Guitar Wizard

Below is a sequence of shots taken during the process of ‘Levelling the Frets’,  also known as Fret Dressing or Stoning. Important point: Anyone using a Chisel Stone needs to know - it’s not level!

Here we can see some wear on the 2nd Fret.

The 1st levelling shows the 2nd fret is too low on one side and has wear indents.

Here the the fret can be seen to be completely level with the others.

On 2nd levelling, part of the 2nd fret is starting to be touched by the block.

This shows some heavy/rough levelling on the upper frets - now the block can be applied.

Finally all the frets are level and it’s time to stop!

After several passes of the levelling block I can see that all the tops of the frets have been kissed or touched. Then I stop levelling!

Now the frets need to be reshaped to give that clean rounded top. This makes all the difference between a nice ringing note or a dull muffled one.

Again, some manufacturers stop short of the complete service and whizz up and down with abrasive after the levelling stage. This may produce a reasonable look but it disguises the ‘flat tops’. Incidentally, it also moves the trigger point of the string to the front edge instead of the top/centre - especially noticeable with wide frets. 

The levels are checked after every alteration. I do look for high spots by but in actual fact I am ‘feeling’ how the straight-edge behaves as this tells me more than a visual observation. The same is true of checking the relief when finished - hence the use of ‘feeler gauges’ and the reason that they got their name!

The next point is not obvious. The picture shows the level being checked but this is only for a demonstration photo! In fact, I check the level in the ‘playing position’. The reason for this is because the neck can change shape with the weight of the headstock/hardware. The player doesn't play lying flat on his back but with the guitar on its side! This is another reason why the amateur can get the levelling and set-up wrong.