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PRS McCarty Fret Level

PRS McCarty

Here’s a nice AAA quilted top Paul Reed Smith McCarty with Brazilian rosewood fret board and head plate ready to get an overhaul with its frets and corroded hardware.

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The frets are going to be leveled and recrowned to remove virtually all of these divots.

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The PH of this player’s sweat has really taken a toll on the hardware to the extent of compromising functionality- the 3rd string has an awful twang everywhere, similar to a sitar.

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Under close inspection, you cannot only see the corroded string slots, but also a small piece of corroded debris where the third string leaves the bridge.  This microscopic gap creates enough space for the vibrating string to make a very unwanted yet present sound everywhere along the string.

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First I’ll remove the strings, truss cover, bridge, bridge studs, and the knobs with this handy tool I made.

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Here the leveling process has just begun.  The frets will need to be taken down to the depth of the divots, and then the tops rerounded with a jumbo diamond crowning file, then polished smooth.

 

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This spot is actually the worse on the whole guitar.  This is where I’ll stop leveling.  I can remove virtually this entire little dimple with the crowning and polishing steps to follow.

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These are the tools that give the frets amazing accuracy.  These three tools cost about $100.  The small 600-grit diamond file is one that I made with a Brazilian rosewood handle.

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Here is where the elbow grease comes in.  Each fret is crowned to the point of leaving a small sliver of flat area about 1/32”.  If you’ve had your frets leveled and they look squared off  (like the picture on the right) and feel uncomfortably sharp, I can finish the job for around $40.

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This is what sets Straight Frets apart from the rest of the pack: the attention to detail when polishing frets.  Most places will just use steel wool, which gets them almost as smooth as my blue file.  I continue to polish them with these padded fret buffers until they shine like chrome.  With a properly oiled fingerboard and new strings, this is close to a religious experience.

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Here is the entire board with fully polished frets and lightly oiled fingerboard.  BTW- did you know that Austin has the only nationally (now internationally) syndicated classical guitar radio program?  It’s called Classical Guitar Alive and hosted by my good friend Tony Morris.  It comes on KMFA 89.5 fm on Thursdays @ 7:00 p.m. and Sundays @ 9:00 p.m.  Give it a listen- Jimmy Page does.

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Remember that deep 7th fret indention?  The middle bird points to all that remains.  It’s not enough to have any clarity or intonation issues.

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Here I’m using my Ibanez nut files to remove an equal amount of material from this very light aluminum bridge.

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Now the guitar is strung up to pitch and the radius of the strings are checked at the bridge.  White cotton gloves are worn for the rest of the setup to preserve the buffed finish.

Unfortunately, the corrosion of the pickup covers has remained for so long that the chrome has been eaten away and now the remaining metal is pitted.  I did my best to polish out what’s left, but the only way this will ever look new again is replace the covers.

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Final product has buffed out finish, polished leveled frets, oiled fingerboard, corrosion free hardware, adjusted truss rod and intonation, and butter-like action.  Total cost for this (late 2009) overhaul was $150 ($125 for the fretwork, $25 for the corrosion removal, buffing, and setup).

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