Fret buzz after doing fret jobs lately, Frank, you're the expert on fret work, any ideas?


I'm about at the end of my rope. After the last several fret jobs i've done, I've been getting buzz on the e a and d strings. These are mostly electrics, though I've got the same buzz on a Collins that I did.

So, here are some specs. I've got the action usually set at 4/64" on the high e string fading over to 5/64" at the low e, measured by pushing the string down on the first fret and measuring at the 17th. I've got about .008 of relief in the fret board.

I finally made a fret buzz detector. It's a super bright LED, a 2.2k resistor, a 9 volt battery, an alligator clip on one end and a probe on the other. By capoing the strings at, say, the 3rd fret, I can pluck the string and touch the probe to each fret to find where the string is buzzing. What I'm seeing is usually that it's buzzing against the fret 2 to 4 frets above. So, the low e would be held at the 3rd fret, and be buzzing at the 5 or 6 or 7th frets or any combination thereof.

With a fret rocker I can't find any high or low frets. This is after I've already flattened the frets and recrowned them and buffed them out, first with sandpaper and micromesh, then buffed on the pedestal buffer.

All the tools and measurements show me as being perfect. Yet, I'm still getting buzz. If I do the fret job with guitar on the bench, or if I put it in the neck jig and do it, I get the same results. I even thought it was that I maybe wasn't crowning the frets enough and that it was buzzing against a too flat fret that it was being fretted against, but I came back in and redid a neck with my 3 way file instead of my diamond crowning file, and created a much sharper peak, and then continued on with polishing out the frets. I still get the same results.

Most of the buzz is inaudible through the amp, but some still comes through. And, it's sensitive to pick attack, if you brush the string straight across it gets better, but if you put any kind of pick attack where the pick digs in to the string at all, it comes back.

Any ideas? Or, is fret buzz just something we have to live with? I'm not setting these up with ultra low action, here. If it was 2/64" or 3/64" I'd understand, but his seems to be withing Fender spec....

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That's an unorthodox way to measure action. Make sure the nut height is correct, then what is the string height @ the 12th fret, please? The 12th fret is used because that's where the string excursion is greatest.

Does a longer straightedge rock on the fretboard? Hold the guitar in playing position when you check, because lying down can increase the apparent relief if the neck is flexible.
Which part is unorthadox?

I don't measure at the 12th, since on most electrics it seems that the height is kinda flaky, depending on how much relief is in the neck, more so at the 12th than at the 15th or 17th. And I put a capo on at the first fret to remove the nut action from the equation.

Right now, the action at the nut is just low enough to clear the first fret if you depress the string at the 3rd fret.

There is no rock up and down the fretboard with a long straight edge.

I should mention that I fretted this neck with jumbo wire from stew mac, which was .053 but after leveling came out to .050. I've sanded some fall away starting at the 15th fret, from .050 to .047 at the 22nd fret.

All measurements are made in the playing position.

If you have created a fall-off from the 15th fret upward, measuring height at the 17th fret is going to give you as much error at that end as an imperfect nut at the other.    Because of the fall-away you need to measure the relief when spanning the 1st to 15th fret and measure your string height somewhere between the 12th and 15th fret - the 12th is the point most often used.  Measuring at the 17th fret will require that you also take the fall-off at that point into the equation.

Nothing wrong with your style of measuring action...except you're not going to ever find anyone with whom to compare measurements. I'd suggest continuing to do your setups using whatever measures you see fit but also (for purposes of the current conversation) taking a measurement of the action at the 12th fret (uncapo'd) to give us some idea just how low you have it set.
I don't understand your method for measuring action either. Why hold the string down at the first fret and measure at the 17th? It sounds to me like that could skew the action to be high at the nut and low at the 12 fret where these numbers ( the one's you appear to be using as reference points) are usually taken.

