Fret Leveling

Leveling of guitar frets may need to be performed for several reasons:

Filing Frets Level

Filing Frets Level
A long file is used to insure even fret removal & consistent height.

When performing a fret leveling on a guitar the frets are filed as a whole, not individually. This insures that the crown of one fret is not lower or higher than the one next to it.

Before filing the frets the neck is adjusted flat, the fingerboard masked and the crowns inked with a Sharpie. This ink gives a visual indication to the progress being made and quickly uncovers high frets.

After leveling, the frets crown is not flat and must be re-crowned.

The crown of the fret is the center peak which contacts the strings when fretting.

The roundness of the fret makes it comfortable to play, the crown insures proper string length and intonation.

Crowning Frets

Special files, known as a Fret Crowning File have rounded, concave surfaces which round over the now flattened fret.

Frets are filed until a sliver of the crown's peak remains, untouched. This ensures no height was removed by overzealous crowning.

Crowned Frets


Fret Polishing

Once the frets have been crowned we are left with level, albeit scratched fret wire. In order to achieve a polished, smooth finish the frets are lightly sanded and polished.

Changing Fret Height

Fret height is of course a big factor when considering fret leveling and there is a limit to how short a fret can be and still do it's job, well. Very short frets (say under .025 tall) can create a buzzing problem for some players, especially when the fret width is narrow. The strings need to bend down and over the fret to produce a clear note. A very low fret often dictates the need for more pressure or applying pressure closer to the fret to obtain a clear note. Something that is difficult to adapt to.

Symptoms Of Unlevel Frets

Let's say you are playing an A note on the 5th fret and a noticeable buzz is heard, but, after moving up to the 6th fret the buzzing disappears. All other notes play cleanly but this one in particular is always buzzing.

The first thing to rule out is a loose fret that has sprung free from the fingerboard and now sits higher than it's peers. Loose frets should be seated and the instrument re-evaluated. On occasion, re-seating a loose fret may not render the frets perfectly level. When that's the case, a level and dress is in order.

On acoustic and hollow body guitars you may occasionally see a hump in the fingerboard where it joins the body. Sometimes this hump is caused by a dryness. When a lack of humidity is the culprit the instrument should be given proper humidity to allow it to stabilize and then re-evaluate.

When unevenness of the fingerboard can not be remedied with humidity one will either end up leveling the frets, or, in some of the worst cases, remove them to plane the fingerboard before re-fretting.

view fret work photos

Fretting Tools

Copyright © Fret Not Guitar Repair Inc.
Site Map | Privacy