General tech questions

PLEK’D

26

Hi Curt,
Perhaps I wasn’t using the right words… That damn language thing…. ; )
I agree, the crowning is a lot of work. But the finishing after that I also find a lot of work. I do it by hand so it’s very labor-intensive…. (a few steps of sandpaper, steel wool and then polish). I like the first part were you are getting to know the neck and get the fret heights to where they should be. That’s fun. But if you have done enough fretwork in your life the rest can get a bit boring. It's a bunch of steps you have to repeat 21 or 22 times..... Do you finish the frets up by hand or machine?

– Danman

I use a combination of soft and hard blocks using wet paper starting at 400 and going to 5000 then I put the wheel on it. The cool thing about using different blocks is that it helps with the rounding.

It is mind numbing stuff but there isn't any stress involved.

27

I use a combination of soft and hard blocks using wet paper starting at 400 and going to 5000 then I put the wheel on it. The cool thing about using different blocks is that it helps with the rounding.

It is mind numbing stuff but there isn't any stress involved.

– Curt Wilson

True, no stress. But it can get mind numbing indeed. Sometimes that is nice.. just switch your mind off and work. But sometimes I wish I could let someone else or a machine do it....

I used to have a block that I used specially for this but I moved back to using my fingers. But perhaps it's a good idea to go back to the block. It's easier on the fingers.....

28

Guitars coming out of the Custom Shop shouldn't need fret work. A little tweak of the bridge height and truss rod to get the action where you like it is expected, but the frets should be beautifully crowned, polished and level.

29

I must be lucky - I've owned a few Gibson CS guitars and while the frets haven't looked like they do on a Collings the guitars have always played beautifully. I wish my Gretsch played as easily as my Gibson.

If you ever want to see what outstanding finishing on a guitar looks like, pick up a Collings. No idea if they use a plek machine, but they are even perfecter than I could imagine.

30

Here's a video from Santa Cruz Guitar Co on the Plek.

Link

I love it. After doing just shy of 1000 fret jobs by hand prior to getting a Plek, I got pretty good at the work but my hands and wrists were really starting to hurt. Not good. And as Curt mentioned, you have to know what you're doing to use the Plek well. It's a tool like anything else, albeit a pretty high tech one. A luthier can save a lot of time, energy and physical pain with it. Plus, it removes the veil of mystery and voodoo about what a good set up is. The scans provide visual evidence for both luthier and guitar player to see exactly what's going on with their instrument.

31

Hi Gents,

Agreed with much of the above, especially the wear and tear on the fingers. One fret job as a hobbyist every year or two is one thing. A few fret jobs in a day is another thing entirely.

One thing a PLEK does that a human can not do as well is measure the fret situation under string tension, but then adjust the fret heights with no tension.

This is VERY rarely important. But some very rare necks have compound bows under the combined compression of the strings and single-action truss rods. It is tricky to observe this under string tension, then compensate for it when hand-filing frets with no such tension from the strings (and a net longitudinal compression on the neck).

Otherwise, I think the PLEK is another way to do the job with its upsides and downsides.

Hiya Curt - Hope all is well.

32

My 2c's The one plek job I had was really substandard. Did not take into account the slight bulge at the neck joint as old guitars tend to develop. Never plek for me again.

Nothing can replace a good manual levelling for the same reason that the best telescope mirrors are still finished lapping over large surfaces rather than have a micro-accurate cnc machine try to fiddle every molecule. I feel fretting is the same. Nothing is better than a large levelling block to get all frets dead even.

I do my own fretwork after paying the price dishing it out over 30 years now. Plek is not there yet, and I will rather find a very good person to do the fretwork if I cannot.

I thin Plek is great for new manufactured guitars during first fretting. the best fretwork I ever encountered is on Brian May Red Specials. Never seen any such good work. Maybe that is plek'd dont know, but it has no resemblance to the plek I had done on one of my old strats, which I had to redo myself to get it right.

33

Again, the Plek is only as good as its operator. And whether they know it or not, a good tech is doing what someone who is good with the Plek does... only the machine does super accurate work over and over again, all day, everyday without showing up late or hungover.


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