Fret Leveling Bar

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Fret Leveling Bar

Post by Barry on Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:42 pm

When I was the Tech at the store in Milton the only guitar I ever got around to buying in 4 years was this Squier Telecaster Custom II:



...largely because my brother kicked in a sum of money as a birthday present, and, Fender had a rebate going at the time. I think I paid about $100 out of pocket for this baby. I've been kicking myself for not grabbing a few other guitars which came through the shop...but when yer broke, yer broke! Crying or Very sad


But...I...digress...

As much as I dig this little guitar it was starting to bug me. Made in Indonesia, I wasn't expecting a top of the line Fender, so I had replaced the tuners and nut. But as I moved up the neck, just before the 12th fret, the notes started sounding like parakeet farts!
Then they got worse.

No amount of truss rod/saddle adjustment would get rid of the offending smell. Spot fret levelling with a rocker tool didn't help either. It was time to get serious and level the damn frets top to bottom. But I had no tool to do that.

I looked around for leveling bars and was shocked at the price for what was essentially a piece of aluminum tubing. So I made my own.

I went to my local metal supermarket and bought an 18" length of 1.5" x 1.5" x 1/8" aluminum tube with radiused corners—effective flat area 1".



I cleaned and polished it, and filed the sharp cut edges smooth. Then off to find some sandpaper. I got a 25ft roll of aluminum oxide material, enough to last the rest of my life!



Then I cut some 1" wide x 18" long strips:


Using some spray adhesive I coated the back of a strip



then applied it to the metal tubing, applying a little weight to ensure it dried perfectly flat.

About 15 minutes later...Voila!





Took about 5-10 minutes to do a rough, but true level, checking constantly with a feeler gauge for gaps.
Note: be sure the neck is straight and as level as possible BEFORE you start.

The tube has a nice weight to it so pressing or pushing was not necesary, it practically did the work itself. The rest was the usual re-crowning, sanding, and steel wooling to finish it all off.

I may never use it again, but it was cheaper than buying a commercial product, and, it appeals to my cheep bastid gene! What a Face

Oh yes, the guitar is wonderful to play now.

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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by David_A on Wed Feb 22, 2017 5:58 am

Great tip Barry. Any tips on how to make a cheap re-crowning tool?
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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by Barry on Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:37 am

Alas, no. I ended up buying an inexpensive one off Amazon (Chinese) :LINK

Decent weight and handle, and it does the job, but the cutting surface is not up to professional grade and won't last long. OK for occasional home use though, and suits me fine.

If you have a good set of fret files you can probably hand shape the crown...but I wouldn't want to do it on a full neck. This is more consistent.

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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by corsair on Wed Feb 22, 2017 5:49 pm

Yeah; a crowning file is one piece of kit I actually bought, from a shop, a retail price... which burns to this day! Rolling Eyes
Sometimes, though, there is no substitute for the real McCoy....

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FWIW, an after market esoteric nut is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist, and a great way to convert your money into someone else’s.
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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by onno on Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:29 pm

I always crown my frets by hand using a triangular file with the corners sanded smooth. There's a great tutorial by Crimson Custom Guitars on YouTube. Search for Leveling, crowning and dressing the frets of a worn PRS guitar fretboard. I used this method a few times and my frets feel and play like new. I think it actually works better than a crowning file because you can shape the crown the way you like it.
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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by Adey on Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:12 am

I see Stew Mac are marketing some special fret crowning files - the "Z" Profile File really looks the dogs doo dahs...

.... but a bit pricey.
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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by Barry on Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:20 am

Stew Mac has every known guitar tool on the planet. Always good quality but pricey, especially if exchange and shipping is factored in.

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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by David_A on Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:30 am

And especially if shipping is to the UK!
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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by onno on Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:00 am

Check out the Crimson Custom Guitars shop. They are located in the UK and sell various luthiers tools. That's where I got my triangular crowning file and a notched straight edge
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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by Barry on Fri Apr 21, 2017 4:28 pm

To be honest I wasn't impressed with the dude's technique in the video with either the file or the Dremel.

Looked more like he was sawing wood than filing/finishing.

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"A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants." -Chuckles the Clown


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Re: Fret Leveling Bar

Post by David_A Yesterday at 5:47 am

Thanks for the recommendation onno. Crimson certainly seems to be a great source for advice as well as tools. I think I'll do what you did and go for the triangular crowning file.
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