The need to do some fret leveling can be needed for a variety of reasons. One could be that there is a buzzing in the instrument. The other could be that a note is not is not sounding right when certain chords are played. Typically a setup may be needed to remedy those problems. But when those options are no longer available this could be the answer. Keep in mind you would never want to do this type of work on a very expensive instrument and this is could harm the overall sound and feel of the instrument if done improperly. So with that in mind lets start.
Fender Squire Black and Chrome Standard Stratocaster HSS
This needed slight leveling to ensure the instrument will be more playable and thus sound better to play. The materials and tools for the job needed:
- High grit adhesive backed sand paper
- A radius block for the desired neck. (example: 9.5 inch radius neck should use 9.5 radius blocks)
- Concave Fret End file
- Painters Tape
Prepping the neck
You will want to remove the strings and clean the neck up slightly so that you can tape off the fretboard and have only the frets exposed. This will reduce chances of any damage or wear on the actual fretboard. It does not need to be thoroughly clean. Just clean enough to get any dirt and grime of the neck for the tape to adhere evenly. Once the neck is taped up, we can begin the next phase.
The leveling itself
Now we take the high grit sand paper and adhere it to the back of the radius block. We used 3M P800 Grain sandpaper for the job. By using a higher grit we prevented the frets from being sanded down too much.
When sanding you will want to use minimal pressure. Use nice even strokes for equal sanding leveling. You will notice the coloration of the frets change tint slightly. Do a little at a time and inspect what has been sanded. Once this is done we move to the next phase…filing.
Rounding the Fret Edges
The frets are at the desired height, but look flat. The sanding has flattened the frets and now its time to round them out using the Concave Fret End File. Again using uniform strokes you will work from fret end to fret end on both side of the fret until it has rounded out. Repeat this as needed as some of the sanding may not have affected some of the frets. Once these are rounded out, you can polish them up with a polishing wheel. Again use minimal pressure to avoid doing this all over again.
Now you can restring the guitar and get it setup for playing. The strings should sit and feel uniform. No fret should have any “bite” on the string when playing. If there is, file it out slow and steady. Remember you do not want to over do it. If you are not confident in this regard do consult an experienced luthier to do the job.
We hope that Rich will enjoy the playability of this Strat now that the frets are more level than before. Till next time stay up and play on!