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Fret levelling and dressing


btoth76

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Hello again!

 

So, this is the difficulty of working near the neck-joint area, I mentioned before:

 

HPIM5325_zpsda3c77aa.jpg

 

...and this is the solution:

 

HPIM5329_zps54b09864.jpg

 

I found, that the steel file does the work much faster than the small diamond file, but - obviously - it is impossible to get the work done with the large one above the 16th fret on the Tele. So, before anyone goes shopping luthier tools, I recommend getting both.

 

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Thank You, Aster!

 

The tools were bought from G&W Portugal, and Chris Alsop's Shop. Of Course, in the U.S. You can get everything You can imagine from Stew-Mac.

 

Basically, a notched straight-edge, a fret rocker, protecting strip, the beam and the files are needed for the job. The rest (felt-tip pen, masking tape, sanding paper) can be found around the household, usually. The price of the tools will turn over after the second fret job.

 

If You don't want to buy two separate files, the ideal solution would be this:

 

Offset_Diamond_Fret_File.jpg

 

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Tools_by_Job/Fretting/Shaping_and_crowning/Offset_Diamond_Fret_File.html

 

Cheers... Bence

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Hello again!

 

Let's talk a bit about the Gibson peculiarities of the fretwork. Not much different, though, but still there is something I will mention later.

 

The very first guitar I levelled and crowned was my 2010 Les Paul Studio 50s Tribute. Being the victim of my first attempt at fretwork, it didn't turned out to be perfect. But it's a lovely guitar, I went back to correct it.

 

While doing so, I thought it would be a good idea to show what happens when the neck of Your instrument is not perfectly straight. I didn't focus on the truss rod adjustment in my previous posts, since the Tele's neck was on spot.

 

So, I removed the strings from the guitar. You have to be careful, the tailpiece will eventually fall on the top of the instrument as string tension is released! While removing strings, I usually stuff a clean cotton rag below the tailpiece. Also, remove the bridge! As You move the instrument around, it might fall off too. I've removed the pickguard, and the pickup selector button too - it might catch the sleeve of Your shirt while levelling!

 

I checked the neck relief of the guitar with notched straight-edge:

 

HPIM5344_zpsc6e9b1b4.jpg

 

Here is the culprit of the incorrectly done fretwork. Note the extensive neck relief. That's way too much! I removed the truss rod cover and turned the nut a 1/8th of a turn in the clockwise direction (tightened it). Waited a bit for the neck to settle (I have drinked a cup of coffee). It wasn't perfect still, so I have turned the nut another 1/8th of a turn.

 

It became much better: very close to being straight, but I wasn't satisfied still! It wasn't that perfect as on the Tele! I gave it another 1/8th of a turn, but then it suddenly started to backbow. The straight-edge didn't touched the fretboard between the nut and the first fret, nor did it above 10th fret!

 

The most important conclusion here is: always adjust the truss rod nut gradually, in tiny steps!!! And be patient! Wait between those 1/8th turns and let the neck settle for a few minutes!

 

So, I backed it off (loosened) approximately 1/8th of a turn, or - maybe - a bit less. The best neck alignment I could achieve is this:

 

HPIM5358_zps38855ec9.jpg

 

Quite good! Good enough to start levelling. But I will come back to this part later, as I would like to reveal an interesting issue about Gibson necks.

 

...

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The preparation for the work, and the levelling itself isn't different from what You have seen on the Tele.

 

Protect the nut, the neck pickup, as said before:

 

HPIM5369_zps801534b9.jpg

 

Since, I don't expect to do a lot of levelling, rather some corrections, I decided to mark all the frets to see better what I am doing. This is done with the fretboard protector strip laid over the frets:

 

HPIM5366_zps71ab6649.jpg

 

...

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Just in case, confirm the fretboard radius is correct! You don't want to use the wrong beam for the job.

 

HPIM5370_zpsd6d4704e.jpg

 

As with the Tele, lay the beam on the end of the fretboard and carefully look around it, making sure it doesn't touches anything but the frets!

 

HPIM5365_zpsa84dbb39.jpg

 

The levelling, followed by the crowning/polishing is exactly the same process as with the Fender. Clean the fretboard thoroughly! Lot's of junk coming off after this job! Restring the instrument, and test it.

 

HPIM5380_zps4933a604.jpg

 

...

