Plek'ing: Worth it?

August 2019 is the first KVR Guitar Month so here's a new forum for discussion of all things guitar!
tapper mike
KVRAF
5351 posts since 20 Jan, 2008

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 12:40 am

You don't have to convince me. I'm sold. If I buy a guitar again from sweetwater I may just have them plek it before delivery.

I'm curious to who else would consider pleking a current or future guitar.

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Bombadil
KVRAF
5761 posts since 31 Aug, 2013 from Far From the Twisted Reach of Crazy Sorrow

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 1:23 am

I know a professional luthier with 40 years experience, who's done all the work on my guitars, so, no, I won't bother with that. I've also received a couple of Plek'ed guitars that were complete shit (whispers 'Gibson, Gibson'....).
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
Hunter S. Thompson

lfm
KVRAF
5282 posts since 22 Jan, 2005 from Sweden

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 1:25 am

I was fully into doing a Plek of a new LP standard I bought 2007, and found sadly Gibson does not give enough attention to such details as fret dressing.

I gave it two attempts
- one in Stockholm
- one in Berlin, germany

then dropped the idea and learned to do fret dressing myself. A notched straight edge to make neck completely straight - some files and sanding paper and a lot of patience. I did 4-5 frets a day only, being the first time, but result was good.

What happend was
- in stockholm - the guy turned up several hours after our set appointment, so no way I turned over my biggest investment so far to him, making lame excuses as maybe guitar something goes wrong. It became just a vacation trip to stockholm. He mentioned something about kids and daycare center etc.

- berlin, I got an appointment and was to make a trip to germany for the purpose, after investigating where I could actually park my too old car, since so many restrictions on what catalyst you must have to enter certain zones.

I even booked ferry to germany, then I got an email, seems this guy read the same email from me twice and did not realize - and asked me silly questions. I felt this guy is mental - no way I turn my guitar over to him. Unbooked the tripped and dropped the idea.

I took this as an omen - no Plek'ing for me. :D

But think I read that thomann.de can have Plek done, but don't think I would do it since I can have full control and do it myself.

For machine to really do optimized result it has to do a lot of assumptions. I talked to some professors at a university about how to calculate depth of slope at certain string guages and tension etc - and he meant that all acoustic harmonics guitar give is unique and represent itself as physical different slope of string as it vibrate. The harmonic content is in the string as i vibrate.

So you could say that Plek machine would have to analyze what harmonic content a guitar has at different pitches to really optimize how low action it can have and accomodate for different playing styles etc.

I had very much improved sound just switching tuners on both my LP and 335 - and very different guitar. Lighter tuners like Schaller Keystone instead of Grover, made all the difference what harmonic content you got.

Plek does analyse bending of neck under the tension of strings - and can have high frets identified for sure. A suggested neck relief etc.

But think all science over this develop and much more is there today in the software that calculate - this was 10+ years ago in my case. That most guitar models are there to be close enough for a good result, I don't know.

But does Plek have setting for different tuners - or do it's own frequency analysis?

kvotchin
KVRist
429 posts since 9 Aug, 2018

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 2:38 am

Much prefer having a local luthier do their thing. It probably is however better than literally nothing, on average.

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
139 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:37 am

I have done Plek on several of my guitars and basses, not all. The Stockholm one. All came out extraordinary well. But, keep few thing in mind regarding Plek:

