Fret job on Epi LP Special I, surprise! radius is 16"

ScottMarlowe

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Well crap. Got the strings off, all the frets tamped down.

They were ALL high, I think they were made with a 12 or 14" radius and possibly pressed in with a 12 or 14" cawl, because they were all high in the middle, but seated on the ends. Ugh.

So after tamping them all down so a 0.0015" feeler gauge wouldn't go under them, I go to start levelling them with my 14" radius block, and it's only sanding the outer edges. Check radius and sure enough, the frets are now 16" radius.

Well dandy. Waiting on my new sanding block to come in.
 

ScottMarlowe

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Right now it's all taped up and nowhere to go.

ISyqgoc.jpg

BfEXu3w.jpg


It's more important, imho, to tape up the pickups than the fretboard. Note the nut missing. The easiest way to get it out is to score line between it and the guitar on the top of the headstock and along the sides, then knock it out from the side using a 4mm or so flat punch. If you don't have a flat punch you can use something like a 4mm allen wrench (same size as works on the truss rod btw) gently tapping the end of it until it slides free. This will minimize the amount of wood that stays stuck to it. In this case just the teeny tiniest but of wood was left on it, not enough to make me have to smooth out the channel or anything.

You can't quite see if here, but the ends of the frets have started to get sanded down flat, while the middles are still untouched. At least in this instance I can't say the Epiphone website is wrong on the fretboard radius, because I can't find an Epi webpage on the LP Special I anywhere.
 

Col Mustard

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radius is supposed to be 12" ...that's Gibson spec for all their electrics.
Epiphones are supposed to be the same. I own two Epis, and they are both
consistent at 12". My stepdaughter's Epi Les Paul Special ll was also pretty
right on. I had that one set up for her by a good luthier, and he didn't say anything
about having to adjust the radius of the frets. He charged me $80, so maybe he
just did it as part of the job, or maybe they were ok.

The radius of the frets and fingerboard should be 12" because the bridge is.
They should all be the same IMHO. 16" is more like what an acoustic guitar's radius
might be. Or maybe a shredder... those have flatter fingerboards.

The Epi Les Paul Special l is not a high quality guitar. Neither is the Special ll.
But the one I labored over responded really well to the work. So I don't turn my
nose up at this entry level guitar. I say just upgrade whatever you can afford and then
play the hell out of it. I thought the Special ll sounded great when I was done with it.
 

Col Mustard

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I removed the nut on my Epi ES-339 by first scoring the line along where it joins the
headstock and then tapping it forward using a piece of wood (I used a paint stirring stick)
and a hammer.
Tusq nut 4@100.jpg
Tusq nut 5@100.jpg
tusq nut 10@100.jpg
 

ScottMarlowe

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I have levelled the frets on two other Epis, a 1966 G-400 Pro and a 1961 SG Special Reissue. BOTH were 14" radius fretboards. This one is DEFINITELY 16". Don't know what to tell you. Epiphone can say on their website all day long they're 12" radius, they're not.

As for the nut, I removed ONE the way you show, hitting it from the body towards the top of the head and promptly lost a big chunk of the face of the head on that one. I scored pretty strongly around the nut too. Just took that piece of finish right off. It also too a BIG chunk of wood from the bottom of the slot with it.

You can see it in this pic under the high e and b strings if you zoom in:
4DvoVBL.jpg


When I first got the LP Special I I had measured the radius of the frets, not the board, and the frets measured out at 14". It wasn't until I tapped them down flat that I realized the fretboard itself was 16".
 

ScottMarlowe

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Note that your luthier may not use radiused sanding blocks for fret levelling. A lot of folks don't. I prefer this method because I know I'm maintaining well radiused frets.
 

ScottMarlowe

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Here's some pics recreating the nut removal:

Score across the top, and I also scored along the sides on the three sides where the nut contacts the guitar:

Pfd4XBY.jpg


Tapping the nut out sideways with a 4mm allen wrench and a small hammer:

TvJ3rXM.jpg


Using a notched straight edge to get the fretboard level. Note that in real life I did this before taping up the fret board.

60c6JbZ.jpg


You want it to be as flat as possible on the fretboard from end to end. In the case of this guitar, I could only get it so flat. There were several small spots where it wasn't quite perfect, but it was as close as I was gonna get without pulling all the frets and re-radiusing the board.
 

ScottMarlowe

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Yeah they say the same thing about my two SGs (1961 reissue and 1966 G-400 Pro) but they're both 14". Radiused sanding blocks don't lie. Also that's a Special II page. I can't even find one on the Special I.
 

ScottMarlowe

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Nope, the Special I is just like the II but with a wraptail bridge:
LP Special I
But it's nowhere on epiphone site. Note that mine is the humbucker one not P-90.

When I have sunlight tomorrow I'll get a picture of the frets now sanded down on the outside but not the middle and my 14" block.
 

ScottMarlowe

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So here's a full size image of what the middle frets look like after 10 or so strokes of the 14" radius sanding block:
DwVKA8W.jpg

Notice the flattened ends of the frets, without touching the centers at all.
 

ScottMarlowe

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You're not wrong there. Never seen a Gibson neck like that. Are you dead certain the radius of the block hasn't been wrongly marked? Clutching at straws here, you understand.
Oh trust me, I understand. The 14" block perfectly matches my two SGs I've done fret levellings on. And they've been stored properly (i.e. not gotten wet / moist etc). I honestly checked first to make sure I hadn't grabbed my 12" radius block by accident! Note that it may be 17 or 18" radius. The 16" radius guage seems the best fit, but it's easy to be some weird intermediate size as well like 16.83" or some craziness depending on what cheap left-over equipment Epi uses to churn out $99 guitars.
 

ScottMarlowe

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Yeah I think I'm OK with the radius. I like the feel of this guitar overall, and the playability wasn't bad before I started down this path. Of course technically it's now changed from what it was (with the middle of the frets a bit high) to what it is, but I don't think it changes it enough for me to have a problem with it. And if I hate it, I can always pull the frets and re-radius it to 12" etc. But I doubt I'll hate it at 16". I play a fair bit of acoustic and hollowbody so 16" is not killer for me.
 

ScottMarlowe

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OK so my sanding block showed up Friday, and I got a chance to use it today. The star of the show:
Cnj0Yer.jpg


The next few pics are much bigger because I want to show as much detail as I can.

Here's the middle frets about 1/3 of the way through the job:

4z4fBcI.jpg


Note that I flip the guitar around and go at it about 10 strokes on each side to try and keep the pressure even. I'm pretty sure this fretboard is not perfectly symmetrical so that's why I'm seeing more flat on the high e side than on the low e side. Smooth strokes, very little pressure, check after every 10 or so strokes to make sure nothing it going too far. You can't unsand the frets.

Here's a trick for seeing the flat tops:

NUCWC15.jpg


With a bright light between you and the guitar, hold it so the light bounces off the flat spots. Makes it much easier for my old eyes to see which frets do and don't have flat tops yet. Until you've put a bit of a flat spot on each one, you're not done. Next pic shows a low-ish fret that has JUST started getting a flat spot on top on the low e side, meanwhile it's neighbors have been ground down a fair bit:

vwakTbs.jpg


Count down from the top fret, #22, to #18. You'll see that 18 and 17 have just barely gotten a flat spot on them, while the frets around them are fairly well ground down by now, but they DO have that little flat line on top, so we're done here. Unless you want "fretless wonder" level low flat wide frets. Not my thing, but maybe it's yours. Next step?! Shaping them. Next post.
 


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