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  #1  
Old 12-08-2017, 11:50 AM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Default Which Fret's Got the Problem?

I took my action a little low and now have a problem with 1 fret which manifests with a buzz when applying the 15th fret little e string.

The 14th fret - perfect, tuner shows "e".
The 16th fret - perfect, tuner shows "#F".

The 15th fret - has buzz, sounds just like the #F on the 16th fret, and tuner is blank.

Question - under these facts, am I correct in concluding that my problem is that the 16th fret is too high, relative to the 15th?

Question - what is the cleanest way to reduce the problem fret height? Assuming I have small flat/rounded files and good sandpaper.

Thanks for any help.
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  #2  
Old 12-08-2017, 12:22 PM
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Rodger Knox Rodger Knox is offline
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Yes, the 16th fret is too high at the e string. (are you tuned down to D?)
Remove a little off the top of the fret directly under the string. Keep going until the 15th fret rings without buzz. Check that the 16th fret rings, you may have to chase this up the fretboard if the 15th fret was low.
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  #3  
Old 12-08-2017, 12:26 PM
Reasley Reasley is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisN View Post
I took my action a little low and now have a problem with 1 fret which manifests with a buzz when applying the 15th fret little e string.

The 14th fret - perfect, tuner shows "e".
The 16th fret - perfect, tuner shows "#F".

The 15th fret - has buzz, sounds just like the #F on the 16th fret, and tuner is blank.

Question - under these facts, am I correct in concluding that my problem is that the 16th fret is too high, relative to the 15th?

Question - what is the cleanest way to reduce the problem fret height? Assuming I have small flat/rounded files and good sandpaper.

Thanks for any help.
You need to use a "fret rocker" to ascertain the problem. A picture and a link are below.

On a recent thread, I recommended one & got some pushback, evidently from a couple of people who repair and setup guitars which, frankly, stunned me. Guys, we are talking about a $10 item -- that should be in every guitarist's case. Obviously and personally, I don't care if anyone uses what I use or not but it is interesting to see a logical recommendation be discounted and, for why, I still don't know.

Having said that, your problem is a bit different from buzzing frets in the lower area of the neck. Your problem is above the guitar's body so I would first recommend that, if you are going to do ANY work on your guitar, spend $30 and buy a nice repair book from someone like Dan Erlwine. On page 166 of Guitar Player Repair Guide, Third Edition, he addresses fret buzz in the high registers.

For lower fret buzzing, here's how to use the rocker I mentioned. Note that you can still use it to assess a high fret on the upper neck, but I would not recommend trying to do any repairs in that area yourself and certainly, I would never sand a fret myself.

1) As you can see, there are three sides to it.
2) Pick the side that "straddles" three frets wherever you are on your fretboard.
3) Try to "slightly rock" the fret rocker. You are looking for a very, very subtle rocking that will indicate that the "middle fret" is high. You have to do this for a while (and preferably on a "known high fret") to know what you are trying to find.
4) If you find a high fret, then you have probably found a fret that has risen slightly in its slot.
5) The ideal tool to correct this is a fret installation tool that, when clamped, will re-seat the fret. Only a shop will have this. The alternative is to use a short (3-4") hardwood dowel to (judiciously) tap the fret back into place.


Link to tool: http://www.philadelphialuthiertools....igh-low-frets/

Picture of Fret Rocker:
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  #4  
Old 12-08-2017, 12:36 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodger Knox View Post
Yes, the 16th fret is too high at the e string. (are you tuned down to D?)
Remove a little off the top of the fret directly under the string. Keep going until the 15th fret rings without buzz. Check that the 16th fret rings, you may have to chase this up the fretboard if the 15th fret was low.
Standard tuning, and thanks for the confirmation.
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Old 12-08-2017, 12:45 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reasley View Post
You need to use a "fret rocker" to ascertain the problem. A picture and a link are below.

On a recent thread, I recommended one & got some pushback, evidently from a couple of people who repair and setup guitars which, frankly, stunned me. Guys, we are talking about a $10 item -- that should be in every guitarist's case. Obviously and personally, I don't care if anyone uses what I use or not but it is interesting to see a logical recommendation be discounted and, for why, I still don't know.

Having said that, your problem is a bit different from buzzing frets in the lower area of the neck. Your problem is above the guitar's body so I would first recommend that, if you are going to do ANY work on your guitar, spend $30 and buy a nice repair book from someone like Dan Erlwine. On page 166 of Guitar Player Repair Guide, Third Edition, he addresses fret buzz in the high registers.

For lower fret buzzing, here's how to use the rocker I mentioned. Note that you can still use it to assess a high fret on the upper neck, but I would not recommend trying to do any repairs in that area yourself and certainly, I would never sand a fret myself.

