One of the most important parts of the guitar is the neck. And every guitar player knows that for a guitar to be playable itís important for a neck to be in good shape. But I donít believe most guitar players know exactly what that means. Without getting too boring Iím going to show you what that means and how you can greatly improve youíre playing and the guitar sound as well.
Both Necks are licensed by Fender 21 fret Rosewood Telecaster Necks. Both necks are brand new never installed. The neck on the right is a nice but typical 21 fret rosewood Tele neck. The neck on the left is identical except for one thing. I straightened the neck, leveled and polished the frets.
Step one: The neck must be straight. Most guitar players have heard about ďNECK RELIEFĒ. There have been more articles and sayings about neck relief than you can Google. Iíll leave a link or two but itís all about the same thing. Loosening the truss rod so there can be a slight dip in the neck. The reason there is a dip is that no frets are ever exactly the same height. Itís a cheap shortcut to keep the buzzing to a minimum without having to level the frets or for that matter setting up the nut more precisely and other setup actions.
Step 2: Get a nice wide magic marker (black) and mark the top of each fret completely. Avoid getting marker on the fret board.
Every guitar I build has a perfectly straight neck and the action is always low and there is never string buzz. The reason? I take the time to level and polish my frets. I am not criticizing Fender or Gibson etc., But none of their ďProduction guitars ďever have the frets leveled. They are just pressed into a .023Ē slot and the ends trimmed and cleaned up and done. I donít blame them for wanting to make a profit and the public long ago has accepted this ďNeck reliefĒ as the cure for buzzing. Understand the height differences are very minor, just in the thousandths of an inch. Still significant as you can see from the next picture.
(Click picture to enlarge)
The 3 pictures above show in 3 different spots on the neck where the marker was sanded off on one fret and the fret next to it was untouched. This is typical! This is not a bad neck. As far as Iím concerned though it did not leave the factory finished. There was a note with this neck as there is with almost every nick I purchase itís advisable to have the frets leveled. The bottom line, if you understand basic geometry, if you have a high fret at the 12th location your strings are going to have to be up much higher than if that one tall fret wasnít there. And it will always buzz! Oh it can be tamed but not removed. I promise you once you play a guitar with the frets leveled you will wonder how you ever played what you did in the past. Your playing will improve greatly because you will have one less thing fighting you and you will have much better sustain. What stops the strings from making a sound? Something touching or nearly touching it right?
This is what the frets look like right after leveling. Rough and the crown is gone. Thatís the next step, re-crowning. Here Iím not going to tell you how to do it because there are several methods and I promise you, if this is your first and one and only neck, you will FUBAR your frets to the point ofÖMe or someone like me will be replacing them and possibly repairing your finger board, or even replacing that. This part is not easy. You need the skill and you need the right tools.
I will tell you how I test my work by marking the frets again. Then I give it one scuff with my sanding straight edge. If every fret gets a scratch, Iím done with that part. Then I re-mark for the last time. This is important to me so I can see the crown I make on each fret one at a time. You will see the fret on the right freshly marked and the fret to the left properly crowned, that fine thin line dead center of the fret is the only part that didnít just get rounded back down. This is the crown. Itís very important too because it makes you fret your note right over the slot where the pitch is mathematically determined. If the place where your string hit the fret was randomly front or rear, there would be no tuning that guitar and you would think Junk Guitar!
Frets re-crowned. Now I still need to clean up the ends. How many of you have played a guitar where the frets want to tear your skin off because they were never properly trimmed and then shaped? Sometimes this happens with imports where the wood isnít completely dry. By the time it spends weeks in the hot container on a ship and you get it, the wood has shrunk some. Guess what, the fret doesnít shrink with it! Can be pretty painful!
Shows ends properly dressed.
Click to enlarge
Final Stage goes from polishing to cleaning up the fret board. Done!
∑Fret Level Ė Crown Ė Polish
∑Install New Frets
∑Fret Markers in Abalone or MOP
∑Re-Finish neck in Nitrocellulose Lacquer tinted or clear.
∑Install any custom decal under lacquer looks completely factory
∑Remove old fret board and install new fret board
∑Install new Bone or Graph Tech Nut(Corian or Brass available)
∑Great prices on great tuning machines including Planet Waves, Kluson, Sperzal, Grover plus many others.
∑Complete Luthier service custom electric guitars and basses
∑Great prices on many new Licensed by Fender Necks from WD Music , Mighty Mite, or WD Music.
∑ Price to polish and level frets for a rosewood neck $79.50
∑Price to Polish and level frets on a maple neck $ 125.00 Add these prices to any neck I sell or ship your neck to me.
∑I also re-fret. Ask about prices.
∑Price to install Abalone dots $49.00
∑Price to clean up existing neck. Spray with Nitro tinted or clear and install Fender decal in Nitro Lacquer $ 90.00
∑Price to remove plastic plug on import and install walnut plug, re-finish peg head $79.50
∑You will be required to pay for shipping both ways for your neck.