From bhatche–(at)– Fri Sep 6 10:40:40 CDT 1996
Article: 12613 of
From: Bill Hatcher
Subject: Re: Fret leveling
Date: Thu, 05 Sep 1996 23:45:44 -0400
Organization: MindSpring Enterprises
Lines: 62
Message-ID: <322F9E68.53F--(at)>
References: <50k7ok$m3--(at)> <50lkqk$t5--(at)>
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Mailer: Mozilla 2.02 (Macintosh; U; 68K)
To: Mick Patterson

Mick. A very good method of crowning those frets! Here is how I do
it. Get your neck straight with the rod. As for your truss rod
adjustments I think you are letting the rod rule you. You don’t have
to let the neck “settle” for as long as you are talking about. Take a
Fender neck and tighten the rod, then put it against your knee like
you were going to try to break it in half. Bend it toward you with
the fingerboard on your knee to loosen up a rod or flip it over and
bend it away from you to tighten. This sort of “helps” the wood
settle a little faster, plus it’s fun to do on a 59 Strat neck while
the customer is standing there, they turn purple and start to

I use a smooth 12″ file that I have epoxied to a piece of purple
heart. I must have looked through a box of 50 of these files at the
hardware store to find a couple that were really flat. Before you
make one pass with the file, hold the neck up to the light and “sight
down” it. After 25 years of doing this you can see from the
reflection of light off the tops of the frets which frets are high and
which ones are low. Make a mental note and watch these areas when you
start to file. Now make an easy pass over the entire fingerboard.
Stop and look at what you are dealing with. Look for the low spots
and the high spots. If you have a fret that is way too high then you
might be able to tap it down a litte or if a fret is to low you would
be better off replacing it or if you are recrowning a crappy fret job
you might just take your fret pliers and pull it up a little and
reglue it. Point is, don’t take off a lot of metal to “chase” a low
fret and don’t take off a lot of metal from a high fret.

If I am crowning one of my fret jobs then I know that the fingerboard
is going to be nice and level and that all the frets are seated good.
As I am driving them in and gluing the ends down I always take a piece
of thin paper and try to slide it under the entire length of the fret.
You might be surprised to see how a fret hasn’t “seated” real well
even though just eyeballing it seems to be fine.

All right, now we are ready to start grinding!! Don’t touch the first
fret any more. Sounds kind of strange but the tendency is to put a
lot of pressure out towards the nut end of the board so just don’t
touch that fret again after you have made the initial couple of
passes. Now lightly run your file up and down the board and don’t
stay in one groove. Stop at the second fret, then the same number of
passes and stop at the third fret, same number of passes stop at the
fourth fret, etc. Very light pressure is the game here and can you
see what you are doing?? The first fret is microscopically taller
than the second, and the second microscopically taller than the third
etc. I have worked on this for years and I can tell you that this
really works. Once you get down about the 8th or 10th fret don’t use
this technique anymore just make them all level. One thing I always
do is to make a few extra passes on the last 3 or 4 frets. This
tapers off the end of the board a little and allows for a lower string
action if the customer wants it. When I am preparing the fingerboard
to be refretted I always take about 1/2 mm off the fingerboard from
the last 4 frets to the end. This little tapering off of the end of
the fingerboard will stop about 75% of all the fret rattlings that we
luthiers chase around on guitars with low action.

If you run into a situation where something is not going real good and
you still have some noise after you string the guitar back up, then
unstring it and paint the tops of the frets with a sharpie or some
blue machinist ink. Now you will really be able to see where your
file is cutting!! Crown em’ like you like em’ (another topic) .
Regards. Bill

From ra303–(at)– Fri Sep 6 10:42:47 CDT 1996
Article: 12608 of
From: ra303–(at)– (Mick Patterson)
Subject: Re: Fret leveling
Date: 5 Sep 1996 20:10:11 GMT
Organization: MSC
Lines: 69
References: <50k7ok$m3--(at)> <50lkqk$t5--(at)>

Here is the way *I* do fret-leveling. It works very well for me, but I won’t
say it’s in any way a definitive method; I don’t believe in such things…

