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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    Manchester , England UK
    Posts
    12

    Setup / Fret level - High 1st Fret

    Hello,

    Can I have your thoughts please on a setup & fret dress I've have done -

    Recently bought a 1990 Custom, it still had the original untouched frets with minimal wear.

    I noticed the first fret was higher than the 2nd fret by about 0.012" , yet it didn't look like it had lifted from its slot.
    The rest of the frets were level with each other.

    I took it to a well recommended guitar technician, asked for a full setup &fret dress. I pointed out the high first fret and that it was odd.
    Asked for it to be setup 'As low as possible, little bit of unamplified buzz is ok', basically do everything it needs to play as well as possible.

    I collected it, the frets had been levelled, looked nicely crowned and polished, and the action around the 12th fret looked nice and low.

    When I got home, I noticed that the first fret still visually looked high, and the action over the lower frets seemed a bit on the high side.

    Got out my straight edge, it would not slide from the 2nd fret over the first.The 1st Fret is still high, measuring 0.006" higher than the 2nd fret!
    Checked the neck relief with the straight edge between frets 2 & 15, it measured around 0.002", so pretty flat which is good (apart from the 1st fret). Higher frets all ok, action at 12th fret measured about 0.040" at the treble side, 0.050" at the bass side, so pretty good there.

    The string heights at the nut looked high & uneven, so measured the string gap at the relatively high 1st fret, it ranged from 0.023" at the treble side, to 0.016" at the bass side. Guessing that the nut hasn't been touched at all.

    So in total there is up to 0.029" (nearly 1/32") string gap at the 2nd fret on some strings, partly due to the high first fret! not very slick feeling when switching between open chords.

    What are your thoughts on this? I am being too fussy?
    Is it difficult to stone down a higher 1st fret relative to the others? The tech didn't mention any problems.

    What's the typical string height (first fret) that the nut is cut to as part of a good setup? I have read that some players specify 0.010" . Seems that the nut was not worked on at all.

    What would you do? If the nut heights were carefully recut lower, could the 1st fret height issue be lived with? Or should I be getting the first fret reworked?


    All thoughts appreciated.
    Last edited by Andy79; 01-29-20 at 06:37 AM. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Shakedown Street
    Posts
    3,013

    Re: Setup / Fret level - High 1st Fret

    Greetings, How does the instrument play ? If it plays okay besides the fret issue that is one thing , but from reading your post it sounds like it is an issue that you prefer to get taken care of . So if the first tech did not solve this issue , then maybe try another tech and explain to him what the first tech did and did not do and go from there . Also try to find a tech who specializes in fret work ,from a recommendation or word of mouth or someone that knows someone who does this type of work that is good at it !

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Posts
    201

    Re: Setup / Fret level - High 1st Fret

    Learn something new everyday! I just measured my LPC; the bass E string gap at the first fret is 0.012" and at the top E it is 0.010" so this has to be a close approximation of the nut cut at these two positions. Note that the neck is almost flat and action at the 12th is 5/64" (0.078") at low E and 3/64" (0.047") at high E and my first fret is flat to its neighbours. As ElGringo notes, if it plays OK then this is a moot point but I would expect that if you were to cut your nut slots to match mine then it's possible that the first fret may buzz on open strings, especially the top E.

    So, what is the actual action at the 12th fret on your guitar and does the top E buzz open?

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    Manchester , England UK
    Posts
    12

    Re: Setup / Fret level - High 1st Fret

    Quote Originally Posted by rick c View Post
    Learn something new everyday! I just measured my LPC; the bass E string gap at the first fret is 0.012" and at the top E it is 0.010" so this has to be a close approximation of the nut cut at these two positions. Note that the neck is almost flat and action at the 12th is 5/64" (0.078") at low E and 3/64" (0.047") at high E and my first fret is flat to its neighbours. As ElGringo notes, if it plays OK then this is a moot point but I would expect that if you were to cut your nut slots to match mine then it's possible that the first fret may buzz on open strings, especially the top E.

    So, what is the actual action at the 12th fret on your guitar and does the top E buzz open?
    Cheers for posting your measurements! Sounds like you've got a well cut nut there.
    The main issues for me are that an open 'D' chord sounds slightly out of tune with the high strings being pressed down so much. It also doesn't feel nice or 'fast' to play in that area.

    My action at the 12th fret is 0.050" at the low E and 0.040" at the high E, which is pretty low (no buzzing anywhere on the fretboard though)
    None of the strings buzz when open, I think the higher strings could sit a lot lower in the nut without getting close to buzzing.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Weston super mare , engalnd
    Posts
    109

    Re: Setup / Fret level - High 1st Fret

    Get your self a crowning file , various grades of fine sandpaper ,steel wool and nut slot files , dont be scared , you don't sound like a slap dash reckless guy so i think you'll be fine , just stop and measure very often .

    Ive learnt that doing theses theings myself is the only way i can get the results i want ,after a so called tech riuned one of my guitars , i now don't trust anyone with my guitars but me .

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member BluePat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Calgary, Republic of Alberta
    Posts
    507

    Re: Setup / Fret level - High 1st Fret

    6 thou isn't a big number, yet it could be lower than that, if any fret's gonna be high, the first one would be the preferred one...

    My guess is he left the nut in, thus didn't level off enough at the first as he was afraid of crashing into the nut with the levelling bar.

    Take it back to him and have him crown down the first fret to better match the rest, and get him to dial in the nut slots for better action at that end, it must feel really goofy with those measurements.

    Pat
    Resistance is futile (if < 1ohm)...

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