#1
I've finally got some extra cash and the Sam Ash a few towns over has a plek machine.
I've had my '13 am strat setup by a few diff techs and it's never played as well as i feel like it could. Now it seems like it really needs a fret job. Notes choke out despite the action needing to be absurdly high to avoid buzzing, etc.

I called the tech at SA and the Plek is $229, + strings and I'm assuming a tip for the tech operating the machine? That's a substantial bit of cash to throw down on a guitar that at this point is only worth about $600 used (I'm left-handed and I guess kind of rough on my guitars).

So is it worth it? What do you guys think? The tech did tell me that it can be done in a day which is very enticing, as I've had to wait a week or more for techs to setup my guitars by hand in the past.
#2
I'm considering the same on one of my guitars. Everything I've read indicates that it's absolutely worth it. And I haven't read a single negative comment about it.
#3
I would think about just getting a good old-fashioned level and crown. It's not like the choice is between a plek and a setup, unless you mean they included fretwork in the setup (unusual). If they did, I don't think it's worth doing a plek. A plek is a great setup but it can't work miracles or fix a guitar with other structural issues.
#4
A plek machine is just a tool, the quality of the setup all depends on the person using it.

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#5
This may sound silly, but have you tried different strings throughout your trouble shooting? String tension and the performance effect more than we think. Hell, its a cheap shot.

+1 on the operator. The best machine won't perform in the worst of hands. Find out about "that guy" at your Sam Ash.
#6
Sounds like you just had a bunch of shitty setups by shitty techs, this is why everyone should learn how to setup their own instruments.

I was in a music store the other day and some poor guy came in to pay for a setup on his guitar and the spaz behind the till had to ask which way to turn the truss rod to his colleague as he was turning the damn thing in front of the customer.

Side note: this is the same guy who recommended a Blackstar HT to me when I said I was browsing for a valve amp.
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#7
Quote by RyanMW2010
I've finally got some extra cash and the Sam Ash a few towns over has a plek machine.
I've had my '13 am strat setup by a few diff techs and it's never played as well as i feel like it could. Now it seems like it really needs a fret job. Notes choke out despite the action needing to be absurdly high to avoid buzzing, etc.

I called the tech at SA and the Plek is $229, + strings and I'm assuming a tip for the tech operating the machine? That's a substantial bit of cash to throw down on a guitar that at this point is only worth about $600 used (I'm left-handed and I guess kind of rough on my guitars).

So is it worth it? What do you guys think? The tech did tell me that it can be done in a day which is very enticing, as I've had to wait a week or more for techs to setup my guitars by hand in the past.


For the last six years or so, I've been having guitars that are new to me PLEK'd and their frets superglued if there are any indications of high frets, etc. There are exceptions, one of which includes new Carvins.

No tip for the guy operating the machine.

One of the guitars I've had PLEK'd is a $200 Agile AL 2000 Floyd B-stock (that amount included the hard case). It was fretting out full-stop bends at the 16th fret. Honestly, that sounds nuts (did then, and does now), but the guitar I got back plays spectacularly well, and has been one of my pair of constant-use bar guitars ever since. But I've also had to have an over $4K brand new Gibson Axcess Custom PLEK'd (it had a Gibson Hump), and the B stock and the Gibson now play alike.

A manual level/crown removes more material from your frets than a PLEK, which removes the minimum from each individual fret. A tech isn't done with a manual level/crown until the guitar has been restrung and come up under full tension. At that point, you can STILL have frets that are too high or low, and most techs will go BACK to fix those. The reason? Your neck doesn't necessarily come back up uniformly when it's been restrung. The PLEK, on the other hand, analyzes the neck while the strings are ON the guitar and under tension. The tech will then loosen (or remove) the strings and the PLEK mills the frets based on the computer analysis.