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There is something I have found on all of my Gibsons. I am really curious about it. The hump-issue (it's rather a valley) - we have been talking about with my friend Kidblast, a couple of posts before.

 

What is it?

 

Regardless how You adjust the truss rod on Gibsons, the neck will have a slight relief around the neck-joint. Let me show the picture of the neck of the Studio again, after I set it the best I could:

 

HPIM5358_zps38855ec9.jpg

 

Now, take a closer look at the upper register of the fretboard:

 

HPIM5357_zpsda60e971.jpg

 

Insteresting, isn't it? And that's how it is on all my Gibsons. If I tighten the truss rod beyond this point, it will be bowing back! You might still think what an unlucky fellow having bought three lemons in a row...

 

...but the thing is: if You search the web for "hump on a Gibson fretboard", You will find hundreds of discussions on this subject! So this seems to be a feature of the design, rather than a quality issue. It's not an issue with Fenders with their bolt-on neck, and this makes me think that it's something that comes from the set-neck construction.

 

I have readed dozens of discussions on the web on this subject, but I didn't find any satisfying explanations. What I think is, the mortise & tenon neck joint forces that portion of the neck still, unaffected by the truss rod. While the rod is being adjusted, it affects the neck below the 12th fret, but the rest of the neck resists, thus causes a twist in the neck resulting this valley.

 

What do You think? I will address this to experienced luthiers and will keep You updated, if I receive any answers.

 

Best wishes... Bence

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A couple of words on fretboard conditioning.

 

4 fl. oz. (118 milli-litres) of "lemon oil" costs around 5-6 USD. In fact, despite it's name, it is not lemon oil for real. It's lemon-scented mineral oil, which also contains waxes and solvents. Often said, when it's used too frequently it can dissolve the glue that holds the inlays. Real lemon oil is an essential oil pressed from lemon peel, and it's used for personal care.

 

32 fl. oz. (cca. 1 litres) of raw linseed oil costs around 15 USD. Linseed oil is made from the pressing of the dried ripe seeds of the flax plant. It's a 100% pure, slow drying oil. It helps wood retain it's natural moisture, aids in water repellency, retards cracking, checking and shrinking. And smells like dino fart.

 

I used it on my L6S Reissue. It has baked maple fingerboard, which is very similiar to ebony both for feel and tonal properties, but has lighter color than rosewood, - kind of - caramel-like.

 

Before:

 

HPIM5439_zpsd19f3c39.jpg

 

After:

 

HPIM5458_zps5f0798f0.jpg

 

Also, being said many times that a linseed oil-soaken rag can catch fire, so dispose it safely. But, - in fact - it's not the oil that is dangerous, but the solvents used to thin it! Normally, raw linseed oil shall not contain things like that! Often, such products are misleadinly named "raw", "pure", but - still - they are treated with other chemicals. For the sake of checking the quality of the oil I've used, I hung the soaken rag above the heater. Guess what happened: nothing! It did not catch fire. So it was a pure product for real. But, You never know! After use, soak the rag in water and dispose it safely!

 

Cheers... Bence

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello!

 

This is how linseed oil rejuvenates the 37 year old fretboard of the Les Paul Recording.

 

HPIM5472_zpscf595c90.jpg

 

HPIM5482_zps17514011.jpg

 

Prior to rubbing in linseed oil, I cleaned the fretboard using diapers dampened into soapy water. However, You will be surprised that even after thorough cleaning, how much dirt the linseed oil dampened diapers will collect!

 

Cheers... Bence

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Hello!

 

The previously mentioned neck-issue (slight valley around the neck-joint on recently-made Gibsons) is not that extensive on the Norlin-era guitar!

 

It is almost perfectly straight after all these years!

 

HPIM5462_zps88b94475.jpg

 

Close-up:

 

HPIM5463_zps96ae3e29.jpg

 

Cheers... Bence

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wow... I just caught this thread...

 

Great stuff man [thumbup] You are living proof that you never know until you try :) and while it does take some patience and a small amount of learning, its certainly not quantum physics :D 9and thanks to youtube and the internet in general)

 

It really looks like excellent work, you should start a business doing it for other people... ;)

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Thank You, Rabs.

