Thanks for reading.  I've been battling fret buzz on several guitars and wanted some advice/suggestions.  I finally bought a Fret Rocker from Stew-Mac and started to check my guitars.  Many (various brands Gibson, Gretsch, Epiphone, Fender, but Ric's seem OK) of my guitars, both Electric & Acoustic have either high/low frets from what the Rocker shows.

I do need to really scrutinize each guitar to see if it's a High fret or adjacent fret is low before I go further.  My question is this, how much "rock" with a Fret Rocker is acceptable?  None or with a very small amount being more academic?  I don't know that answer but you all do!!

Also, if needing to lower a high fret, and with a very minute amount of rock, is it a proper fix to just re-crown file or do you have to file flat first then re-crown?

I would like to learn to do a proper & professional job, and do have a couple of inexpensive Epi's that I can practice on prior to the pricey guitars.  Also, if "I learn to fish I can eat every day" instead of paying for each guitar to be fixed that I haven't had much luck with in the past.

Thanks again for any council & advice!!


Views: 1976

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion


 I'm an Amateur!  I know that I  keep saying this but I think it's important that our readers have some idea of the status of the poster before they "listen" too closely to me.

As an amateur, I've spent much less time working on instruments than the professionals on these pages. I'm pretty comfortable with the wood working portion of my restoration efforts. Fret installation and adjustments is a completely new and different skill set.. As such, I have found that it takes more time to learn it than I realized when I first started working on instruments. I have become ok at tapping in frets and I can usually get a fairly flat fret job now if I take my time. That's fine but then I have to level. I find this to be the most challenging portion of the job. It's just too easy for me to end up with big flat topped frets which require mountains of "crowning" effort. I have done a bit of partial refetting and wrestled with getting it all flat AND playable again. I can get the first half of that ok but it's the second half that keeps me awake at night. 

 I guess the point of my post is to offer the opinion that messing with fret work, in my opinion, isn't really a very good place to start adventures in instrument repair. You might consider taking one of your better, buzzing guitars to a good, local repair person and see if they would allow you to watch them do the repair so you can see what is involved. You might be better prepared to address one of your less expensive guitars after that. Oh, and be prepared for the possibility that you may make it worse before you make it better. ( one of the many lessons that I sometimes forget.)


You will get an extraordinary amount of outstanding technical advice and demonstration/explanation of skills at this place, please also accept our somewhat philosophical offerings - where your head is  and how you think is also vitally important to success in this business or personal pursuit:

Ned, and those before him are once again on the money and the wise advice given is said frequently on this forum - we (the members, and our gracious hosts and patrons) do not discourage people from starting this fascinating job or hobby or trade but we do try and get people to draw a breath before leaping in at the deep end.

'messing with frets........ is not a good place to start your adventure"

Everybody in the industry needs to read and more importantly, understand,  the theory and construction associated with the neck, fingerboard, frets and practice and apply that knowledge on cheap throwaway guitars, before virtually anything else is learned or done concerning guitar repair.  

IE: if you do not understand how a neck works and how to adjust or fix it you are hamstrung when trying to do even a simple setup correctly.   Setups are where we all start because we think they are easy and generate a bit of early cash, job satisfaction and start our development of a reputation.   Paradoxically, good setups require a detailed understanding of how to adjust and arrange the neck and the frets in an eye pleasing and effective manner to ensure the best setup for a particular style of playing. 

Inexperience, a fret rocker,  a file and good intentions pave the road to hell around this place.

Consequently,  posts on our forum often concern problems in this area and the fixes are often lengthy processes and involve detailed explanations of what to look for , what to fix, how to do it,what tools work best and so on.  

What we are saying is that real skills need to be developed before attempting repairs and there is no free ride to becoming good at this stuff - detailed and painstaking pictorial  tutorials such as those kindly offered earlier by Natham at Fingerlakes are priceless for beginners but are only a fraction of the picture. 

A word of warning - nobody here tells you our work is easy -  for good reason - but every cone-head with a camera makes the stuff that is widely available on U-Tube look easy - so be very wary of letting ambitions and aspirations over-take ability in this area.   The posts on this forum are all subject to positive and critical checking by a very experienced group.

Learn and practice is something we all do everyday, from the professionals who earn their livelyhood to the hobbyist who get joy from practicing the art.   Start by reading from end to end, certainly spend a few measly bucks to support the organisation that supports you by buying the CD,  and then buy a few of the commercial how-to books from places like Stewmac and continue to avail yourself  of  Do this before anything else.

Good luck, hope this wasn't too gruelling!


As generally discussed in prior replies, I would just do a general Level, Crown, & Polish job.  I use a 15" bench plane, and wrap sandpaper around, going from 180 or 220 up to 600 or 1000 grit, then recrown, and then polish... should be good.  Just be careful to do the level carefully and evenly... slow strokes at first - maybe watch a video online if you've never done it.  Good luck.

As generally discussed in prior replies, I would just do a general Level, Crown, & Polish job.  I use a 15" bench plane, and wrap sandpaper around, going from 180 or 220 up to 600 or 1000 grit, then recrown, and then polish... should be good.  Just be careful to do the level carefully and evenly... slow strokes at first - maybe watch a video online if you've never done it.  Good luck.

Like the other guys, I generally consider an overall level and crown to be the best approach to achieve the optimum playability.