One more thing -- the analysis itself is a computer file that can be saved. The tech I use does so, and if I bring the guitar in to have it checked over at some future date, he can see if there's been movement in the neck itself over time. I've also been able to send a new guitar to the tech in the mail and he's been able to bring up the file annotated with my preferences for action, string gauge, etc. In that instance, the new guitar was returned playing exactly like the one I'd had done before. Amazing.

Look up "fret superglue" (StewMac should have an article about it) which involves wicking very thin superglue into the open area in the tang cavity beneath the fret. The article should explain the why and how of it, and if you have a tech that's familiar with the process, you may want to add it to the worklist.
#8
My Suhr Modern is PLEK'd and the fret job is perfect! Not a singel bad note on the guitar(only the ones i play)
#9
Quote by CaptainChris90
My Suhr Modern is PLEK'd and the fret job is perfect! Not a singel bad note on the guitar(only the ones i play)


Suhrs are being PLEK'd as they walk out the door at the factory. If you buy one direct, you'll get the benefit of that. Some that have been sitting around a dealer's for a while may be out of rig by the time they're actually sold...

One comment: Suhrs are PLEK'd the right way, as a good tech would do it. Gibson has PLEK machines cutting nuts on a lot of their guitars, but not working on the frets at all. Still others are put on fixture that "simulates string tension" by bending the neck, and then a standardized fret mill is applied. Several years ago there was a group of PLEK machine owners who met with PLEK at a Winter NAMM to complain that Gibson was ruining the reputation of PLEK by turning out dreck.
#10
No, unless your guitar has stainless steel frets because once your frets start wearing thats going to start undoing the Plec job and still require a fret dress in a fey ear or two. I'd recommend a highly skilled luthier do a full stainless steel fret with rolled fret ends and fingerboard edges. In my experience its a much more worthwhile option in the long run.
#11
Quote by drawnacrol
No, unless your guitar has stainless steel frets because once your frets start wearing thats going to start undoing the Plec job and still require a fret dress in a fey ear or two. I'd recommend a highly skilled luthier do a full stainless steel fret with rolled fret ends and fingerboard edges. In my experience its a much more worthwhile option in the long run.


Quite a number of guitars now come with stainless frets already, or it's an available option. Even some $400 Agile stock guitars have shown up with them, and Carvin has had them as a $40 option for nearly as long as they've been around. [

Refretting a new guitar with stainless is not something I'd recommend, and working with a new guitar that's not as playable as it can be (or that has issues due to non-level frets) isn't either.

After an initial PLEK job with standard frets, it's possible that you'll need a bit of fret dressing (but not replacement) in a couple of years (lots of factors involved there). For me, however, it's much more important that the guitar have level frets from the get-go, since that governs everything else about how the guitar will play and determines how well the guitar can be set up. My experience with PLEK jobs so far (and I should couch this in noting that I have a number of guitars and a pretty light touch) is that I've yet to have to redo one due to fret wear (and the oldest PLEK is five or six years).
#12
Ever wonder why Martin guitars play so well off the rack? They Plek the guitars at the Martin factory in Nazareth. I watched it being done several times and it's really fascinating of course Martin has people trained to do it correctly and they can afford to have the machines recalibrated at regular intervals. I was talking to one of the techs and he mentioned that he had worked for Martin for more than 15 years and the people who ran the Plek machines had been there for a number of years and worked in other departments before they were moved up to the Plek job. I do my own setups and fret dress but I have a guitar I want to have run through a Plek machine. I like dspellman's idea to have an Agile done. I have an Agile that already plays very well and sounds great but I'll bet it's awesome after the Plek machine. Good idea.
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at Feb 15, 2016,
#13
My only experience with Pleking is my Les Paul, which I bought new in 2010. It was factory Plecked, and was done extremely well. Probably the only new guitar I've ever bought that didn't need some set-up/fret work.

Having said that though, I am a guitar tech with my own shop and do a ton of fret jobs, both leveling/recrowning and complete re-fretting, and I will put my work up against any Pleck job. So I would have a hard time justifying spending that kind of cash for Plek as opposed to finding a good tech.