 

That's a very nice compliment from someone, who makes His own guitars. [thumbup]

 

I knew about polishing the frets with Dremel, but I rather decided to skip that for two reasons:

 

1.) After polishing the frets with gradually finer papers, - ending with 2500-grit - they don't really need anything more. In my opinion.

 

2.) I don't want any kind of power tools around my instruments.

 

Not prior to, the next step I am about to make in my self-education: learning finish repair. I have found some very nice articles about the subject, and I am going to try these techniques in real life. I will share my experiences here.

 

Thank You, again!

 

Best wishes... Bence

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2.) I don't want any kind of power tools around my instruments.

 

Not prior to, the next step I am about to make in my self-education: learning finish repair. I have found some very nice articles about the subject, and I am going to try these techniques in real life. I will share my experiences here.

 

Thank You, again!

 

Best wishes... Bence

Lol.. yeah. I kinda know what you mean about using power tools on a finished guitar :) But the dremel is a much lighter and easier machine to use than say a router. Its easy to control.. but anyway, as you say, if you use high enough sand paper its not really necessary..

 

On finish repair.. this is one of the best vids ive seen on that subject (which you have probably seen)

 

And that sort of work is ALL about technique... You must learn the tricks first before you work on anything expensive :) (obviously)

 

Maybe a good idea is to find a cheap old guitar on ebay or in a local second hand shop or something and experiment on that..

 

this one is good too

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Hello Rabs!

 

Yes, I know these. Thank You! :)

 

I found this one to be very exciting: http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier/Technique/Finish/Lacquer/Amalgamator/amalgamator1.html. I am very curios about it.

 

What I'll do: I have old, nitro-finished furniture with severe checking. I'll try this method on it. Also, it's a good piece for practicing chip drop-filling, and crack repair. My goal/dream is to restore my 1978 Les Paul Recording to brand-new condition. It is outstandingly nice for it's age, however a few chips and checking has developped over time. I know what purists are about to say: it's a vintage guitar, shouldn't be bothered. But it's a keeper, and I'll only work on it when I can perform such operations with full confidence.

 

Cheers... Bence

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Hello Brian!

 

Indeed! He is a very nice person with huge experience. Nice enough to share His knowledge with everyone.

 

The most important thing I've learned from Him is to not to be afraid doing setups. Once You collect Your courage, it doesn't seems rocket science anymore.

 

Cheers... Bence

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  • 1 month later...

Hello!

 

Linseed oil on baked maple:

 

HPIM5525_zpsixn3whop.jpg

 

Hard to tell it apart from ebony.

 

By the way, that's the guitar with that rare nib-separation issue. After the corrections done by melting nibs against the fret-ends, it plays like a dream. The operation has no remaining signs at all.

 

Cheers... Bence

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello!

 

Update on fretboard oiling.

 

Some have experienced problems using pure linseed oil on fretboards. Complaints were about fretboards becoming sticky after a while.

 

All my guitars with unfinished fretboards (baked maple, rosewood) were hydrated with raw, pure linseed oil for a while now.

 

I can't report any extraordinary, except that the frets on guitars that aren't played that often, do not develop surface rust as they used to before I started using linseed oil.

 

Cheers... Bence

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  • 2 months later...

Hello!

 

I can confirm now with full confidence that pure, raw linseed oil is safe to use for hydrating fretboards.

 

I have been using it on all of my guitars (with unfinished fingerboards), and it keeps the fretboard in top condition. None of my guitars got sticky.

 

The only thing to watch out for, is to use pure (unbleached), and raw (cold-pressed) oil. Swedish linseed oil products are great.

 

For those in Europe, I've found a reliable, German company which sells Swedish organic linseed oil: http://www.dictum.com/en/surfaces/surface-protection-colours/oils/705354/ra-linolja-organic-swedish-linseed-oil-raw-1-l?ffRefKey=1eArzBB8R

 

One litre, is enough for a lifetime.

 

Cheers... Bence

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Hi Bence,

 

Just read through this fascinating tutorial.

I thought I had seen all lutherie tools, but the beam is new to me. It looks useful for all except compound radius necks.

 

I have a question re: the notched straight edge.

Is is not just as good to use a regular straight edge on top of the frets?

The difference from fingerboard straightness will be minimal I think, and any irregularity on the fingerboard would not be more than a couple of thou & not significant would it?

 

-evans

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