What is a Fret Level and Crown and why would you need that? Here’s a photo of a 1965 Gretsch Tennessean fret job that brought new life back to some pretty nasty frets. Click on photo for a close up view of these revitalized frets.
Before and After (See Fretting about Fret Wear)
No matter how well frets are installed at the factory, there is always a margin of error that is normal and expected. Sometimes this is done very poorly at the factory and, yes, sometimes even brand new guitars need a Level and Crown. The most obvious factor making a Level and Crown necessary is settling of the neck and most times, fret wear. The correction comes in the way of a “Fret Level and Crown”. A proper job includes:
- Frets are inspected for wear, loose fit, damage, and/or uneven level. Fingerboard wear is also assessed at that time.
- First step is to completely mask the fingerboard and any exposed areas of the guitar.
- Frets are “Leveled” with a file to even them across the fingerboard and to remove any “divots” or wear. This is done with high regard for the radius of the neck on your instrument.
- Frets are then “Crowned” using specially made files that are specific to your fret size. This reshapes the fret to the factory profile, re-establishing the “Crown” which is necessary for a guitar to feel and sound proper. If you have noticed your guitar just won’t play in tune, sometimes fret wear is the cause.
- “Polish” is a very important and many times overlooked part of the Level and Crown process. Once the frets are level and crowned, they need to be polished. Some shops skimp on this phase and the result is a rough, “grinding” feeling when you bend notes. A high Polish is accomplished by starting with a medium emory paper (we use Micro Mesh which is a dramatic improvement in consistency over “sand paper” or steel wool-BTW steel wool should NEVER be used on electric guitars and basses as its steel dust-which is magnetic-gets all over everything having to do with pickups!). I continue polishing, going up one number (finer grit) until a near mirror finish is accomplished.
- Final polishing is done with a Dremel tool using a felt wheel and jeweler’s rouge to create the ultimate in looks and feel. On vintage guitars we do this final step by hand.
- Everything is then thoroughly cleaned, fingerboard is either polished if maple or restorer applied if rosewood, ebony, etc.
- Complete Guitar Setup and New Strings and, many times, things are better than new!
Complete Fret Level, Crown, and Polish INCLUDES Complete Setup (strings additional)
(Floyd Rose equipped guitars add $15)