Ok, so I got this job, for a Jimmy Vaughan Strat. I get it home, there's almost no relief in the neck. I adjust the truss rod, bringing the neck dead flat. Jig it up in my neck jig, set my dial indicators, lock my rods, take the strings off, loosen the truss rod, using the pull strap and working the neck around, I get it zero'd back. Everything looks good, so I use my steel beam with sandpaper to take kiss off the fret tops, found a few high spots and a few low spots, everything looks good, maybe I've taken off .002, but not more than that. I tape off at the 7th fret and file a sand a slight drop away at the 17-21st frets. So, I crown the frets, polish out, string up the guitar and tighten the truss rod back dead flat. The action is .080 at the 12th fret on the low e, and .075 at the high e, there's still a good amount of buzz at the second, third, and fourth frets.

I start adding relief, it doesn't start to really clean up until there.s about .020 of relief. That's way too much.

The customer comes over and checks it out, he's not happy, and neither am I.

So, back in the neck jig. Do all my adjusting, this time, just in case it's the double stick tape holding the sandpaper giving slightly, I use my diamond coated sharpening stone. This finds a little high spot at the 9th and 10th frets, but other than that, the frets are dead flat. Recrown and polish the frets, string back up, still some buzz. I have to add at least .010 of relief, and have the action same as before to get this thing to play without too much buzz, but there's still buzz. Sounds like it is buzzing on the frets right above where I'm fretting, not up high on the neck. I take my straight edge rocker and check, I can't find a rock anywhere on the fret board. Use my straight edge, there's still the fall away.

Everything is as it should be. I just don't get it.

There's only one more thing to try, I've been using the same strings that came with it, I was going to put new strings on before setting the intonation, but I noticed some slight flat spots on the d string, probably because the guy has a death grip, I think. So, before I do anything else, I'm going to swap out strings, probably tomorrow morning, and see what I get.

If that doesn't work, does anyone have any other suggestions?

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I feel your pain!
buzz with action at 80thou? - i'd definately change the strings straight off - really sounds like they're the problem. Bass strings seem to suffer with loose winding every once in a while, and I've been driven mad looking for a loose brace when the string was to blame...probably the most frustrating problem in the workshop until you recognise the particular buzz!

good luck - let us know how it turns out, i'd be fairly sure it is the strings,
Did you try lowering the pickups?
I lowered all 3 pickups slightly, but I've lowered the neck pickup the most. Are you thinking that string pull from the magnet is pulling the string out of wack?
Other than some bad strings, that's the first suspect on a strat. What happens when you lower them a lot? Strat pickups are grabby mofos.

I use a method of releveling that incorporates 1/2" aluminum U-stock w/psa sanpaper, guitar strung to pitch, and neck straightened as good as it will get, i.e.--the real world.
I can check the real-world playability of the guitar instantly this way, too. Rick Turner is a proponent of this method, but he uses L-stock instead.
I tried backing all the pickups back down, no difference.

Thanks for the idea, though. I've just about run out of options.

I'd like to see a pic of the aluminum leveler thingy, if you could post a pic. It sounds interesting!
Here they are. I never seem to use the longest one, do the vast majority of the work with the 4.5" ones. It may not be visible, but the inside leading edge is ramped a little bit, for string clearance, especially around the first few frets. I can get to the first fret easily, with these. The little 1.75" one gets significant use, too.

The handle was made last week, MUCH easier on my wrecked wrists, than holding the pieces by themselves. I'll probably make another one out of acrylic or lexan, so's I can see better.


Ok, put on new strings, still buzzy. Rejigged the neck, found a bit of a hump at the 6th-8th frets, took that out, like maybe .001, then repolished out the frets and restrung. Now, with .010 relief and the action at .075 at the low e and .070 at the high e, it plays better. It's really sensitive to pick attack, IE, if you bear at all in to the strings, it buzzes, but if you play parallel to the strings, it is fine. I've only noticed this on really low actions before, like, .050 at the low e or lower, so I still don't get it.

Any suggestions? The customer wants the action set just the way it is, no more relief and no more raising the action....

There's about .002 of fall away from the 15th fret on up, starting off lightly at the 15th fret, progressing to a full .002 of fall away at the 21st fret. The frets are .044 high, except for the last 6 frets, where it drops off to .042 high. I don't want to take any more fret material off, but I can't figure out what is causing the buzzing.
Have you ruled out the possibility of a buzz
arising from a very low setup at the nut side?
This may produce a ”back buzz” when you fret.
Now that's something I hadn't considered. So, when I check the action at the nut, to eliminate any kind of problems with the saddle height, I cheat and use the old, hold the string down at the third fret and see if there's a slight gap at the first. As long as there's a slight gap, I know I'm good. Not the most scientific, but I haven't saved up my pennies to buy one of those new Stew-Mac nut height gauge thingies. I do love a new tool, though.

Anyway, there's about .003 under the string to contact the first fret. I've found that gives acceptable results, and I can always go a little lower, if need be. But, the problem with a really low nut is that it tends to wear a lot quicker.

My friend Nathan and I were just discussing this. You can go really low at the nut, you can get a neck dead straight, have a really low action at the bridge, and everything is cool until the humidity changes 20%, and then the guitar is unplayable. I tell my customers, that if they are willing to pay for it, and fuss with it if it changes, I can usually get them a really, really low action. However, that comes at the cost of the guitar going out of wack and being really touchy during weather changes.

Of course, I can't seem to get this action any lower. ARGH!!!!. It's driving me nuts!
Dont go nuts You will get it right. Just relax take a step back say a prayer, and then go to the “Buzz Diagnosis” page. Frank helps me out ALL the time..:)!
Kevin, I'm not a luthier, but I have faced a similar problem. I had built a strat style guitar from aftermarket parts. After leveling and crowning the frets, I ended up with a buzz one the low E, 3rd fret. Must not have leveled right, so leveled again. Dead level frets, checked with a "rocker", .010 relief, but even with 7/64 action at 12th fret, still buzzing on low E 3rd fret. Drove me crazy! Checked the nut by capoing. Still buzzing,same fret. Checked that fret and surrounding ones again. All level.Checked pickups and hardware. Nothing. Started looking at the pickguard itself. It was jammed between the heel of the neck and the front of the bridge. I knew it was a tight fit when I assembled it, but since I don't use the trem and prefer to block it most times, I hadn't thought anything of it. I took a file to the pickguard at the neck heel and bridge cut out until the pickguard dropped into place with no resistance. Voila! no string buzz anywhere! Don't have a clue what was buzzing, but it wasn't the fret, it was fine all along. Like I said, I'm not a luthier, but it takes about three seconds to check that, and it worked for me.
Strats are buzzy...long scale and little tension due to flat headstock plane. Try higher tension strings, like GHS or Ernie Ball. Can you hear the buzz through the amp, or just acoustically? Is this a Mexican or USA Fender; I have lots of neck problems with the Mexi Fenders. Sometimes they do things under playing conditions that you can't see on the bench. Neck pitch angle OK, relative to saddle heighth?


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