Sometimes though it is not warranted or in the owner's budget and if there is just one troublesome fret, often only on one string, I will do any required stabilization of the fret and then just move the string aside, mask next to the fret and dress with an emery board.

Like on a bass the other day  with minor fret wear under the D string on the 7th and 9th fret, but not on the 8th.

Good tip with the Emery board... thanks!

More great council and thanks.  I will look into the DVD's and do a search for some bargain guitars to practice on.  I will contact Gibson and check if this is a warranty issue.  I do see for a couple of hundred I can send it off to Dan E for a PLEK finish.  Decisions, decisions.


I am not quite sure what is going down here with the sneering dismissal of the fret rocker ...


IME the fret rocker is a most useful indicator of the overall health of the fretboard, and will give you a picture of where the problem areas are in a matter of minutes, a picture which can not be obtained in any other way.


Using it, you know immediately which frets to check for proper seating, and which frets, at which strings, might require  judicious filing prior to a full fret dress. ie it minimizes the amount you need to remove from the frets, rather than steaming in gung-ho and leveling everything in sight , carpet bombing style .


If you can save even a couple of thou , that is money saved for the customer before he needs a full refret. .

Hi Murray,

The  comments from various members are mainly concerned with reminding the newcomers that the Fret rocker is a single purpose tool mainly for use in and around small problem areas and for final QA checks post set-up.

The overall health of the fingerboard is not generally determined by using a fret rocker as it only reads the localised fret picture and is unable to detect significant or complex geometry problems.

Similarly, it is best to determine the health of a fingerboard and frets using a number of specialist tools such as crenelated straight edges, long beam radiused cauls to skim/index the frets on the whole board prior to leveling etc - this also gives a very good indication of any twist, whoop-t-doo,  or long hump (something a fret rocker struggles to do) or other "whole of fingerboard" irregularity.

I suspect that the process of "leveling everything in sight" you disparage here is exactly what is required to make a fingerboard and neck play well from end to end - all frets should index every other fret on the board in an appropriate, relative  way and the amount of material that is removed to do this is not negotiable (within the bounds of a particular set-up).    You can take if off locally or you can take it off in the process of full leveling - but it's still going to go regardless. 

If you are talking about securing and leveling a simple popped fret or similar as Jeff Highland describes earlier in the thread , all well and good. But, yr post presented the opportunity to raise the stakes in the general understanding of this particular subject.




There are two camps here in terms of how one views AND treats the fret board/plane and understandably one camp values this tool, the fret rocker, more so than the other camp.

We have folks who treat the frets and board in isolation dealing, if need be, with single or several high frets as needed.  The fret rocker permits them to find and isolate single, loose frets or high frets and deal with them also in isolation while not leveling and dressing all of the frets.

We also have the camp that will only deal with the fret plane as a "system" of which to us, to me, the fret rocker is pretty useless AND misleading to beginners in that it encourages one to deal with the individual frets in the fret plane in isolation.

FRD (Fret Rocker Discounters....;)) myself included prefer an approach that manually checks every single fret for how secure it is (therapy sessions with soft music, iced tea, and a leather sofa to lay back on for the interview...).  For us we may glue down every fret before starting a fret dress and when we do a fret dress or refret the entire fret plane is the subject of our attentions.  As such the Fret rocker is pretty useless because I could care less about the height of one or several frets - I wanna level them all...

I'm happy to "level everything in sight" and consider that my job to do so.  I see no benefit with ever dealing with the fret plane a few frets at a time.  It's like purchasing one tire when they all were originally a matched set - you WILL be purchasing more tires in time so why not address all four wheels.

Lastly I agree with Rusty that how much material gets removes is a function of what it takes to do the job, have consistent contact with all frets, remove divots, humps, ski-ramps, etc.  In no way does the Fret rocker determine how much material is to be removed or assist with minimizing where or how much material is removed.

Don't get me wrong the FR is useful for demonstrating to clients that they have high frets.  But it's not what I use at all to determine where my efforts for a fret dress or refret will be spent.  Instead I'm reading my bluing and treating the entire fret plane as that system that we speak about.

In 1987 I made a jig for my router that let me cut small blocks of plexiglass into radius gauges. Mounted in my drill press I used these blocks to press frets in. Back then I made all of my routing templates with 2 sided tape and small straight pieces of masonite or plexi. Fretting files were made from the straightest 12" single cut file I could find, then it was put in a vice and the end was whacked with a hammer giving me a small file and a big file. I ground the edges off them and that how fret pullers and end nippers were made too, by grinding them into the shape and smoothness required. 

My point is if you want to" learn to fish" you might want to try making your own fishing rod. A fret rocker is a little straight edge, if you can sharpen your hand tools you can make a little straight edge. If you can't sharpen your hand tools then start there. Making tools and jigs is part of the craft. That being said Franks machining skills allow him to make things I can only be jealous of. So make what you can buy what you have to.

I dress frets to make a guitar play better, the whole length of the neck is done if it needs to be but usually it doesn't. I find the problems by playing the guitar, because if I fix a problem that I can see but not hear, I'm fixing something that isn't broken. 

My concern with all the specialty tools out there today (and I do own some of them) is that they imply that all you need to do is buy the tools, go through these steps and every guitar will play better. Whether it needs to or not. In my experience the more unique a fret dress is, the less material I'm removing. 



© 2024   Created by Frank Ford.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service