Alright, rockers!

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guforosso
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Alright, rockers!

Post by guforosso » Sat Oct 03, 2020 7:44 pm

Alright, rockers!

I'm about to start messing with my frets. And I haven't done fret work before.
I believe I want to start by making an examination with a fret rocker.

These tools vary in price from $4 to $40+ (USD).
I fear the $40 flavor is a touch spendy. The internet says the $4 variety is not trustworthy.

Is there a middle choice?
Anyone have experience with a quality fret rocker for less than the Stewmac price?

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adamrobertt
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Re: Alright, rockers!

Post by adamrobertt » Sat Oct 03, 2020 7:53 pm

A nice thick credit card works. Or you could just lop the ends off of a metal ruler so that it's two frets wide.

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Re: Alright, rockers!

Post by timtam » Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:11 pm

The $4 ones are mostly fine. I have several. So I can confirm what one is apparently telling me. I always check and check again before deciding that a fret is truly high. I would do the same with a $40 one. You can also check a rocker's flatness directly against a second one or (better) against a certified straight edge and backlight. If not perfectly flat, a rocker can be levelled.

How best to use them is sometimes not explained that well ... eg
- an adjacent low fret can mimic a "high" fret (ie the rocker will rock over a fret that is not actually high). Lowering a good fret can be disastrous.
- you can find high frets on many necks. High frets are only important if they correlate to a buzz
- some high frets are just partially unseated, ie they need re-seating rather than leveling.
- spot levelling of single frets should be done rarely (most guitar repair books do not even describe it)
- once you have more than a couple of high (or low) frets, a full fret levelling (and re-crowning) is the best course

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Re: Alright, rockers!

Post by guforosso » Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:35 pm

Interesting. I was concerned that the precision was necessary. Guess not.
Gratitude for the advice and the shot of confidence.
timtam wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:11 pm
an adjacent low fret can mimic a "high" fret
Thanks for mentioning this! I hadn't actually thought that through.
timtam wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:11 pm
spot levelling of single frets should be done rarely
In all likelihood I will try some spot leveling. Standby for the "told you so" part.

My plan now will be to...
A) source a rocker for under $10
B) mark the egregiously high spots with a sharpie
C) foolishly slash away at everything with a diamond-encrusted crowning file

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Re: Alright, rockers!

Post by andy_tchp » Sun Oct 04, 2020 8:20 pm

guforosso wrote:
Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:35 pm
C) foolishly slash away at everything with a diamond-encrusted crowning file
A crowning file won't get you very far for levelling, diamond or not.

They're only designed to recreate the desired 'crown' profile on the fret top after any levelling has been completed (generally with a long beam + sandpaper or very large flat file).

Even for their intended purpose I find them (diamond crowning files) fairly slow.

It's also quicker to level the whole board (can take <10 minutes including marking the fret tops) than trying to spot fix specific high/low spots.


And you'll very likely end up needing to do the whole board anyway.
Last edited by andy_tchp on Sun Oct 04, 2020 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alright, rockers!

Post by andy_tchp » Sun Oct 04, 2020 8:40 pm

Also;
guforosso wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 7:44 pm
I haven't done fret work before.
OK. I consider the following from Ron Kirn 'required reading':

Fret leveling yer tele 101 - Ron Kirn on TDPRI

Clear explanations and photos that take a lot of the mystery/worry out of tackling what is a reasonably straightforward (especially once you've done it once and understand the process) task.
"I don't know why we asked him to join the band 'cause the rest of us don't like country music all that much; we just like Graham Lee."
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Re: Alright, rockers!

Post by Horsefeather » Wed Oct 07, 2020 10:13 am

Yeah, follow that guide and learn to do the whole board. It's really pretty simple and quick . The most time consuming part is taping off the damn fretboard.

I went to a countertop place and got a granite scrap for free and it works perfectly. I also use a stone coffee table top to get my truss rod adjusted so that the fretboard is flat for the leveling process. My technique for that is to lay the neck on the slab frets down and get it as close as possible by eye and then I'll try to rock the board end to end to check for outward bow and also give it a good tap in the middle of the neck to see if it generates a ticking sound (mid frets hitting the slab), which indicates an inward bow.

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Re: Alright, rockers!

Post by guforosso » Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:41 pm

I just read that entire thread. Although Ron Kirn isn't very enjoyable, I guess I learned a couple things.

Glad that compound radius was mentioned, as I'm dealing with one. Curiously, no mention of a fret rocker.

The concept of fallaway is another thing I've learned about. That seemed appealing.

My frets are actually pretty good, and my earlier thinking was that I could keep them that way by messing with them as little as possible.

The fret "leveling" approach requires messing with *all* the frets, effectively. Not just 2 or 3 isolated spots.

So, I'll find a leveling beam. I hope the countertop scrap approach doesn't result in just a bunch of funny looks. "You want to do what...?"

About the diamond file:

What's quicker is less concerning. I have enough time, just not an extra $29 for The Joseph Whitworth approved fret rocker.

Also I have stainless frets.

Thank you to all for the input.

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Re: Alright, rockers!

Post by timtam » Thu Oct 08, 2020 6:48 pm

guforosso wrote:
Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:35 pm
Interesting. I was concerned that the precision was necessary. Guess not.
Precision is 100% necessary. That's why I mentioned all the checking. ;)

It also applies to levelling beams, notched straight edges (to get the neck straight prior to levelling) etc.

So it really means you need ways of confirming straightness. Lots of people who buy the expensive Stewmac stuff probably don't bother with that, and they're probably more likely to be be safe doing so. But I just feel you can never be too careful when working on a guitar neck. Lots of the stuff that is not from Stewmac is much, much cheaper. For example all the stuff on ebay and amazon. But it needs to be checked. And some other big luthier suppliers include some of that same stuff in their range, with a markup, so you might falsely assume its origin is 'better'.

So you can buy a precision straight edge from a reputable source, eg Starrett or similar. But they're not cheap. But still probably cheaper than buying a few Stewmac tools. But it probably comes down to how much use it's going to get. Alternatively, machinists have simple ways of testing edges against each other, or against themselves, and making straight edges, that do not require a precision reference, eg
https://youtu.be/LSfcv_fKoEM
https://youtu.be/nhpjtWwJrfc

My levelling beam is a 440mm length of 25x50mm aluminium rectangular section from the hardware store, verified/sanded flat on a granite surface plate.

Having said all that, the Stewmac Z-file (centered or original) is the best crowning file available IMO. It makes a difficult job easy, especially for novices. Unfortunately it's expensive.

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