Are these Fenders? They can buzz no matter what due to low string tension. Do they have string trees? Also, tall frets can tend to be a bit buzzy too. I've never figured out why. I agree with the others, take your action measurement at the 12th with no capo. Also, are you using strings from one batch? I've gotten a run of bad strings (wound) and they caused buzz. Switched to a differend brand and buzz went away.
Fender factory set-up measurements are taken at the 17th fret for Fender guitars (25.5 scale). On Gibson guitars that use the 24.75" scale, I take the measurement at the 12th fret. A small neck angle error (bolt on necks) could result in increased buzzing as the action is lowered. 5/64 " at the low E 17th fret might be a little low for a Fender scale neck.
Do you happen to know what measurement Fender is looking for at the 17th fret? I mean, Kevin should be OK no matter where he measures as long as he is comparing apples to apples. Besides the capo, which I don't understand at all, my biggest problem is that he seems to be using 12th fret measurements at the 17th fret so if he can find out what the 17th fret measurements are he can us that and avoid his discomfort with the 12 fret measurement.

Does that make sense, or did I just confuse things more?

Fender specs are at the 17th fret. The capo removes high or low nut slots from the equation. When you're setting up a large number of guitar a day, it keeps you from fiddling with the nut slot depth and then having the action change. This way, you remove the nut slot entirely. And, the difference between the fretted note and the open note is less than 1/64" at the 17th. So, on a 14-16" radius board, i'm shooting for 5/64" to 4/64" with no buzz. This equals Fender spec of 4/64 to 3/64. Then you finalize the nut slot depth last, right before setting intonation and getting it back to the store.

The trick with the capo comes right out of any of the Erlewine books. I didn't get it at first either, until I started having to set up many instruments at a time and with tight deadlines. I don't know if Fender uses the capo at the factory, but I figure that's a trick that repair guys came up with when trying to do speed work. Just like a lot of the fretting tricks I picked up from Frank on the fretting demonstration he did. It really helps when you are doing a lot of work.

I'm actually surprised no one knows this. Has anyone here done Fender setups for their local stores before? This is pretty standard....

This is from the Fender web page.....


Players with a light touch can get away with lower action; others need higher action to avoid rattles. First, check tuning. Using a 6" (150 mm) ruler, measure the distance between bottom of strings and top of the 17th fret. Adjust bridge saddles to the height according to the chart, then re-tune. Experiment with the height until the desired sound and feel is achieved.

Note: For locking tremolo systems, the individual string height is preset. Use the two pivot adjustment screws to achieve the desired overall string height.

Neck Radius String Height
Bass Side Treble Side
9.5" to 12"
15" to 17" 5/64" (2 mm)
4/64" (1.6 mm)
4/64" (1.6 mm) 4/64" (1.6 mm)
4/64" (1.6 mm)
3/64" (1.2 mm)
Hah, I posted this yesterday when I was tired. I made a mistake. This part:

So, on a 14-16" radius board, i'm shooting for 5/64" to 4/64" with no buzz. This equals Fender spec of 4/64 to 3/64. Then you finalize the nut slot depth last, right before setting intonation and getting it back to the store.

Should have said:

So, on a 14-16" radius board, i'm shooting for 3/64" to 4/64" with no buzz, with the capo. This equals Fender spec of 4/64 to 3/64 roughly, once you finalize the nut slot depth last, right before setting intonation and getting it back to the store.
Yup. Don Teeter mentions using the capo at fret 1. It's a useful way of by-passing any problems at the nut. You can go back and adjust the nut afterweards. Howevver, without wishing to add to the controversy. Mr Teeter does recommend measuring at 13 or 18 depending on whether it's acoustic or electric.
Yeah, I think I might have read it in the Teeter book, too. Or maybe that's where Dan got it from. Or where the old luthier who taught me got it from. I'm surprised so many people didn't know of it....

Yeah, I only use the 17th fret and sometimes the 15th on electrics. On acoustics, I use the 12th, but i still use the capo. I've found very few acoustics that come with the correct nut slot depth. Though, I think the Taylor's were pretty close, from what I remember. The Gibsons that I've done have been awful. The Collings were pretty good to and so were the Larivees. Martins are so-so.


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