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My Guitar fret level tool used for fret leveling and fret re-crowning

Click on the image to see a larger image
The fret level tool
I got the idea for building this tool after seeing the Stew Mac Erlewine neck Jig.
The Stew Mac tool was $370 at the time and it looked like I could build one for a lot less.
Mine is a bit different from the Stew-Mac tool.
The guitar body area is smaller and the body sits right on the surface of the big square wood piece.
I am hanging the rear neck plates off the edge of this wood area because my Ibanez has an angled metal neck plate.
The last steel rod on the right supports the steel neck plate when everything is set up.

Not shown in the picture above are the straps that are used to lock the guitar down to the tool
There are rubber feet under the tool to keep it from sliding around on the work bench.
Under the guitar body is some self stick, soft rubber, weather strip material to keep the body from sliding around.

The picture above shows the tool with a nice coating of polyurethane.
I did a couple guitars first to see if I wanted to change anything before I applied the poly coating.
Some of the pictures down below show the tool without polyurethane, as I was doing my Ibanez JS1200CA

Click on the image to see a larger image
I have done a couple guitars with this tool so far and it has worked out great.
Got a couple more Guitars to do.
I am going to do my el-cheapo Ibanez Bass guitar also.

The Ibanez shown above had some very flat areas all over the neck from doing bends.
It started to fret out badly around the 10th through 13th fret on the small E string.

All I can say after doing the fret level and profile is WOW!!
There is huge difference in how this guitar plays now.
I doubt that frets are even level when the guitar rolled off the assembly line.
Click on the image to see a larger image
The other tools I used to level my frets.

I also used a Stew Mac fret/fingerboard level tool with 320 grit 3m stik-it paper
Link to Stew-Mac fret level tool

Link to Stik-it abrasive

The small tool with the handle is a diamond fret file that has 300 and 150 grit diamond dust
Link to Stew-Mac fret file

The long item at the front is a 24 inch Notched straight edge I made on my CNC machine.
You lay the straight edge on the fret board to get the neck as straight as possible before starting the fret leveling.
The notches fit over the frets so the straight edge touches the finger board.
The picture makes the notched straight edge look curved, but it is flat.
Click on the image to see a larger image
I added a dial indicator to see how much flex was happening as I was using the fret level tool.
I already owned the dial indicator which I used to set up my CNC machine.
The neck flexed down about .0015 as I was using the heavy fret level tool
You don't really have to press down on the fret level tool, it is very heavy steel and precision ground flat.
You just move it back and forth across the top of the frets.
Click on the image to see a larger image
There are 6 x 3/8" steel bars that are raised up after the neck is perfectly level.
These bars have plastic tips to keep from scratching the neck.
The bars keep the neck from flexing while you are doing the fret leveling.
The first bar on the left would only be used for a long Bass guitar neck.
You raise up the bars and then lock them in place by turning the 5/16" threaded lock screws

Not shown in the pictures above are the straps that lock the body and peg head down to the tool.
The pictures below are before I applied a nice polyurethane coat to the neck jig tool
Click on the image to see a larger image
Here you can see I have the Ibanez neck all taped up
I drew on top of the frets with black magic marker so you can tell where you have sanded.
As you level the frets, you can see which frets still have black marker on them and which ones are being leveled down faster.
Once all the frets have the black marker sanded off, they should all be level.
Click on the image to see a larger image
Nut removed, Body and neck taped up
The metal object under fret #5 is my first attempt at mounting the dial indicator.
I found that it was in the way and so I moved it to the other side of the neck.
I also made a different, more solid mount for the dial indicator.
Click on the image to see a larger image
After I leveled all the frets, I used the diamond fret file to profile the frets.
I used the magic marker again to make the frets black
I removed fret material from the side/top edge until I had a nice thin black line left.
The black line is the fret tops that have not been touched by the diamond fret file.
The frets tops were wide and flat after the fret level
The fret tops are already level, you only want to create a nice fret top profile.
This guitar has relatively skinny frets.
They measured .095" wide at the fret board surface with my digital gauge.
Click on the image to see a larger image
Another shot of the finished fret profile on my Ibanez
Click on the image to see a larger image
Another shot of the finished fret profile on my Ibanez

The big fret level tool had 320 grit abrasive paper.
The shot above shows after the 320 grit leveling and then the 150 grit diamond fret file/profile

Then I used 600, 800, 1200 and some fine steel wool to polish the frets.
The frets came out looking out awesome and they play like butter.
Click on the image to see a larger image
I also did my Heavy caster which has a horrible neck.
It's better now, but the neck is twisted and warped badly.
What it really needs is to pull the frets and do a fret board leveling and then a new fret job

This guitar is tuned down to D with some big strings
It has a locked down stop tail piece so there is a big solid string to body connection.
I only use this guitar for heavy chords on some of my recordings.
If you are interested in making one of these, click on this image to see measurements. 



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