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Epiphone Regent tune up

My Epi Emperor Regent had a few issues with some minor fret buzz on the A and D strings at the 8th and the 13th frets. Raising the action only partially cured the issue, and the truss rod adjustment would not eliminate it either. The higher action also affected the ability to correct the intonation completely with the fixed saddle bridge, and made it harder to play as well. The edges of the fret ends also had a sharp feel to them, as the factory fret dressing leaves quite a bit to be desired. After speaking with the local luthier at GC, I was informed that $85.00 would cover a “fret job” and set-up with new strings. A little research on the internet revealed that some really neat new tools are now available to do set-ups and fret jobs. I purchased a fingerboard straight edge that will do both 24-3/4 and 25-1/2 scales (Gibson and Fender), a fret rocker, stainless steel fingerboard guards, and a 12 inch radius, 10 inch long fret leveling block. With these new tools and my trusty Gurian fret crowning burrs, a ground edge fine cut triangle file, some tape, 220 through 2500 grit wet dry sandpaper, a Sharpie, and some green Scotch Brite, the Regent was placed on the operating table for the treatment it deserved.

With the strings relaxed, but still on the guitar and taped to the back of the neck, the first thing was to check the straightness of the fingerboard/neck using the notched straight edge. It proved to be dead level and so the truss rod was left alone. Next, the fingerboard was taped off with masking tape. The fret rocker instantly revealed the offending 9th, 15th and 16th frets as having high spots. I marked them with a red Sharpie, and all the rest of the frets were marked with a black Sharpie. Using 220 grit sticky backed sandpaper and the 12 inch radius block, it only took about a dozen strokes to strike a flat level spot on top of all the frets. After re-marking them again with the Sharpie, a second smoothing pass with the block using 400 was done. Then the frets were marked again and re-crowned with the Gurian fret burr. Using the triangle file, and fingerboard guards, the fret ends were then rounded and radiused to get rid of the square ends on the frets where they rest on the edge binding, something Epiphone does not bother to do, to eliminated the rough feel you experience when sliding up and down the neck. Using progressive grits, starting with 400 and working down to 2500 grit, the frets were smoothed and polished, followed by a buffing with Scotch Brite and 0000 steel wool.

The nut was fine, having been replaced with one made of real bone, and the bridge was re-radiused to correctly match the fingerboard curve. Next, the string slots in the nut and bridge received a little polishing and coating with graphite before re-positioning the strings in the slots and tuning them up to pitch. The end results were really noticeable and rewarding; the action was lowered by 1/32” and that reduced the intonation adjustments required such that now the stock rosewood bridge saddle compensation was almost perfect. The feel of sliding up the neck and was like butter, no more rough fret ends, and the slickness of the now highly polished frets added to the ease of fast chord and fingering changes, plus no more buzzes! A secondary benefit is that the fret leveling also ever so slightly lowers the frets, which makes for easier playing as well. The whole process took about 2-3 hours, and cost me $80.00 in addition to the tools I already had, but was well worth it, especially with several other guitars in my stable that need attention. These new tools not only save time, but do a much better and precise job.

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That is what I did,

started by working on old Kays and Harmony guitars.

They have brass frets, so many need new frets. I practiced replacing the binding, re-setting the neck, re-finishing, fixing cracks, you name it.

It just takes time and patience, and the right tools, and Hideo Kanamoto's book is an excellent resource. Every luthier was once a beginner, even Orville Gibson!

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