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Fender Strat Level Frets and Set Up

9/5/12

fender strat level crown and polish frets before fender strat level crown and polish frets score lacquer at side of nut to prevent chipping
1. A Fender Neck.  This guitar has a twisted neck which makes it impossible to have low action without some serious fret buzz.  The owner doesn’t want to invest in a refret which would allow me to sand the fretboard straight.  So I will instead level the factory-frets to get rid of the fret buzz. 2. Removing the Nut will give me free access to the frets for proper leveling.  I am scoring the finish around the nut in order to prevent finish chipping.
 fender strat level crown and polish frets score lacquer at bottom of nut with razor blade  fender neck level crown and polish frets score lacquer at top of nut
 3. Scoring the Finish on the bottom of the nut with the end of the razor blade.  4. More Finish Scoring.
 fender strat level crown and polish frets remove nut with punch  fender strat level crown and polish frets adjust truss rod at neck heel while attached to surrogate body
 5. Pushing the Nut from the side of the fretboard with a punch safely frees the nut from the fretboard.  6. Adjusting the Truss Rod so the neck is as straight as possible will allow me to sand away the minimum amount of fret height necessary to level the frets.
 fender strat level crown and polish frets notched straightedge  fender neck level recrown and polish frets sand frets with radiused sanding beam
 7. A Notched Straightedge helps me find the low spots in the fretboard.  I will adjust the truss rod so the gaps between the two lowest spots on the fretboard and the straightedge are as close to the same as possible.  8. Sanding the Frets with a radiused sanding beam under simulated string tension allows me to quickly and accurately level the frets.  Because the neck is pretty twisted, I will sand the frets with 80 grit, then 180 then 400 grit self-adhesive sandpaper on the radiused sanding beam.
 fender neck level recrown and polish frets crown frets with diamond offset crowning files  fender neck level recrown and polish frets sanding frets with sandpaper for polishing
 9. Recrowning the Frets with a pair of diamond fret files gets rid of the little plateaus created by the leveling process.  I’ll recrown all of the frets with a 150 grit file then complete the recrowning with a 300 grit file.  This saves me time in both the recrowning and fret polishing processes.  10. Sanding the Frets with 600, 1000 and 2000 grit Norton Black-Ice sandpaper wrapped around a small and stiff piece of card-stock gets rid of the file marks on the sides of the frets.  My sanding strokes go the full length of the fretboard.
 fender neck level recrown and polish frets sanding tops of frets  fender neck level recrown and polish frets buff frets with buffing wheel
 11. More Sanding.  After I sand the frets with the card stock, I wrap the sandpaper around my finger to sand the top of the fret crowns.  I alternate between the card stock and my finger before I move on to the next grit.  12. Polished Frets.  After sanding with 2K grit, I polish the frets and fretboard with the flannel wheels on the shop’s buffing arbor.
 fender neck level recrown and polish frets tallest fret after leveling all frets  fender neck level frets lowest fret on neck
 13. The Tallest Fret on the neck after the level, crown and polish is .045” tall which is essentially the same height it was before the fret leveling.  This fret is located at one of the two lowest spots of the fretboard.  This guitar would feel more-even all over the neck if the owner chose to have the guitar refretted.  A refret allows me to sand the twist out of the fretboard which leaves all of the new frets at essentially their full height.  14. The Lowest Fret on the neck after the level, crown and polish is .033” tall which is almost too low for a conventional crowning file to recrown.  This fret is located at the highest spot of the fretboard.  Although the height of the frets varies throughout the fretboard, the frets are level with one another.