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FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Is it feasible to make my own fret rocker?


LA , Calif

I try my best
Mar 22nd, 2017 07:30 PM   Edit   Profile  

It does not need to last for decades just enough for checking.

I thought perhaps I could use an old aluminum triangle I have for it and use a section of 1/4 plate glass and sandpaper to true it up and polish the edges even add a bit of bevel to the edges. It's close to 1/8" thick.

Also it seems as if the hex key for most acoustics I own is 4 MM yet even thought I've tried three each is a bit loose (ie) you can turn them a bit either way before they have no play. It's not as I would prefer yet three for 3 different sources all have this. Do you find this normal for lower end Epi's and mid end seagull's

I ask because I adjusted the truss rod on my cheapo AJ-100 and felt this play . tried other snap on ones in the fold out deal handle and 4mm was the one that felt the best.

I'm just trying to get this AJ-100 to be better. I got rid of the fret sprout and see I have a few high /low frets past the 12th fret most is the 18th. So I need something better than a debit card or like.

If all works out I might get the lest expensive Gotoh plastic key stone tuners because the ones on this guitar suck. Some on-line shops want around $42 plus.

I'm just trying to retain sanity in my little life. I can live without , it's something to do.

(This message was last edited by catnineblue at 10:00 PM, Mar 22nd, 2017)



Mar 22nd, 2017 08:00 PM   Edit   Profile  

"I thought perhaps I could use an old aluminum triangle I have for it and use a section of 1/4 plate glass and sandpaper to true it up and polish the edges even add a bit of bevel to the edges. It's close to 1/8" thick."

That sounds good to me. Having something to true it up to is the key here, and that glass sounds perfect.

Most acoustics out there (that use allen keys, that is) are metric, either 4mm or 5mm. I normally only see imperial units with small boutique builders, along the lines of Collings, Santa Cruz, Larivee, and so on (though I don't remember their sizes off the top of my head).

A bit of slop is normal, though I try to avoid it. Also, not all wrenches are created equal. Sometimes wrenches with the ball tips are a bit undersized at the ball. I never use my Stew Mac 1/8" wrench for this reason... I'm too nervous I'll strip something out.

Also, using the wrong wrench size can strip a nut faster. If a prior owner tried using the closest imperial size that was a bit small, it could be rounded off in there. If you use a bit of caution not to make the problem worse and keep using the correct wrench, you should be fine.

If you feel you have to put a lot of torque on it and you're afraid to because of the grip with the wrench let us know... there are tricks for that, too.


LA , Calif

I try my best
Mar 22nd, 2017 08:37 PM   Edit   Profile  


I got one 4mm hex at ace a few years ago and then the Snap-on one I have is old yet not worn . All feel the same to me. Even the one that came with my EL-00 Pro measures the same and fits the same as the rest. I recall trying the Snap-on set to see which one fit the best and recall 4.5mm would not fit and 4 mm would and closest to 4mm is 5/32 " was to loose.

I couldn't tighten the truss within reasonable force so I loosened it a bit since it's a two way rod then it seemed fine.

Contributing Member

The spotlight

looks like a prison break
Mar 22nd, 2017 09:05 PM   Edit   Profile  

Heck yeah you can make your own fret rocker. Your plan is perfect. The dimensions must be such that the rocker lays atop only three frets at once. That's why they are shaped the way they are.

If you make your rocker from aluminum--it is soft--and can be easily damaged knocking around in a tool bag or box with other tools. A slight ding along the edge can make the tool rock, even if the frets are perfect. So keep it zipped in a little tool pouch or leather envelope (such as what's used for high-end protractors, etc.).

Far as hex wrenches and odd fits in socket heads for truss rod adjustments go, here's the issue: poor QC on cheap wrenches, cheap threaded hardware, or both.

Most hex wrenches are either forged (the good ones) or extruded (the cheap ones). The quality of the steel and how it is hardened affects the final external dimensions. A few thou off makes for a sloppy fit or no fit.

For hardware, there are several reasons for poor tool fit.

Oftentimes the sloppy fit is due the part being made slightly oversize to allow the option of plating the steel part with zinc, nickel, chromium, etc. The plating process often requires three layers of metal to be deposited on the steel. This extra metal "tightens things up."

But some manufacturers buy their raw parts unplated to save production costs. The lack of plating makes for a sloppy tool fit. This is just one example of several common reasons for poor/sloppy fitment.

(This message was last edited by Peegoo at 11:07 PM, Mar 22nd, 2017)


LA , Calif

I try my best
Mar 22nd, 2017 11:17 PM   Edit   Profile  

I made the fret rocker based on the stew mac item. It has a 4" 3" 2" & 1 5/16" . It was pretty easy using two sides of the aluminum triangle 90 degrees off the 4" for the 1 5/16" then 2" marked and 3" marked scribe lines and cut with hack saw. I have a course flat mile file to true up the edges and then a flat fine mill file then added a slight bevel to each edge then 400 wet paper on 1/8" plate glass. I checked each edge for square and flat with drafts mans triangle and can't see light. It may not be within .0015" per foot as Stew mac's fret rocker yet I feel close enough for my needs. At least I can check and have an idea which frets need to be attended to, I didn't have anything even close to this before.

I would agree about the hex keys. These I have are certainly not forged or hardened , they came with the epi EL-00 and seagull grand and one I think is from a fender acoustic I had . I have not looked at the seagull one yet it's most likely the same grade.I imagine most tossed in the case are. Might fit better in the seagull haven't checked Epi from Indonesia truss rods , well not high precision I suspect. It worked fine on the AJ-100 I was careful to make sure it was seated then took up the bit of slack and didn't force it. Odd that the small ones you get for the strat saddles fit very well even of the same cheap grade yet we are not talking much force here. They just fit much better same with my 97 craftsman table saw which are standard some fit well others bit of play.