By the way, regarding your comment about tipping the operator... I have occasionally been given a tip, but it isn't common practice, I don't expect it, and I don't think you should feel obligated to tip, especially when you are paying the rates that Sam Ash and Guitar Center charge. My rates are between 50-60% of what GC charges, and I can't even begin to tell you the number of times I've had to fix what GC techs have mucked up.
#14
Quote by Roc8995
I would think about just getting a good old-fashioned level and crown. It's not like the choice is between a plek and a setup, unless you mean they included fretwork in the setup (unusual). If they did, I don't think it's worth doing a plek. A plek is a great setup but it can't work miracles or fix a guitar with other structural issues.



Agreed here.
#16
Quote by paruwi
A 'well made' guitar doesn't need any Plek-Job


Well, I dunno about that. Humidity in shipping is always a variable. PLEKing helps eliminate the degree of that variable.
#17
Quote by paruwi
A 'well made' guitar doesn't need any Plek-Job

Sure, in the same way that a well made car doesn't need an oil change.


Anyway, no guitar needs a PLEK, but that doesn't mean it's not a good service in the right context.
#18
Quote by JustRooster
Well, I dunno about that. Humidity in shipping is always a variable. PLEKing helps eliminate the degree of that variable.


Plek helps to eliminate non perfect workmanship
#19
Quote by Roc8995
Sure, in the same way that a well made car doesn't need an oil change.


Anyway, no guitar needs a PLEK, but that doesn't mean it's not a good service in the right context.



oil change

Plek is similar to tuning a car.....

and again, a 'well made/constructed/set up' car doesn't need a tuning....
#20
Like an oil change, it's something you do at regular intervals and/or when the need arises.

It's just a computerized setup. I think you misunderstand what PLEK is, or does. Would you say that a good guitar doesn't ever need a setup? Of course not, that's absurd. There's nothing separating a PLEK and a really good setup, so I'm not sure what your objection is.

People tune well made cars all the time, of course, to get them closer to their desires...much like you would do with a PLEK, to get the setup ideal for your needs.
#21
Quote by Roc8995
.....
I think you misunderstand what PLEK is, or does.
........


I am speaking of a NEW guitar and a NEW car......

and be sure I know very well what a PLEK Job does or doesn't

I don't even need to translate their website....
#22
Then perhaps you could avoid sentences like "A 'well made' guitar doesn't need any Plek-Job" because there's no reason to assume you meant only new guitars.

Sorry I didn't understand what you meant. It is true that a really good luthier can put out work that does not need a PLEK. On the other hand, as an improvement in speed and accuracy over less skilled workers, especially in larger factories, it seems like a pretty good solution. As with any decent tool, it has its place and context. I like it because my tech can save the specs for my setup and then pull them up later, so even after changing a nut or spending a few months in a different climate, my guitar can get dialed in exactly as it was before. That's pretty cool, and most techs would have a hard time offering that kind of service without the machine.
#23
I fail to see how one can compare a PLEK job to a good setup. They are different things, even though a PLEK job will include a setup.

I would even consider a PLEK job in a different order than the best human manual fretwork out there, whether factory or repair.
#24
Quote by stormin1155
My only experience with Pleking is my Les Paul, which I bought new in 2010. It was factory Plecked, and was done extremely well. Probably the only new guitar I've ever bought that didn't need some set-up/fret work.

Having said that though, I am a guitar tech with my own shop and do a ton of fret jobs, both leveling/recrowning and complete re-fretting, and I will put my work up against any Pleck job. So I would have a hard time justifying spending that kind of cash for Plek as opposed to finding a good tech.



Your Les Paul wasn't Plek'd in the same way that it's done in a competent shop. Gibson doesn't analyze the guitars under string tension; they bolt an often-unpainted guitar into a fixture that applies a preset amount of bend to the neck ("simulating" string tension), do a routine fret mill, and then run the guitar down the production line. By the time you actually buy the guitar, it may be a year or more later and have undergone any number of changes.

