Hi guys,

I haven't posted much, but I ran into a bit of trouble with a refret I did for a customer. I refretted a couple of guitars during an apprenticeship, but this was my first "solo refret".

It's a '68 Silvertone 1485 and the reason for refretting was that there was not enough meat left to level the frets and the high E almost fell off the fretboard when fretted. When I took the strings off it had a slight backbow, so I loosened the trussrod so that the backbow would dissapear (this meant the trussrod nut was completely loosened).

Then I planed the fretboard nice and straight with a little bit of fall away and refretted it with medium fretwire. I didn't want to put much extra compression in, because of the previous backbow and the trussrod being completely loose. After refretting and leveling the neck was nice and straight still, so I expected that the stringtension (.011 - .048) would pull it into the right amount of relief.This didn't happen and now I've got fretbuzz on the first couple of frets on the low E, A and D (with to space to loosen the trussrod some more). 

Without stringtention, tightening the truss rod as much as possible (without stressing it too much) I get a backbow of 0.010" at the first fret (the backbow starts around the 4th or 5th fret). Like I said before: with no stringtension and the trussrod completely loose: it's straight as an arrow.

My assumption is that I should've tightened the trussrod, putting the neck into some backbow before planing the fretboard straight so that I could've adjusted the neck into some relief after refretting.

I'm hoping you guys could maybe give me some advice on what to do to fix it. I was getting ready to pull the frets out and re-do it completely, but I thought it would be wise to ask for some advice first!

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What is your action set at?  If your neck is straight, even with no relief it should play okay with the right action.  Something else to consider... is it definitely fret buzz, or could it be the loose truss rod nut.  Also, could there be a loose fret or hardware?  

Thanks for your reply Mark! The action is set at 1/16", both treble and bass side. It is definitely fret buzz, I "tightened" the truss rod nut so that it would just be snug without actually doing anything.

I glued the frets in and tapped on them all, they are all snug in the slots without any dull sounds or dead spots. All the hardware is properly attached.

But the way I see it, is that the trussrod only changes the neck curve by 0.010" in total and thats at the nut so I'm thinking there must be something wrong with the truss rod, right? (I never measured how much an average trussrod can travel, but I'm sure it's quite a bit more than that.)

I'm going to try to highten the E, A and D nutslots a bit to see if I can get rid of the buzz and maintain a normal string height over first fret.

From what you're saying, the truss rod is working fine.  Before I did anything with the nut slots, I would put a capo on the 1st fret  to take the nut out of consideration.  If that doesn't correct the problem (which I don't think it will), try raising the action to 3/32 on the bass side and 2/32 on the treble and see what happens.  You might just have to live with a little higher action and a straight neck.

Pim my take would be to do or make sure the following is done:

1)  After refretting and being absolutely sure.... that the frets are all seated properly AND glued firmly in place I would manipulate the truss rod to get the neck as close to level as I can and then do the following...

2)  A proper fret dress....  Some folks on these forums seem to believe and it gets mentioned from time to time that simply installing new frets is all one has to do to achieve fretboard nirvana....  Wrong....  From the board not being level to technique being inconsistent to fret slots being different depths there are a plethora of reasons to never trust a refret as being all that is needed to have a precision leveled fret plane.

If the refretting process pushed the neck into back bow the leveling and recrowning process is your opportunity to make this right and end up with a level fret plane.  Frets could be removed too and compression fretting done as needed but simply leveling and recrowning at the expense of some new fret height would be easier.

I strongly suspect that the fret plane is the issue, not nut slots, not the truss rod, etc. and I also strongly suspect that if there are multiple issues the fret plane will be at least one of them and needs to be addressed straight up anyway.

When you have a level fret plane with no string tension AND you know it's level because you went step through step though the leveling process including using a marker and being able to visually see high and low spots that the rest of this set-up will fall into place.

Once you have a level fret plane it won't take much string tension to pull it into relief and 11's likely will do that.  If not.... then the fix would be milling relief into the fret plane also something that can be done during fret dressing but for now I would favor going to level before milling in relief.