1) As you can see, there are three sides to it.
2) Pick the side that "straddles" three frets wherever you are on your fretboard.
3) Try to "slightly rock" the fret rocker. You are looking for a very, very subtle rocking that will indicate that the "middle fret" is high. You have to do this for a while (and preferably on a "known high fret") to know what you are trying to find.
4) If you find a high fret, then you have probably found a fret that has risen slightly in its slot.
5) The ideal tool to correct this is a fret installation tool that, when clamped, will re-seat the fret. Only a shop will have this. The alternative is to use a short (3-4") hardwood dowel to (judiciously) tap the fret back into place.


Link to tool: http://www.philadelphialuthiertools....igh-low-frets/

Picture of Fret Rocker:
I do have a fret rocker, but never saw how to use it, so thanks for that input.
Before trying to reduce the fret, I'll try your suggestion re: pushing the fret back in (assuming it's up a bit) using a piece of wood and a small hand press.

I have Erlewine's book and will check out the reference you mentioned.

This problem is likely self-induced, as the guitar has an unusual neck joint (vertical sliding dovetail, just under the fretboard extension) that, in combination with the installed bolts, holds things in place without having to glue the FB extension (originally was glued), which permits just the slightest elevation of the FB extension, causing the barely too high 16th fret to buzz when applying the 15th fret. I'd don't spend a lot of time in that area, but would like it perfect, if possible, so I'll try the press to correct, then, if not, take a little off the 16th fret. This is my learner guitar, so I'm not worried about hurting it, but I'll be careful!
Thanks again.
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Old 12-08-2017, 01:03 PM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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I don't really have a need for a fret rocker. Playing notes at specific frets, listening to the response and sighting the fingerboard tell me what I need to know. If you want to use one, and that is YOUR preferred method, fine, go for it.

If the fingerboard extension is floating and not rigid, you're likely to have recurring problems with fret buzzes if the geometry of the fingerboard continuously changes. (The reason that fingerboard have historically been glued to something is to ensure that they remain rigid and stable. My experience has been that the sound of notes played on un-fixed portions of a fingerboard have a different tone.)

As you've described it, the 16th fret is too high compared to the 15th. To check if fret ends, in particular, are loose and sticking up, I use the end of 3/8" wooden dowel to press down on the end of the fret and see if the fret moves. (The end of a pencil will also work, with or without the erase on its end.) If it is loose, it can be glued back down, while holding it down with the end of the dowel.

You might be able to successfully spot-lower that one fret, but, doing so, as Roger noted, might just have you chasing high frets up the fingerboard. Usually, I'd dress all of the frets in the area to ensure a true surface across the tops of the frets. You might also like to sight down the neck towards the soundhole, and/or use a straightedge, to assess the flatness of the playing surface, in general. If the soundhole end of the fingerboard - the unglued area - sticks up, that might be the issue and the 16th fret just a symptom (i.e. where the change in geometry occurs).

Last edited by charles Tauber; 12-08-2017 at 01:11 PM.
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  #7  
Old 12-08-2017, 01:17 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
I don't really have a need for a fret rocker. Playing notes at specific frets, listening to the response and sighting the fingerboard tell me what I need to know. If you want to use one, and that is YOUR preferred method, fine, go for it.

If the fingerboard extension is floating and not rigid, you're likely to have recurring problems with fret buzzes if the geometry of the fingerboard continuously changes. (The reason that fingerboard have historically been glued to something is to ensure that they remain rigid and stable. My experience has been that the sound of notes played on un-fixed portions of a fingerboard have a different tone.)

As you've described it, the 16th fret is too high compared to the 15th. To check if fret ends, in particular, are loose and sticking up, I use the end of 3/8" wooden dowel to press down on the end of the fret and see if the fret moves. (The end of a pencil will also work, with or without the erase on its end.) If it is loose, it can be glued back down, while holding it down with the end of the dowel.

You might be able to successfully spot-lower that one fret, but, doing so, as Roger noted, might just have you chasing high frets up the fingerboard. Usually, I'd dress all of the frets in the area to ensure a true surface across the tops of the frets. You might also like to sight down the neck towards the soundhole, and/or use a straightedge, to assess the flatness of the playing surface, in general. If the soundhole end of the fingerboard - the unglued area - sticks up, that might be the issue and the 16th fret just a symptom (i.e. where the change in geometry occurs).
All excellent points Charles. I'll check for a lifting 16th fret but I may end up regluing the FB extension as well, or in place of further fretwork. I held off to to let the recent neck angle changes kind of settle in before doing that to avoid a re-do. I also like the idea of being able to remove the neck via a couple of bolts, with no new damage to the top. This is the only fret causing issues, for now, and my action is "electric guitar" low.
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Old 12-08-2017, 01:20 PM
John Arnold John Arnold is offline
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The 15th fret could also be too low. Confirm by placing a straightedge on the 15th, but not extending to the 16th. If the straightedge rocks on the 14th, then the 15th is too low.
I use a 6" long stainless ruler to check for high/low frets. By sliding it toward the bridge, any bumping on the end of the ruler indicates a high fret. Rocking is self-explanatory.
In general, buzzing on the first string only is indicative of a fret that is not seated on the end (very common). Sometimes, the fret can be glued down with thin CA, pressing it down with a small block while the glue sets. If that doesn't work, I remove the fret, re-bend it, and reinstall it.

