Stupid Question - Identifying Flat Frets

Discussion in 'Tech-Talk' started by Roncg41677, Oct 9, 2019.

  1. Roncg41677

    Roncg41677 Strat-O-Master

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    So I attempted leveling and crowning the frets on a couple of very cheap guitars I have. Both of them had multiple (3-5) places on the neck with dead notes.

    Now the dead notes are gone, but both guitars have a fair amount of buzz on many of the frets.

    I’m thinking I did a terrible job crowning the frets and May have many flat spots still.

    Here are my questions:
    1. Does this sound like it may be the issue?
    2. My vision isn’t great, and I’m having trouble seeing flat spots. The light plays tricks on my eyes and they look flat from one angle and fine from another. Does anyone have a trick for finding flat frets? I feel so stupid for even having to ask this, but I can’t figure out how to work around my poor eyesight.
     
  2. fezz parka

    fezz parka fezz parka

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    To find low frets use a fret rocker. A utility knife blade will work in a pinch.

    What did you use to crown them?
     
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  3. Roncg41677

    Roncg41677 Strat-O-Master

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    A 3 sided file and a sharpie. I then ran a fine sandpaper sponge down the length of the fingerboard both ways to smooth them down, before using 0000 steel wool and mag polish.

    They are level, but I think I may have sanded too aggressively and flattened more than I meant to.
     
  4. fezz parka

    fezz parka fezz parka

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    Invest in some crowning files. I used a modded triangle file (one cutting edge ground down) for years. It worked , but took a lot of time. The crowning files are bulletproof. Perfect round tops every time. Worth every penny. :)
     
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  5. Roncg41677

    Roncg41677 Strat-O-Master

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    I got one but felt like the frets were too small for it.

    I’ll need to try again with a sharpie on it. I just have a hard time seeing the crown clearly. :/
     
  6. fezz parka

    fezz parka fezz parka

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    Which is why you especially should get a crowning file for the fret size you're working with. :)
     
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  7. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Guy Who Likes to Play Guitar Silver Member

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    Vision is critical. Find either the right glasses, or the right glasses with clip-on lenses, or a visor with lenses, etc.. I can't imagine trying to do this kind of work without being able to see it very clearly.

    I used to use clip-on lenses like these. You can find them in various strengths, measured in diopters:
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002ULI5SQ/?tag=strattalk05-20

    Then I had a pair of trifocals made with 4 diopters added to the lowest lenses. Either way works, but if you can't see clearly you'll never get the job done right.

    If all else fails, talk to an old jeweler and find out what he uses.
     
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  8. Guy Named Sue

    Guy Named Sue Censored

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    It can be hard to spot flat spots, so use a magic marker on the fret, that way you can see the shape and how much flat surface there is left.
     
  9. _Hawk_

    _Hawk_ Strat-Talk Member

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    It’s not cheap, but Stewmac’s Z-File is pretty fantastic. You’ll still need to be able to see the sharpie line, but it’s pretty tough to mess up a fret with that file.
     
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  10. Heavyriff

    Heavyriff Strat-O-Master

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    You could take pictures with your phone or tablet of the frets in question and blow them up so you can really see what's going on.
     
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  11. Roncg41677

    Roncg41677 Strat-O-Master

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    Thanks for the tips!

    The deed is already done. I did use a Sharpie, but the lighting was poor and I may have rushed. Now I can’t tell where the flat frets are.

    Clip on lenses sound like a great idea, as does blowing up a phone pic.

    I’ll give those a shot.
     
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  12. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Guy Who Likes to Play Guitar Silver Member

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    There's also the jeweler's loupe. There are different types, including the "eye loupe" that you hold by squinting. You can get them in different amounts of magnification, depending on the application.
     
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  13. BobRuth

    BobRuth Strat-Talk Member

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    Another thing to consider.... have you measured the neck relief? If you leveled (and leveled well) and you have fret buzz all over the place... you may need to add a bit of relief with the truss rod. Not a lot... no more than you have to ... but that could help.
     
  14. telepraise

    telepraise Strat-Talker

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    I would recommend investing in a dedicated crowning file appropriate to the size frets you're dressing. Blacken the top of the fret, then file the crown onto it until you only have a thin hairline of black sharpie mark left showing across the top of the fret. If you file until all the black is gone, you don't know how far past level you've gone. Then switch to sandpapers (600>1200 grit). Good crowning files are expensive (I'm spoiled on diamond ones) but they leave a very consistent rounded radius on the fret without too much effort. You can certainly do it old-school with safety cornered 3 corner files (the old guys at Gibson did it that way for a long time) but there's a technique and learning curve involved.