Once you know that your fret plane is fine then we can get into set-up issues, nut slots, action measurements, etc.

Of course my analysis is based on your belief that the buzz is indeed fret buzz.  

Thank you, Hesh. I'm not one of the people that believes simply refretting ensures the frets to be nicely level, so I already leveled and recrowned the frets.

1/16" on the low E is a bit low for almost all players and may be why you are getting buzz on the low strings.

Are you sure the nut slots haven't been cut down as the frets wore out?

I'm a little confused. Nut height is only relevant for an unfretted buzz. Is it buzzing when fretted up the neck?

 You say that with no string tension and the trus rod loose, the fretplane is straight as an arrow.

With string tension how much relief is there?

 Put a true straight edge from the first to the 12th fret tops, in between strings3 and 4 and slide a feeler guage under it at the 6th fret while the guitar is in the playing position and un-supported.

If it is straight with no strings, the strings must  pull up some relief. No?

Hi Pim.

Just a couple of other things to mention & reinforce....

Keep in mind that the necks on these vintage instruments were made of timbers the quality of which would be rejected by makers of professional quality instruments. We tend to forget that these Harmony's were just a small improvement over department store guitars. 

Did you fully support the neck from its underside while truing & re-profiling the FB? Any "give" or "bounce" in that stage of the process can produce the symptom you describe.

An action of 1/16th inch is a pipe dream in the real world. It's the faux standard to shoot for as inspired by Carvin's advertising claims. Unless the guitar's owner plays with a sub-feather touch, it's an impossible goal for a buzz free action.

There is no shame in increasing the action to 1/8" or even 3/16". The tone of the instrument will also be enhanced. These came from the factory with a 1/4" plus action. I only mention this as the symptoms you describe don't seem to affect the higher register notes.

Also remember that on electric guitars, a slight amount of fret buzz will occur and it's masked when amplified. I'm not talking about notes choking, just the most minimal of 'sizzle'. It's just the nature of the beast.

Best of luck chasing and imprisoning this demon. :)

When I got my Andersen archtop, the seller had the action extremely low--he was playing it as an electric and using George Benson Tomastik strings.  It sounded great that way because the amp could be used to create the volume needed and any buzzing disappeared in the mix.  Playing it acoustically revealed all kinds of buzzes.  I raised the action about 1/16 and all the buzzes went away.  Later I put more conventional electric strings, D'Addario Jazz lights, and it plays fine acoustic and electric with the same action.  It's still lower than any flattop I've ever had.

I have a copy of a chart that Steve Gilchrist used to distribute with his archtop guitars (dated 1996).  He recommended 3/32" (2.3 mm)bass, 5/64" (2mm) treble.  That's about where my Andersen sits right now.  Plays great.  Remember, though that these are quality instruments built by some of the best on the planet.  YMMV, especially on inexpensive, mass produced instruments--higher action may be needed.


PS: When I got the Andersen, it buzzed on every Ab that I played.  Turned out that the retention ring on the top mounted pickup wasn't quite screwed down tightly and was buzzing.

Note to self: always check before shooting off mouth.  Went and checked the Andersen.  It's actually 2mm bass, 1.75 mm treble.  Just a couple of thou relief.  Plays like a dream, no buzzes, acoustically or plugged in.

My flattop is pretty much the Gilchrist measurements, again with very low relief.  Also plays like buttah.  

Both guitars were built by experts.  It makes a difference.  

OTOH, I set up a very cheap Yamaha dred for my Sister-in-law and it plays extremely well--and sounds surprisingly good.  Don't know the model but it's a very low end one with black paint for bindings, although it has a solid top.


Putting the capo on made quite a difference on the low E and a little bit on the A and D. The nut that was on there was an ugly plastic one that didn't match the contours well to start with so I called the customer and decided to make him a bone nut. With the bone nut in place, it sounds alot less buzzy (just a bit of sizzle on a few frets and the open E) but barely hearable when amplified.

The treble side doesn't buzz on 1/16" and I changed the bass side to 5/64".

Thanks for the input everyone, much appreciated!


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