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Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

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Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby John E Giarrizzo » Tue Nov 15, 2016 8:04 pm

A friend of mine asked to clean up, adjust, and put new strings on his Alvarez Model 5227 guitar.

It has flat frets, No crown. Never seen that before. Is that the way Alvarez manufactured it? Or did someone do a fret job like that.

Should I put a crown on to make it more playable and/or improve intonation? Or leave it alone?

Thanks,

John
Flat frets Alvarez 100_8799A.jpg
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby Barry Daniels » Tue Nov 15, 2016 8:43 pm

Someone ground them flat. It does not look like there is much height left. It probably needs to have new frets installed. Can you measure the height of the frets?
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby John E Giarrizzo » Tue Nov 15, 2016 9:18 pm

.035"/.037"

I would really like to not refret.
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby Barry Daniels » Tue Nov 15, 2016 11:11 pm

That is not much material left. I would definitely refret it. Do you have any experience replacing frets?
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby David King » Tue Nov 15, 2016 11:46 pm

While I agree with Barry that a refret is in order I see no problem with recrowning provided that the instrument will be playable without further leveling and height loss. It's really up to the owner. With low frets there's a good chance that a hard player will dig into the fingerboard and do some irreparable harm but so what? It's an Alvarez.
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby John E Giarrizzo » Wed Nov 16, 2016 9:01 am

I built a classical guitar from scratch and fretted it, and I did refret my a banjo-mandolin and tenor guitar. So, I think I can do it. But a little apprehensive about working on someone elses instrument.

My friend is a beginner, and it is not an expensive guitar. He has been playing it as is. So, one option would be to leave it. I will suggest to him to just crown them. There isn't much string grooving in them, and hopefully they are fairly level. The string action is on the high side, and the bridge is about as low as it can go.
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby David King » Wed Nov 16, 2016 4:07 pm

If the truss rod adjustment is about right it sounds like you also might need to tackle a neck reset at some point. Oh happy days!
One way to postpone a neck reset is to remove the frets and plane off some of the fingerboard starting at the nut to create a new string plane that aims towards a taller bridge. Basically turning the fingerboard from a even thickness into a long wedge shape. You'd need to deepen the fret slots as you took material off the top. It's a quick and dirty approach but it might be justified on a cheap guitar that's getting new frets. A straight edge will tell you a lot about what needs to happen next.
Always check to see that the truss rod (is there one?) is working before you get too deep into such a project. That said this would be an ideal guitar to learn on and we can talk you through whatever you decide to do.
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby John E Giarrizzo » Thu Nov 17, 2016 8:55 am

Thanks for the replies and suggestions and offer to help. You guys at MIMF have been helping me for over 15 years now.

Planning off the fingerboard is a technique that I wasn't aware of.

I cleaned up the frets, and found that they do have a very slight radius on top. I adjusted the truss rod, deepened the slots in the nut, and took a very slight amount off the bridge. Overall, the instrument is slightly improved.

If this were my guitar, I would re-radius the frets, and maybe do something with the action, but for how the owner is using this guitar, it accomplishes it's purpose, and I may just leave it as is. I will speak with him about it.

I did research fret heights, and Stewmac's new fret wire ranges from .036" to .052". Some of my guitars, due to wear and several fret levelings, are near the low limit, and I never noticed any problem playing, but then again, I am not a pro.

Thanks again.
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby Barry Daniels » Thu Nov 17, 2016 1:18 pm

0.035 to 0.030" high frets are still playable, but they really don't have enough material for fret work, including leveling or crowning. A crowning file used on low frets like this will have the file edges hitting the fretboard and will result in grooves getting cut into the board. So if the frets are level and not worn then play away.
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby David King » Thu Nov 17, 2016 1:44 pm

You would have to crown them old school with a triangular file or grind and sand down a concave crowning file as needed to get to the center of the low frets without scuffing up the board. I'll point out that you can buy new fret wire that's only .036" tall so there are folk out there in the speed metal world who might be happy with the status quo.
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Fri Nov 18, 2016 5:58 pm

Mostly the low fret material (.035) bought new, is used to replace one or two frets at a time, to make it easier to match up with worn frets.
The guitar will still play reasonably well at that height.
The real issue is the width, or flatness, of whatever crown is still there. That can cause all sorts of intonation problems.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby John E Giarrizzo » Sun Nov 20, 2016 8:41 am

I returned the guitar to my friend. He was happy. He even said that it was adequate for what he does. If he progresses, rather than put all that work into it, just get a better instrument. Cost of neck reset and refret could go a long way towards a new instrument (even though I did --- would do the work free as a favor).

I just bought a $150 Fender acoustic for a family member on sale for $99. I was amazed at the quality and sound for that price. I think that the quality of these inexpensive guitars has improved over the years. Forty years ago I bought a beginners guitar for that price, and it was a piece of junk.

Thanks again. I learn something new every time I do a new project.
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Re: Flat frets on Alvarez Guitar?

Postby Jeffrey L. Suits » Sat Jan 28, 2017 2:37 pm

David King wrote:You would have to crown them old school with a triangular file or grind and sand down a concave crowning file as needed to get to the center of the low frets without scuffing up the board. I'll point out that you can buy new fret wire that's only .036" tall so there are folk out there in the speed metal world who might be happy with the status quo.


Taping the fingerboard with powdercoating tape makes oldschool filing a lot easier.
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