Hope everyone had a fine turkey-day! 

This isn't a specific repair-related topic, but what's the general consensus about using (or dealing-with) fretboard fall-away at the last couple of frets? 

Do most guitar builders employ it?  Do a lot of repairers use it as a matter-of-course when refretting?  Is it used equally for acoustic & electric fingerboards?

I've got my own bias towards not using it when refretting, unless  (1). the guitar came to the shop with fall-away and the customer wants to keep it.  Or (2). there's some sort of issue that's evident (after the refretting) that might be resolved by some minor fall-away work.

In other words, I don't see the "automatic need" to remove fret material once placed... unless the circumstances dictate otherwise...but I can be swayed!

Just curious what the various opinions are, and why.  Here's a blurb on the topic (compliments of the Sweetwater website) that lays out the mechanics pretty clearly.


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That explanation seems to assume that we only play open strings , in my experience the fall away is only needed when playing from 12th fret upwards .

my own tendency has been to only apply it slightly, and only to the frets that mostly don't get played. so like an extra few file strokes on the frets above say 18 on the treble side and 14 on the bass side for electrics, a little extra "body english" with the file on that last bit of the neck if you will

Hi Mike,

Drop away is a very useful weapon in Electric deep bending past the 15th (or so) as it provides an angular clearance rather than elliptical or parallel clearance as found in most "standard configs".  We are all (most all) aware of the effect "ski slope" has in choking out deep bends and also how low actions up at the demonic end of the board will lose volume and tone as they are choked to death with a step and a half or more of bend - anyone with a 7.5 inch/9.5" radius Fender will know all about this.   So, you can compound or do 3 to 5 thou drop away from the 15th or do a bit of both with fret finishing.   No big deal and as we don't hammer away at the upper end too much relative to the rest of the board, wear is not a factor and 5 thou isn't missed.   IT can be programmed into the board or into the frets (easier to check when its done in the frets) but harder to recrown when using stainless.   

We program it in when fretting and re-fretting via an angular application of a machine caul.  Not everybody needs it and acoustic actions seldom need it unless there is a structural problem with the fingerboard tongue.

It also bypasses stuffing around with compound radiuses - which, to us anyway, seems like a waste of time when the alternative "drop away"  provides a very accurate cylindrical radius with a subsequent ease of re-fret and refinish. 

Regards, and enjoy yr end of year break (if you are having one), 


Hey Rusty,

  Yes, the end of the year break is underway!  Thanks for the insightful notes on upper-register fretwork.
  The timing was particularly keen, as I'd just recently (between my original post and now) had occasion to address a longtime customer's issues about choking bends on a recently-acquired strat. 
  I opted to do some light compound radius work (tho' no fall-away), then fiddled with the overall action and he's "mildly pleased".  Meaning that yes, it helped some....but only some.
  So, armed with your keen thoughts & experiences on fall-away for electrics, I'll ask him for the guitar back and see if we can make more gains!  Seems to me we can, and I certainly do appreciate your thoughtful response.

Have a wonderful new year!  ///Mike


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