1. It's not some magic cure, or needed at all. It's posh manicure if you'd like. Like sharpening a japanese knife by machine or manually.
2. There are luthiers and repairmen who can do the same accuracy. It takes a while though, and cost about as much.
3. I have had two guitars handed in to the Stockholm franchise, and they came back immediately and said "hey, these doesn't need to be Plek'd they are already as good as it gets". They did NOT charge me for that at all. They showed me why also. Luckily I walked in and didn't spend any shipment for these instruments.
4. Mostly beneficial on guitars without adjustable trussrod, such as pristine and valuable vintage acoustic guitars. What you do is build in relief for different individual string. A truss rod relief gives the same "leeway" so to speak, for the high e-string and the low e-string. So you have to adjust for the low e-string since that one oscillates the most, so it doesn't fret buzz, but then it's too high relief for the thin e-string. Plek takes cares of this pretty damm well.
5. If you should decide to have equip a guitar with stainless steel frets, you bet that a Plekking of them will perform better and done cheaper than manual labor. I think also it will be beneficial to have that bending range even smoother, and as buttery as it can get with low action. If you have superlow action, you will get almost a sitar like sound all along and across the neck on all frets, and on all strings... what now that would be good for, but just a measure of how close and even and consistent the Plekking is.
6. On guitars with compound or conical radius of the neck, Plek can perform slightly better than manual labor, almost in all cases.
7. If you have a guitar that needs refret anyway, and is very near and dear to you, it may definitely be worth it. Do not waste Plek on cheaper japanese guitars.
8. However, keep this in mind. You have to Plek it for a certain gauge of strings that you'll have to use. Say you Plek it for 010s, then you can only go up to 011, or down to 009 and still keep the benefits of Plek. If you go up to 012 with a spun third, and/or low as 008s the benefits of Plek disappears and it will perform more or less like it had not been Plekked. Read the thing above with relief for each individual string, then you'll have to adjust the truss rod again to the regular method of reliefs.
9 On bass, I got rid of one or 2 dead spots on the frets, since the string resided on a too narrow point on top of the fret. Did wonders. It can also be this on certain guitars too. However, this should be nothing that any highly skilled and experienced luthier couldn't remedy just as well.
10 If you're all over the place with different tunings, drop C# and D and whatever, as well as reguar tuning, Plek will not be benificial at all. No more than any manual labored fretting.

One gets absolutely no harmonic benefits or intonation benefits at all, from Plekking any instrument. I mean, compared to manually dressing the frets. People think this will be enough, instead of TrueTemperament or Fanned Frets or Earvana nut, BFTS, and whatever these intonation systems are called. It has nothing to do with these. It's just an automatic fret levelling to a tee, that you can do while doing other things. A machine takes care of it. The luthier can do other things while plekking. It ain't that fun doing frets. It's necessary and icing on the cake though, because it's the "do or die" of what makes the instrument playable and tone creating. But it doesn't do any wonders to intonation, tone, relief, action at all. I mean, it may do, but not considerably superior in comparison to what a real skilled luthier can do with manual labor.

However, in my area I see that the price in labor charged for levelling frets, by luthiers, compared to Plek is quite the same, the labor price is just a hair lower. And no one does SS frets anyway, so if that's the way you want it, you have to pay for Plek (which is still more expensive to do SS frets, than regular).

So my verdict of where it's really worth it:

SS frets = Plek it.

Otherwise, let a regular manual job by a luthier do it.

- - - - - - -

On one of the strat I did a Plek with I discovered after a while I could have lower action than before, and one night when I bend the high e I just discovered there was a volume drop in the tone. No fret buzz. The string was too low! But it did NOT BUZZ, the frets where so meticously leveled so they just dampened the note slightly, since I bent it up on a radiused neck. No fret buzz, as it would've done on a regular unplekked guitar. Just a volume drop. Went back home and raised it a hair. Then all good and smooth again.
Last edited by Mats Eriksson on Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
139 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:07 am

lfm wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 1:25 am
...
For machine to really do optimized result it has to do a lot of assumptions. I talked to some professors at a university about how to calculate depth of slope at certain string guages and tension etc - and he meant that all acoustic harmonics guitar give is unique and represent itself as physical different slope of string as it vibrate. The harmonic content is in the string as i vibrate...

...
But does Plek have setting for different tuners - or do it's own frequency analysis?
I don't know, but I fear that you have misunderstood completely what the Plek are supposed to do, can do, or can't do. It doesn't analyze anything in frequency at all. On any guitar. Or care about different tuners. I have plekked 2 of my headless guitars and they had no tuners at all. :wink:

All in all, good that you didn't take the plunge, and did the Plek on any of your guitars, because I think your understanding of it is askew. It does just a fret levelling and dressing and whatever harmonic content there is from it is what you get. But that is so from any manual labor too. The harmonic content will change dramatically if you just put brand new strings on, nothing that Plek (or any manual fretting) is supposed to do wonders about or anything about really.

It has no setting for different tuners. I hope you mean different tuners like those on a headstock which you turn. And not "tunings" as in different tunings, that you use drop tunings and so on.