With all due respect to the techs who do tons of manual fret jobs, there's just no way that a manual fret job can compete with a PLEK except on price. the PLEK job is more precise, removes less material from the frets than a manual fret leveling, can be more accurately modified for playability, and the history of the guitar can be saved for future reference, both to watch for neck movement characteristics and to produce other guitars with the same playability characteristics. The tech I use is pretty much a master at manual fret levels, but he will offer a one-year setup refresh (as often as you need) including another run on the PLEK if required for PLEK jobs, but only six months on manual fretwork.

The techs themselves really appreciate the PLEK. As you're aware, a manual fret level requires more time, doesn't allow you to do anything else, and sometimes has to be redone or modified if the neck comes up under string tension differently than expected. With the PLEK machine in house, the tech can be doing other work while the machine is working, and he can do more than one fret level in a day while that other work is being completed. The speed with which a fret level can be accomplished not only means that he's less rushed (and less likely to halfass something else) and that his wait list times drop dramatically and his ability to turn out good work and make more money increases. The computerized analysis helps spot issues and *potential* issues far more quickly as well. Some PLEK techs will pop a guitar on the machine just to run the strings-under-tension analysis to see exactly where the problem areas lie.

It's also a great way to do stainless frets, etc.
#25
Quote by kabadi.man


Some say that the PLEK process removes less fret material than manual fret leveling. No, I disagree. A good tech using a fret leveling beam of the type which is done while the strings are on the neck is going to remove the same amount of material as a PLEK machine and no more. The fret leveling beam I use is a "C"shaped channel. with the neck perfectly flat and all strings in tune, you simply tuck it under any given string and lightly move the beam back and forth until all frets show signs of contact with the abrasive. Its not going to remove any more than is necessary unless you forget to stop sanding.


There's really nothing to disagree with; it's just fact (not an opinion or a guess, which yours clearly is).

Your description of your process illustrates that, when you say that all frets need to show signs of contact with the abrasive. As with every manual fret leveling process, *all* frets are sanded. Obviously, however, there are frets that are the lowest of the bunch and that do not need to have any material at all removed*. The PLEK recognizes that.

Beyond that, the PLEK process is even more precise than any fret leveling beam with sanding media could ever be (down to a hundredth of a millimeter). The PLEK also precision cuts nut slots and, on acoustic guitars, bridge saddles, if required. The PLEK is more than precise enough to cut your name into the fretboard or the material of the nut, between the strings, in nearly any font you like. Beyond that, the PLEK recognizes the exact amount that the neck should be curved (not something a manual leveling process will deal with) for optimum sound from the strings at specific action levels (you can tailor the process for the preferences of the player, something that really doesn't happen with a manual fret level).

The PLEK process has been around since about 2000 and you're just becoming aware of it some 16 years later, and for the first time in this thread. As you state, you're basing your guesses on the comments in this thread and the viewing of a video. Here's some more information: http://www.plek.com/en_US/technik/

Generally, the only real questions I've heard are in regard to the cost (significantly more than most manual fret levels), and whether it's worth it to pay the extra. My personal opinion, having several guitars with fresh PLEK jobs done, is that if you play with low action and if you're experiencing buzz due to high frets, it's well worth the money. If you play with high action, maybe not. A manual fret level is probably just fine.

*The PLEK actually does polish the frets, so some tiny amount of material is obviously removed to accomplish that.
Last edited by dspellman at Feb 17, 2016,
#26
Quote by kabadi.man


You still have to do the crowning, but thats not going to remove any more material than is necessary either unless whoever is undertaking the work is inexperienced


Worth noting that the PLEK also does the crowning, shaping of the ends and an initial polish with far more precision than someone with a good crowning file can accomplish and FAR better than someone with a set of straight files can do.
#27
Quote by paruwi
I am speaking of a NEW guitar and a NEW car......

and be sure I know very well what a PLEK Job does or doesn't

I don't even need to translate their website....



