I've been using a 6in. file for leveling jobs, and i'm getting a little tired of it.  I'm feeling like it doesn't cover enough span, it chatters when it hits a spot that's really out of level and needs to bite more, and of course it leaves a lot of destruction in its path.  I remove all of the filing marks with a triangle file, come back and check for level, only to need to go over them again or spot level.  I always deliver a completely level board with fully crowned polished frets with no filing marks, but i'd like to speed up the process.  I'm considering grabbing a few rolls of stikit paper and a leveling beam, maybe the middle length offered by Stumac.

I went to diamond crowning files years ago and they changed everything for the better.  How are the diamond fret levelers from Stumac that are basically knife sharpeners?

What are your preferred methods? 

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Not summarily dismissed and if I gave you this impression my apologies.

The mental image that I received when reading how you wrote your post was that you were taking a leveling beam and using it in isolation on only one or a couple fret tops.

That's what I objected to, still do, but you addressed the matter indicating that you endeavor to sand frets in a uniform manner so my mistake and my misread of what you wrote.

No worries!  We are all brother and sister luthiers!  There are many methods that give good results.  And I enjoy the repartee.

But maybe there is a subtle point to be made.  I make classical guitars and have no idea of the possible nuances of steel and the truss rod.  The relief issue I am sure is a little different.  Any comments?

Hi Eliya:

Not at all, happy to help here, always!

Ideally on a neck we want to see more relief on the bass strings side.  As you may have noticed what we actually see on either new builds or existing guitars is a crap shoot so-to-speak.  There may be more relief on the treble side (under string tension...) or sometimes we get lucky and there is more on the bass side.

Anytime that we are initially fretting a new instrument or an existing instrument we have the opportunity to address this and often correct the relief issue as need be.  And if we can correct things and provide a higher level of precision which is also value for the client why not?

So simply by supporting the neck in such a manner that we can add pressure downward or upward with our free hand we can impart more or less relief as need be while either milling the frets or leveling the board.

Mind you this is getting into the idea that really great fret dressing can be an art.  But it can be and is in my view so why not do the very best that we can.  Don't worry about this step if still confused and get the basics down first though, just introducing food for thought.

Regarding neck angle, same way of viewing the work.  If the guitar is marginal for a neck reset OR the builder on a new build under or over set the neck and does not want to correct it for a small amount of correction how we level and mill frets and the board can address this too.

If the neck angle is overset we can mill more material from say the 3rd on down (meaning toward the guitar body).  This basically also changes the neck angle in terms of the fret tops AND as the strings see the fret plane.

Conversely an instrument with an underset neck may have most of the fret material that needs to be removed removed in the first several frets region.  This can increase neck angle, not for the neck mind you but for the fret plane, again what the strings see.

These corrections can be very minor or in extreme cases depending on budget and goals for the instrument (on an existing instrument) you can provide some real value to a client by understanding the fret plane, how we might address it with leveling methods, and actually belay for a while the need for a neck reset (again in some circumstances).

Back to the board leveling - you know don't ya that the better job that we do leveling the board the quicker and easier the fret work goes?  It's very true and it's possible and happens often in my world to level the board addressing the issues that we want to address and then when the frets are in the leveling may only take a very few minutes.

Regarding messing up the radius.  Using leveling beams and tracing the string paths imparts a compound radius to the board, a desirable thing for many players.

Thanks for all these replies Hesh. They're super informative and helpful, and I will keep referring to them. Like you said, some of it just food for thought for me for now, because it's a little on the advanced side of things.

Speaking of compound radius. How do you level frets on a compound radius neck (I.e., the fretboard has compound radius and so do the frets)? Same way? Just follow the string lines?


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