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
139 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:27 am

What has slowly dawned on me now, since some of the non ss-frets guitars and basses that had been plekkd +12 years ago, is that I think they wear more evenly, and doesn't need to be levelled again, as soon as they did before. Yes I've owned guitars and basses for 30 years, or more, that has been levelled again, not refret. But that may be elusive. But whenever I change strings I watch vigilant about the spots, dents and marks on the frets. They just seem to be slightly less wear or even wear across the surface. Which means that it will take a little while longer before I have to do either a Plek on them again, or manual work. I e on the nickel fretted ones. I probably do a luthier job on them then. When time comes.

On the SS though, I think I can't even spot the slightest wear. I will be gone from this world before that happens.

lfm
KVRAF
5282 posts since 22 Jan, 2005 from Sweden

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:48 am

My final question was really about if Plek developed software anything over the 11 years I attempted doing it?
Potential is there to go further is my drift then just fret dressing.

One of the main talks of Plek back in the day, at Planket and Diskant, was that you get a highly optimized setup from doing it - way better than manual labour could do it.

So how low action can you get?
Answer is in some of my rumbling over harmonic content.

How much does the string wobble between the nodes(nut and bridge, or fretted string and bridge)?
How much space does that take, and need distance from fretwires?

So some of this is in neck relief, as a start - with some relief you can do lower action since string gets some extra space where it needs it. But some of us prefer straigther neck and higher action instead.

Then you come into to finer details - how much space does the first even harmonic take?
This is added to fundamental of the pitch - and actually takes some physical space, as a professor explained.
That depends a lot on the material in the guitar parts.

Mahogany gives a more softer warmer tone - so more first even harmonic is my assumption.
Warmer often means first even harmonic is rather high in volume. Typical Gibson.

Maple all the way - another story since so much harder material - a bit thinner trebly sounding. Typical Fender.

I saw a film on violin maker once, and how he carved headstock to fine tune certain resonances in the whole instrument. So what is on headstock affect the full instrument - and my comment about lighter tuners - actually do affect sound quite a bit. I even saw YT vids over this - some guy changed to Grover in this case, from Kluson or similar - and how tone changed and got colder.

So I hoped maybe Plek developed in this area - really going for the holy grail of analyzing instrument it was about to optimize.

Just filling in some blanks in my reasoning and maybe makes more sense....

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Hink
Rad Grandad
31687 posts since 6 Sep, 2003 from Downeast Maine

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:58 pm

Image

AnX
KVRAF
7062 posts since 17 Nov, 2015

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:34 pm

what's plek ing?

lfm
KVRAF
5282 posts since 22 Jan, 2005 from Sweden

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:05 pm

AnX wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:34 pm
what's plek ing?
I cannot tell if you are sarcastic or not, but here is some info
http://www.plek.com/en_US/produkte/plek-pro/

AnX
KVRAF
7062 posts since 17 Nov, 2015

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:24 pm

lfm wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:05 pm
AnX wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:34 pm
what's plek ing?
I cannot tell if you are sarcastic or not, but here is some info
http://www.plek.com/en_US/produkte/plek-pro/

serious question, thanks for the info

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The Noodlist
KVRAF
2378 posts since 16 Aug, 2017 from UK

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:43 am

AnX wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:34 pm
what's plek ing?
https://youtu.be/cXgeuJgh-jw
Currently trying to turn noise into music. :neutral:

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The Noodlist
KVRAF
2378 posts since 16 Aug, 2017 from UK

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:49 am

What's the consensus on fret levelling with truss rod adjusted to emulate string tension?
Might be tricky not being under tension.
Currently trying to turn noise into music. :neutral:

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Hink
Rad Grandad
31687 posts since 6 Sep, 2003 from Downeast Maine

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:59 am

The Noodlist wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:49 am
What's the consensus on fret levelling with truss rod adjusted to emulate string tension?
I dont want a guitar with computer accuracy (and I am a certified machinist), the guitar is not a vsti, it's not nor ever has been a perfect instrument, when I set up a guitar I set it up for me. With that said imo the plek is for grooming all the frets, the tops, the ends...I'm not going to a remove a lot of material to level some frets using a plek, the truss rod and bridge adjustments is the way to go for me for setting up action. If my problem is with a neck that needs a lot of work like using a plek tbh I'm taking the neck off when I can and replacing it with a Warmoth neck because I far prefer the wizard 2 contour anyhow.

But as I understand it a Plek is not for set ups per se, just one piece :shrug:

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