reminds me of one of the first electric I played in my teenage years, an original vintage from the 70s. So I wont change the radius nor the neck, nor I am particularly attracted by compound solutions. I just wondered if that could be a valid option to improve the playability at my taste, without altering the feeling of 7,25".
    So far I am oriented to talk to a tech about fall out dressing, and for sure will let you know how it goes in the end.
     
  14. StratoStrummer

    StratoStrummer Strat-Talk Member

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    Ok that's what happened.
    First I took the guitar again, played, did bendings on the high E and realized that 15th needed to be leveled again: on that spot the bending choked almost immediately.
    Also, I saw that neck relief was much over fender specs.
    So I went back to the tech and asked to fix the 15th, and also complained that more generally the bendings in the high part of the fretboard choked. I told him that I knew that fallaway was the way to go: he asked me to explain it in detail, but in the end he did not agree to do it.
    However he took the neck, and leveled only the frets in highest half, it is not clear to me if he was only fixing the issue on the 15th or I had at least partially convinced to try a fallaway dressing.
    The result is a much more playable guitar: neck is almost straight, action is low (lower than 5/64 fender specs) and I can bend everywhere with a minimal and acceptable (for me) amount of fret noise above 13th.
    I shall probably raise the action a bit, further improving the situation. At the moment I am enjoying it like this.
    Thank you all!
     
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  15. archetype

    archetype Senior Stratmaster Silver Member

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    I'm in favor of this approach instead of altering the guitar.
     
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  16. 3bolt79

    3bolt79 Dr. Stratster

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    I actually did a full level and crown on my son’s 79 Strat that still has the original frets. I can got the action down to about 3 and a half 64ths and I can bend on it a whole step before it chokes out. But it didn’t feel as nice as raising the action to slightly above 4/64 and my son liked it better as well. The strings just feel slinkier and less stiff to bend.

    I don’t know if changing the radius on the upper frets will get you what you want, and I am wondering why you didn’t have the fretboard planed to something like a 9.5 radius when it was in the shop. That is really easy to do.
     
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  17. StratoStrummer

    StratoStrummer Strat-Talk Member

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  18. telepraise

    telepraise Strat-O-Master

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    Systolsys, sums it up perfectly. A 7.5 radius is going to choke out up high if you bend enough. There's not enough fret bead to make a significant difference. This is why compound neck radius came to be. Warmoth makes really nice ones.

    I've done lots of fret jobs and always put about a 0.010" fall away from the the octave fret down. It's not about combating choke out though, but allowing to get the action a little bit lower and still fret cleanly up in the the netherlands.
     
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  19. Scott Baxendale

    Scott Baxendale Senior Stratmaster Gold Supporting Member

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    Absolutely a good luthier can do it, BUT there could be good reasons why he can’t such as your neck has a thin veneer rosewood fingerboard vs a slab board.

    Or the side dots are too close to the fingerboard so when you sand the new flatter radius you may be sanding through into the side dots or fingerboard inlays. This looks terrible. In this instance you couldn’t do a compound radius without sanding through the fingerboard which will ruin the neck.

    PLEK machines are not the end all be all for frets and guitar action. Lastly if a 7.25 radius guitar is set up correctly it will not choke out on any note when bending. We have had dozens of PLEK’d guitars come into our shop that were greatly improved by having the frets redressed by hand.
     
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