FRETS.NET

 has anyone ever toyed with going out and Having a plek machine do the fret work on a new construction instrument ? Ive been thinking of this, 2010 I was at the Plek Booth at the NAMM show the guy there explained on my best day doing frets Id be 80% accurate I said no way Joe his response was yes it is, and his Machine would smoke me and so Now I Have some beautiful instruments coming to completion and I would only want the best for the customers that play them has anyone PLEK ed before ?

 

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From what I've read, the machine does a decent job, but there is still a final finish that has to be done by hand, and the skill of the luthier really makes the difference here. There's a guy who does these in Sacramento, and word is that he just cranks em out and doesn't really do the finish work.

Neither does Gibson. 

No shining endorsement for PLEK will be found in the following text.

Without the "final touches", it's a waste of $$$. 

I haven't been convinced that it's better than a competent human.  That's based solely upon what I've seen from production line guitars from manufacturers that utilize the process. Also, their claims of perfect nut slotting appear to be fairy tales

I also believe that PLEK'ing an instrument that hasn't settled in from playing is putting the cart WAY before the horse.

I'd ONLY consider it for really troublesome circumstances that, even then, would best be corrected by conventional fret work.

Just my 2 cents.

Have a great week Frank (-:

yea I saw his sight last night and 1 in sf also

Hi everyone - first post on this very fine forum for me. This thread and one other were the reasons that I just signed-up to join you!

 

In the past couple of years another Luthier and I were attempting to arrange an experiment much like Frank is asking about.  We wanted to do our best fret dressing on two different guitars, a new one and a tried and true US built Strat.  We contacted a PLEK site and asked if we could come down and spend some time comparing our best work to what would result from the PLEK.  Once it became known that one of us, not saying who.... was rather prolific in terms of posting on Internet forums... ;) we were told that our wishes would be in conflict with those who promote, own, use, sell, etc... PLEK machines.  As such we were not able to test our hunch which is that on a good day a skilled Luthier with proper technique, calibrated tools (meaning leveling beams trued up on a surface plate), and a competitive spirit... could smoke a PLEK at it's own game.  Not to mention unless the PLEK technician is highly schooled in what a proper fret dress is including variances for playing styles, instrument tendencies, etc. we still believe, but have not confirmed, that a highly skilled human should be able to do a nicer job than a PLEK.

 

Having spent most of my working life in the computer industry since the advent of the early first PC's it has always been said that a computer can't do anything that a human can't do at least one iteration of so long as it's not a race against a clock...  As such the same logic should be true about what is largely a CNC machine - a PLEK.

 

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it until I learn otherwise...  Thanks for letting me in the door....:)

Why pay away a learing experience? Don't belive the smack, people beat PLEKs everyday, I've seen it. All the PLEK can do is the most basic job, what happens when something does not fit in its program? ERROR message, thats all. Then someone (a person) has to fix the problem, not the PLEK.

What happens when you run into a problem? Does your screen read ERROR? No, you fix it and learn from it.  

Never pay away purest of gold, education and mastery of ones trade.

chris this may be the new experience for hi dollar items
Guys, we're not buggy whip makers just yet, but you'd be surprised at how versatile this newfangled gizmo really is. CF Martin has 4 of them, and every single guitar that comes down the production line gets Plekked, including the nut slots and the saddle top. It's way cool to see in action. From the manufacturing perspective, it's all upside once the operator knows how to run the machine. They don't come cheap (100K +) so you'd better have a few jobs lined up. BTW, I refretted a Warwick bass in 2003 that found it's way on to a Plek machine shortly after. It needed no work at all, so a carefully executed fret job can hang with the Plek.

I agree with Mark and Chris's comments and wanted to add that I believe that a human is capable of performing superior work than a PLEK.

 

For those of us who do fret dressing on a regular basis and use the "marker" method where as we employ marker ink not unlike a machinist would employ bluing we are working to tolerances of .0005" or less...  Although a PLEK may be factory rated to close tolerances it's still a machine and as such subject to wear, slop, maintenance requirements and issues, and the reliability of the materials that it's made out of in terms of no-flex, expansion, contraction, wear, etc.  