TOOLS: 8″ VERY straight whetstone; fretfile, or triangle file with the corners
ground smooth; 0000 steel wool (maybe some 00 or 000, as well); Wrench
for adjusting your trussrod; maybe polishing compound (see article).
The first thing to do is to get your neck straight. Adjusting the trussrod
isn’t hard, but be careful; you don’t want to overtighten. In general, when you
face the adjusting point (with the headstock closest to you on a Gibson, and on
a Fender that adjusts next to the body, with the headstock pointing away from
you), turning clockwise will flatten the neck, and counterclockwise will let it
bow more. Only turn 1/4 to 1/2 turn max at a time (unless it’s loose!), then
wait 5-10 minutes for the wood to settle some (sometimes I’ll wait for a half-
hour or so; the wood actually will settle for a day or so) before making any
further adjustment. This is done with the strings ON the guitar.
Now take all the strings off (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!! go the Floyd guys).
Make sure your whetstone is oiled (cutting oil, gun oil, even 3-in-1) adequately
so that it doesn’t [1] grind itself away, and [2] clog up too much. The stone
should have two differing textures, i.e., one side will be rougher than the
other. Using the roughest side, rub GENTLY up and down the neck, trying to
keep to the curvature of your fretboard (unless, as you get better at it, you
flatten the radius of the upper frets a bit to get a psuedo-compound radius for
easier string bending and a little lower action, by grinding the middle of the
upper frets just a hair more). Do this until EVERY fret is touched by the
stone ALL THE WAY ACROSS all frets. I should mention that if you have any
enormous divots in any of the frets, you may have to have your frets replaced,
as you may not be able to grind far enough down to hit the bottom of the divot
without being almost on the fingerboard (and fret replacement is ANOTHER story
Now your frets are level! However, they’re also unplayable. The next step
is to turn the stone over on the finer side, and gently slide it up and down the
fretboard a few times to remove harsh scratches from the other side of the
stone. Be gentle here; you don’t want to remove much more material!
_____ Your frets now look like the diagram on the left; they’re _
| | flat on top from the grinding. You must restore a “crown” /
| | to them, since intonation will be inaccurate if you don’t. /
| | You use the fretfile, or the triangle file with the corners | |
ground smooth (so as not to file the fretboard wood) to get the shape at right.
This part isn’t hard, but it IS tedious (there’s quite a few frets!). Be care-
ful not to scratch the top of the fret; you don’t want any scratches there!
Once the frets are “crowned”, then you must smooth them out. This where the
steel wool comes in. Rub up and down the neck with this until the frets are
looking pretty smooth. Graduate from the coarser grades (00) to the finer ones
(0000). Now, there’s two ways to go from here. One, you go now to polishing
compound and rub down the frets until they shine (which I do for people who pay
me to do this). The other way is to put the strings on, and play for about a
half-hour. The strings themselves will polish the playing surface (I know, I
know, I’m lazy, so what). This sounds silly, but it works fine; this is how I
do my guitars.
I hope this works good for you. Remember, the instant you see that all the
frets have been touched all the way across with the stone, STOP GRINDING! You
want to remove as LITTLE material as possible.
This method was distilled mostly from the book “Making Your Own Electric
Guitar”, by Melvin Hiscock. There is good common-sense stuff in this book,
whether building or repairing guitars.
One thing I should mention about fret-levelling: I really don’t care much
for maple fretboards, so I don’t think about them much. But if that’s the type
you’re doing, then you must use masking tape on the fretboard inbetween the
frets. The fingerboard has a finish on it, and you’ll scratch it up if you
don’t mask it off.
Now: put some nice new strings of your choosing on there, lower the action
a hair, and LET ‘ER RIP!

P.S. Don’t let the fretfile whack the body when crowning the highest frets.
I did it on my SG, and I learned a good lesson there.
My opinions do not reflect those of anyone else… yet.

From newcom–(at)– Fri Sep 6 10:43:04 CDT 1996
Article: 12616 of
From: newcom–(at)– (Randall Newcomb)
Subject: Re: Fret leveling
Date: Thu, 05 Sep 1996 23:05:17 -0500
Organization: Winternet (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Lines: 24
References: <50k7ok$m3--(at)> <50lkqk$t5--(at)> <322F9EA0.6B0--(at)>

I use a method similar to what has been mentioned in the other posts with
one minor difference. I “paint” the tops of all the frets with a magic
marker. TRhis provides visual feedback during the “grinding” process. So
the steps are:

1. loosen/remove strings
2. straighten neck
3. “paint” frets with a marker (be careful not to get it on the fretboard)
4. gently use a long straight flat file and watch where the marker is
being removed (these are high spots)
5. after they are resonably level crown the frets with a fret file
6. Use steel wool to shine the frets (and get any leftover marker off)
(remember to use masking tape on either side of the fret to protect the

If too much grinding will be required for a few low frets it may be better
to replace these frets. Note that, particularly on cheaper acoustics that
the 15-17 frets may seem very high.

– Randall

Carpe Cavy! (Seize the guinea pig!)


Buy the Book!

I cleaned up my tab for Sonny Boy's Help Me and made it into a short book. There's a Kindle version for 99 cents, and if you buy the paperback you get the Kindle free.

Playing "Help-Me" In the Style of Sonny Boy Williamson II: A step by step, note for note analysis of some of Sonny Boy's Signature Riffs

I also write Science Fiction, so you can sample some of my best stories. Also available in Kindle format.

Error Message Eyes: A Programmer's Guide to the Digital Soul

10 Hole 20 Tone Blues Harmonica Embedded Jazz Harp Key Of C Diatonic Mouth H

End Date: Wednesday May-22-2019 18:37:25 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $4.03
Buy It Now |
10 Hole 20 Tone Blues Harmonica Embedded Jazz Harp Key Of C Diatonic Mouth H

End Date: Wednesday May-22-2019 18:37:25 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $4.03
Buy It Now |
10 Hole 20 Tone Blues Harmonica Embedded Jazz Harp Key Of C Diatonic Mouth H

End Date: Wednesday May-22-2019 18:37:25 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $4.03
Buy It Now |
IRIN Harmonica 10 Holes Key of C With Storage Box Case Blues Rock Jazz Folk NEW

End Date: Thursday May-23-2019 4:59:54 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $5.74
Buy It Now |
IRIN Harmonica 10 Holes Key of C With Storage Box Case Blues Rock Jazz Folk NEW

End Date: Thursday May-23-2019 4:59:54 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $5.74
Buy It Now |


The JT30 Page Popular links

I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

Street Theory

A Harp Player’s Guide to Music Theory

Learning Harp

Picking Up Blues Harp

A guide to learning to play Blues Harp

Microphone Information

Usenet Articles

Harp Amps

I've been collecting Harp Amps for a while. This is the old website. There is lots of information here. Here a coupld of links.

Harp Tab

A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

Basic Riffs Simple harp tabs for songs Blues riffs and phrases.

Harp-L Archives 1992 to 2002


Harp Frequently Asked Questions