Fret buzz..where to start

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Fret buzz..where to start

Postby Edgar Jessop » Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:50 pm

I'll be working on a guitar that has fret buzz on the E6 string, frets 2, 3, 4 and 5 only. I'll probably just use one of my small needle files and touch each fret top and then recrown but I'm curious, on which fret do you guys and gals typically start? At the sixth fret and work your way down or on the 3rd and work your way up?
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Re: Fret buzz..where to start

Postby Barry Daniels » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:20 pm

I never would approach the problem like that. Here is my approach:

1) With the strings on, set the truss rod so the neck is as straight as possible. Place a machinist 18" straight edge on the frets and see if you have any low or high frets and check the general straightness of the frets. If they are not all very close to touching the straightedge then you need to level the frets or replace them if there is not enough material to work with. A fall away on the frets located on the fretboard extension is not really part of this evaluation and is acceptable or even desirable.

2) Once the frets are leveled, set the neck up for playing by setting the relief to about .005 to .010"
2) Set string height at the saddle to get an action of about .060" on the treble and .070" on the bass
3) Set nut slots so the strings just clear the first fret when you fret the string between the 2nd and 3rd frets.
4) At this point you should have a good low action and no buzzing.

Chasing buzzes down fret by fret with a file is absolutely going to be an exercise in frustration and will not lead to a level fretboard.
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Re: Fret buzz..where to start

Postby Charlie Schultz » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:00 am

You can also check out our Buzz FAQ here: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=6
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Re: Fret buzz..where to start

Postby Rodger Knox » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:21 pm

Edgar Jessop wrote:I'll be working on a guitar that has fret buzz on the E6 string, frets 2, 3, 4 and 5 only.

Barry's right, chasing them down one at a time will be unproductive. You don't need to do the whole fretboard, just the E6 string path. The first fret is a little low, or 2-5 are a little high, so level those first. If 2-5 were high, you could be done. If the first fret was low, the buzz will move to 6, and you'll have to level the whole string path.
A man hears what he wants to hear, and disreguards the rest. Paul Simon
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Re: Fret buzz..where to start

Postby Edgar Jessop » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:19 pm

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Re: Fret buzz..where to start

Postby Freeman Keller » Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:29 pm

Edgar, two things. First, as other have said, don't try to level one fret at a time. Get it as flat as you can with the truss rod, then level the whole thing. If you are lucky most frets won't require much. If you have several frets that are high at least use a long enough bar to span all of them. The only time to try leveling one fret is if you know its high (it rocks) and that its neighbors are all level.

Once you are totally done with all the things Barry takes about, do one more little test. Fret a string at the first fret and make sure it plays buzz free. Then while holding it down at one, measure the gap at 2 - it will 2 or 3 thousands. Move up the fretboard, hold down 2 and measure 3. I don't actually measure it, I just use the same feeler gauge and move up the neck. On a perfect fret job the next fret clearance at each fret will be the same as the first one - if it played buzz free there it won't buzz any where up the neck (vibration envelope will become smaller as the string gets shorter). If the gap gets steadily greater then you could get by with lower action. If the gap gets steadily smaller then the action is too lower and probably should be raised. If the gap suddenly gets smaller, then bigger at the next fret you've got a high fret. If the gap gets bigger to about the 6th or 7th fret, then gets smaller again you've got too much relief. If the gap gets smaller for several frets right at the neck body joint you've got the old "14th fret hump" (which to me is the same as several high frets but really needs a little more investigation). If the gap gets bigger from the neck joint to the end of the fretboard, that is normal and not necessarily bad.

I do that for each string at each fret. Its not so much an actual measurement of the gap - I just move my fretting finger and the feeler blade up the neck, wiggle it around under the string to make sure its not getting tighter (you'll feel that) or significantly looser. For me a good setup will have the minimum relief I can get away with and consistent (and small) next fret clearance at every fret.

One other little test of nut slots is to fret at 3 and check the gap at 1 - you want a very small but measurable gap there (2 or 3 thou also). Thats about as low as you can take the nut slots without problems.
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Re: Fret buzz..where to start

Postby Edgar Jessop » Wed Nov 15, 2017 7:45 pm

Freeman Keller wrote:...Edgar, two things. ...That's about as low as you can take the nut slots without problems.

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