 

Some repair guys that I know have posted comments on other forums that I read indicating that they have had to dress frets on brand new Gibsons that had supposedly been PLEKed.  They report that they had to remove additional material off high frets and that the PLEK job was not all that great.

 

I'm not willing to claim that Gibson or Martin or anyone for that matter always strives to do the best that a PLEK can do in terms of the most detailed job possible because I don't know what the process goal for this companies was.  Were the programs written to do 80-90% of the accuracy that  PLEK is capable of favoring through-put and production concerns or is what we see on new f*ctory... guitars an example of a PLEK on a great day?  I can't know but with an as mentioned price of 100K+ for a PLEK machine it may be that a f*ctory environment is really the only place that the economics of a PLEK make sense.

 

Don't get me wrong I appreciate technology and I would love to have a PLEK to play with but I sure sleep better at night not having to worry about how I am going to pay for the thing....

If he's reading the discussions these days, it'd be interesting to get a "take" from Dan Erlewine, the resident guru at StewMac.  If memory serves, he bought a Plek machine (maybe in partnership with someone?) a couple of years ago. Of course, anyone who's made the investment will likely sing it's praises, but Dan's known for brutal honestly when it comes to evaluating procedures and tools. 

Dan, if you're out there, your two-cents on this machine would be welcomed!  

I just did the math. I'm gonna buy one, and after only a little over 3500 fret jobs I'll start to make a lot of money :-) Now you know how I got to be a millionaire.....I'm a clever businessman......:-)

Right you are Grahame and we did the math too when considering the opportunity to add a PLEK to a shop and the numbers didn't add up.  What I ran into was the idea that you would have to hire someone to be a PLEK operator and stand there day in and day out performing repetitive tasks over and over again while all the while you have to maintain and service a stinkin machine...  Reminds me of being married....  ;) 

 

In addition since there are usually not 3,500 guitars in our local areas who a) need a fret dress, b) who's current human owners wish to pay for a fret dress, a PLEK shop would either have to hook-up with a local manufacturer and contract fret jobs and/or advertise and start a mail order repair biz seeking folks from elsewhere to send you their precious guitars absorbing the cost of shipping, insurance, copious amounts of newspaper to imobilize that headstock... in order to keep the machine busy enough that along with depreciation one would not lose too much money on the thing...

 

Dan does have a PLEK, Dan is absolutely honest in my humble opinion too, and if I recall correctly Dan has a relationship with PLEK that is beyond just being a PLEK user/owner.  He may be a rep for PLEK but don't quote me on this I am not sure.  But if the last point is valid Dan's not going to want to participate in something that might shine a negative light on PLEK.

 

Then, lastly... there is an opportunity cost to bringing a PLEK into our shops.  More specifically if my math is correct and you would need to dedicate a person to feeding the beast 8 hours a day 5 days a week in order to pay for it someday... that person is now religated to being a f*ctory worker doing production PLEKing all day.  No more interesting repairs, neck resets, gluing up cracks in our Midwestern winters and telling clients over and over again about the importance of humidification.  I build and repair and one of the things that I love about repair is that it's often different, unusual, and there is no telling what a client might bring to you.  There is usually a defined beginning and ending and the definition of success can be seen in the grin of a happy client who tells you that their guitar has never played easier or sounded better.  Building, at least for me, is 150 hours of the same thing while all the while hanging onto a vision of perfection and success that may, in time, not be shared.

 

There is a reason why there is not a PLEK in every state, every repair shop, or even at every small manufacturer and I suspect that the economics of the acquisition just don't add up for most.  It's kind of ironic that where PLEKs have found viable homes with manufactures such as Gibson, Martin, etc. because of production through-put concerns the things are not set free to be all that they can be in terms of spending the time needed to do fret jobs that we limited humans can't out do....  If there were emoticons on this forum with someone sticking their finger into a beehive that's what I would have used for this post that I am making here....  You can't pull the sheep over my face... ;)

The final line being that the operator has to be very skilled in the first place. Final dressing is done by HAND.

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