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How best to deal with high frets

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I have a number of basses with high frets that prevent me from getting the action as low as I would like.  I plan to get some luthiery tools so that I can level them myself.  In addition, I'd quite like to be able to have what I need to do a full fret level in the future, but it's not an immediate concern.

My first question is: what tool is appropriate for levelling a single fret.  I assume I could use a shortish fret levelling file, but how short? Crimson Guitars sell a 3" spot levelling file, but also a 6" file, which I 'think' I've seen them use to do a full fret level instead of a beam.  So  I guess what I'm asking is, buy a 3" file for the single frets and get a beam further down the line (expensive option,) or get the 6" file and use that for both jobs?

Second question: what's a good way of getting the neck straight?  I've seen some people suggest those notched rulers aren't so useful, as they work on the assumption that the fretboard is perfectly level.  But, if you use a straight edge on the frets, surely you need the frets to be level?

 

- just as an addendum, I realise that if I want the best result I could take it to a luthier, but these are all cheap basses, and the aim here really is to learn and practice the skills rather than the outcome.

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I usually level single frets with a 3-corner crowning file - the Crimson one would be fine ("Traditional Fret Crowning 3-Corner File"), although I made my own. Could be any narrow smooth-cut file that can work on a single fret without touching the ones either side.

I'd use neither of those 3" or 6" Crimson files, for a full level I always use a beam (mine are from GMI off ebay) as a fine grit paper can be used (I use 320) so it chews the frets up much less than a file and takes a lot less time to get the scratches out after crowning (especially if you use a diamond crowning file).

I've always used a notched straight edge to get the neck straight although I have a conventional straight edge too if the fretboard is very uneven and I can't get it straight enough. I've not needed it yet.

However, this is only what I have done that I know works for me - there are lots of ways of achieving good results in fret levelling - I have seen people use files, beams or radius blocks and do a nice job. I like using a beam as it is most forgiving and adaptable to fretboard radius. Ditto the many different ways of crowning - all can work well.

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On 03/05/2021 at 14:12, nilebodgers said:

I usually level single frets with a 3-corner crowning file - the Crimson one would be fine ("Traditional Fret Crowning 3-Corner File"), although I made my own. Could be any narrow smooth-cut file that can work on a single fret without touching the ones either side.

Thank you.  Now that you explain it, it seems blindingly obvious that this is how you do it, but it wasn't obvious to me, so I'm glad I asked.  I've got a suitable file on the way in the post, and I managed to dig up a good video that goes through in detail the method you described, so I'm looking forward to giving it a go.

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For cheap basses I'd use (and I have used with success) a thin strip of sandpaper wrapped around a finger, applying even pressure. Start with 400 grit to level, then use 1200 and finally 0000 wire wool to crown. You need to mask up each fret with tape, as not to damaged the fretboard.

For a straight neck, if you hold your bass up to one eye with the bridge closest to you, so you look from the bridge down the neck to the headstock. You'll be able to see if the neck is straight or needs any adjustment. Remember, the neck should have a tiny amount of relief i.e slight upward bow near the nut.

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