Quote:
with no new damage to the top
Done correctly, you should experience no damage to the top when ungluing the extension.
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  #9  
Old 12-08-2017, 02:30 PM
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murrmac123 murrmac123 is offline
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Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
Usually, I'd dress all of the frets in the area to ensure a true surface across the tops of the frets.
As always, Charles nails it.

I would go even further and, particularly in view of the well documented history on the forum of this project guitar, would suggest that it would benefit from a total fret dress.l
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  #10  
Old 12-08-2017, 02:41 PM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murrmac123 View Post
As always, Charles nails it.
Reading John's response, I see that he gave the other half of a more complete answer, that the 15th fret could be low, the use of a 6" ruler and a bumping technique, one that I have also used when needed, and re-bending and reinstalling in the cases where gluing the fret end doesn't hold it.

In the old days, one option for pesky fret ends was to "ding" the fret tang to create additional beads, or larger beads. This could be done by setting the tang on edge on the corner of a hard metal surface, such as a vice, and taping it with a hammer. More recently, Stewmac created a tool that crimps the fret tang to create effectively as wide a tang as you want. It works well in certain circumstances, but does have the disadvantage that it widens/damages the fret board kerf, a minor issue on a subsequent refret.
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  #11  
Old 12-08-2017, 05:12 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodger Knox View Post
Yes, the 16th fret is too high at the e string. (are you tuned down to D?)
Remove a little off the top of the fret directly under the string. Keep going until the 15th fret rings without buzz. Check that the 16th fret rings, you may have to chase this up the fretboard if the 15th fret was low.
This is what I ended up doing - I reduced the 16th fret until it didn't rock, which was also where it stopped buzzing. Very cool to learn/do this today. I was so excited that I found several other "rockers" in the 14-16 fret area (and one higher than that) that I dealt with, as I found I could make them buzz if I hit them hard enough. All's well now. I'll pretty up the reduced frets at the next string change.

I know a good fret level/polish is a good idea, but I'll wait on that a bit. The luthier I bought this guitar from did that before I bought it, so it was already in good shape UNTIL I reset the neck, which resulted in enough of a fretboard bulge in the 14-16 fret region that it gave me a few high frets. Every note rings true, now, and it plays great, so I have no complaints. If it ain't broke . . . .

Thanks to all who weighed in. Very cool learning day.
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Old 12-09-2017, 07:51 AM
Ned Milburn Ned Milburn is offline
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Didn't read everyone else's responses. Be sure the 16th fret is not loose on the end. If it is loose, and you try rectification before gluing/stabilizing the fret, then you will not correct your problem.

Also, the 15th fret could be loose. If you find 1 loose fret end, it may be a good idea to check for others.

Otherwise, the other fine members of this forum have given you lots to consider.
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Old 12-09-2017, 10:33 AM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ned Milburn View Post
Didn't read everyone else's responses. Be sure the 16th fret is not loose on the end. If it is loose, and you try rectification before gluing/stabilizing the fret, then you will not correct your problem.

Also, the 15th fret could be loose. If you find 1 loose fret end, it may be a good idea to check for others.

Otherwise, the other fine members of this forum have given you lots to consider.
All of the frets were fully seated and not loose - seems the issue was due to the slight fretboard bulging in the neck joint area from my recent amateur reset. A pro likely would have removed the frets in that area, reduced the fretboard to level, then reinstalled the frets, but I'm not there yet. Fret work makes me nervous. Thanks Ned.
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Old 12-11-2017, 01:21 PM
bausin bausin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
I don't really have a need for a fret rocker. Playing notes at specific frets, listening to the response and sighting the fingerboard tell me what I need to know. If you want to use one, and that is YOUR preferred method, fine, go for it.
I've thought of making an electronic device which would detect if a string was buzzing against a specific fret. It wouldn't be hard to design; the fabrication would be most of the work.

I've used an ohmmeter and a straightedge to detect high frets and it works really well. With even a seemingly level fretboard, the straightedge usually rests on just two frets.

Last edited by bausin; 01-11-2018 at 07:37 PM.
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