Contributing Member


Mar 23rd, 2017 05:39 AM   Edit   Profile  

Are you going to use a notched straightedge to get the neck straight (independent of the frets) before checking the frets? I made my own pretty cheap years ago -- bought an 18" aluminum ruler from Hobby Lobby and ground half moon cutouts on one edge. The cutouts were wide/large enough to accommodate both Strat & L.P. scale lengths. Nowadays, I think Harbor Freight may sell those for even less money. (...just in case you're interested. I see Stew-Mac is selling these for $80+....)

Te 52

Laws of Physics

strictly enforced
Mar 23rd, 2017 10:01 AM   Edit   Profile  

Here's a place that sells notched and unnotched straightedges, fret rockers, etc. for about half StewMacs prices.

Haven't personally used their products. FYI only, no association.


Moderator Emeritus
(with many stars)

NW Pennsylvania

Mar 23rd, 2017 10:03 AM   Edit   Profile  

I have one of their notched straightedges, and it's top quality.

Mick Reid
Contributing Member


American-made in Oz!!
Mar 23rd, 2017 04:18 PM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks for that link Te 52, and affirmation from Pinetree.

Even with the int'l shipping & current exchange rate, the straight edges are less money than I can buy domestically!

I already have a fret rocker & Fender/Gibson scale notched straight edge, but when I need another I'll order from those guys! Cheers


LA , Calif

I try my best
Mar 23rd, 2017 09:22 PM   Edit   Profile  

No I didn't check the neck with a notched straight edge.

It's a cheap $79 EPI AJ-100 that always had a fret out at the 12th fret mostly one the B and high E.

The fret rocker told me I had high and low frets so instead of trying to deal with each one I removed the strings and leveled to the 11th fret from the 20th. The recrowned them. I adjusted the truss rod a bit more to get the neck straighter and reached a point where I was using the short end of the 4mm hex key just in case. I adjusted it before I did the frets about 3/4 turn and today decided to try a bit more using just the short end of the hex key and it turned easy enough then after about 1/2 turn suddenly there was no resistance , no pop it just turned to easy so I went ahead and turned it until I felt resistance again maybe 1/2 turn and it was fine then gave it another 1/4 turn and left it alone. I may need to back it off 1/4 turn once it settles and after I play it yet all in all the annoying fret buzz is gone. All I wanted was to be able to use it as a beater which it is. I have the action at 7/64" low E 12th fret and 5/64" high E.

The board has relief capo on 1st fret held down at the 14th it has relief all the way between both most is at the 7th and 8th then it has gradual less as it moves away to the nut and body. I doubt if I could adjust the neck dead straight so I'm sure the frets would need to come out and level the board install new frets. If it was worth it I would . It's possible I could keep on the truss rod and get it straight yet I won't go there , I don't trust enough , if something does not work since these rods are two way and place all the force at the back of the fret board a design I never cared for . I like a wood filler strip at least 1/16" thick as a cushion glued above the rod. If it was lost or stolen I would not replace it as they say.

Contributing Member


Mar 24th, 2017 11:09 AM   Edit   Profile  

"I have one of their notched straightedges, and it's top quality."

I just tried converting one of my 18" metal rulers albeit without the optimal Dremel bits. I got it functioning on my Fenders except for a Tele that has an Earvana nut. The extra meat on the Earvana doesn't allow proper placement without shaving off a bit of the end of the ruler/straight edge.

Too much tedium, just ordered one of the neckchecks.


LA , Calif

I try my best
Mar 24th, 2017 07:00 PM   Edit   Profile  

I forgot to add. Using the home made fret rocker and finding how and low frets 12th fret to 20th.

I didn't want to take off too much and the 18th and 16th and 14th were really going down , especially the 18th. I had a difficult time crowning these back yet they look ok. There are still spots the fret rocker shows imperfections yet it plays well enough at least no fretting out.

Contributing Member

The spotlight

looks like a prison break
Mar 24th, 2017 07:53 PM   Edit   Profile  


If you've never done the Sharpie thing when leveling and crowning, it is a huge help.


LA , Calif

I try my best
Mar 24th, 2017 09:50 PM   Edit   Profile  

"If you've never done the Sharpie thing when leveling and crowning, it is a huge help."

I tried it for the first time. I assume a sharpie can be a dry erase. That's what I tried and it was some help except it didn't stick very well at least not like in the few videos I watched. I basically look at the tops and the file marks then crown the fret until there is a small centered spot left.

I never leveled this narrow of fret the ones I use are very wide tall frets . Of all the guitars I've built I never had to level the frets after installing them and still haven't just one that was worn enough and a few passes with the old level mile file with safe edges every fret was touched and I got out the worn spots and crowned them all.

This POS AJ-100 if I built it I would hang my fool head in shame.

I'd really like to replace the frets in my 2004 Seagull S series grand they are just to narrow and low for my liking. As far as I know Seagull cuts slots to follow the board radius and that's what I always have done offers more strength rather than straight cut. I just don't have a means of driving in the frets over the body on an acoustic.

Contributing Member

I tried to think

but nothing happened!
Mar 25th, 2017 09:56 AM   Edit   Profile  

I bought a stainless 12 inch scale at Harbor Freight, and cut it into sections using the length description from stew Mac. They are flat against glass and cheap!

FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Is it feasible to make my own fret rocker?

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