It's metal in wood. Things shift, temperatures change. Roc's oil change analogy was perfectly applicable.

Quote by kabadi.man
i never knew about PLEK until i read this thread.
having looked at a video and the comments here, there is one thing i have to disagree with.

Some say that the PLEK process removes less fret material than manual fret leveling. No, I disagree. A good tech using a fret leveling beam of the type which is done while the strings are on the neck is going to remove the same amount of material as a PLEK machine and no more. The fret leveling beam I use is a "C"shaped channel. with the neck perfectly flat and all strings in tune, you simply tuck it under any given string and lightly move the beam back and forth until all frets show signs of contact with the abrasive. Its not going to remove any more than is necessary unless you forget to stop sanding.
You still have to do the crowning, but thats not going to remove any more material than is necessary either unless whoever is undertaking the work is inexperienced

edit:-
This is what I use . if you scroll down, there's a couple of pictures to give an idea of how the tool is used:-


I worked at a pro tech for a couple years. I always find it funny what people have to say about "good techs." I've used the same style tool you posted with the good ol' 6" block file on numerous jobs. I understand the process.

However, even the best tech I know couldn't be as precise or remove as little material as a PLEK. We're talking a machine that is accurate within fractions of a centimeter versus a dude eye-balling a fancy yardstick.

Why are people taking the piss out on PLEKing? I know we have some purists that pop over on UG from time to time, but man, this is some wine-sipping MLP forum stuff right here.
#28
Quote by kabadi.man

and no, its not eyeballing. I use a 19" beam, there is no eyeballing to see if things are straight or not. if you scroll own in my link, there is a second beam with 3 spacer blocks that are used to make sure the neck is flat, well ignoring the whole thing about a compressed beam taking on an "S" shape, but the leveling process compensates for that. when its flat, and you sand with a 19" beam, eveything is flat. there is nothing to eyeball at all


A couple of things regarding the technofret beam. It assumes that the ideal neck shape for leveling frets is dead flat. It can't really take the optimal shape of a "best playing condition" neck into consideration (including relief, etc.). The PLEK does.

There's more. I had a guitar with a "Gibson Hump" (it was a gibson, natch) PLEK'd at Gary Brawer's. We looked at the initial analysis and Gary noted that, since I play with a pretty light touch on the cowboy chord (frets 1-5) end of things, the fret level could actually be skewed every so slightly so that the low end of the neck could have lower frets than the "lead" end of things (12th fret up). That would allow easier chording at one end, easier bending at the other. This particular neck would allow that, others not so much. No flat beam system can accomplish that with any accuracy.
#29
i had a 2010ish Gibson LP that was factory plek'd and i must say that it was quite nice. if i were to get fretwork done, i would get it plek'd. that gibson (dspllman knows more about gibson's practices regarding pleking better than I) was much better playing than the other LP i had and the two SG's from around the same era.

i can also say that i wish i knew how to do fretwork myself. i have a growing list of guitars that need fretwork, and its hard to justify $300 or whatever it may cost to getting them done. fuck some of those guitars i can buy used for under a grand and me being a gasoholic would rather get a new one... lol.
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#30
Quote by kabadi.man

I know how good I can do it so i'm sure a proper guitar tech with the same tools could do as good a job as a plek any day of the week


But you do not know how good a job a PLEK machine does. There just is no way that the human eye and hand, even aided by tools, can achieve the accuracy, precision, and consistency of that kind of machine when it comes to the initial analysis and the actual fretwork.
#31
Quote by kabadi.man

I'm not wasting money on a plek when a job just as good can be done for less


Thanks for the information on the technofret, though. I've added it to my "library." Looks like a good tool if you're going to do your own fretwork.

I don't think I'd waste money on a PLEK job if it could be done just as well for less, either. Or if it weren't required.

As I mentioned, I've found that Carvins, new in the box (in particular) have spectacularly well done fretwork. And I've got other guitars that just haven't needed anything. And if you're someone who plays with fairly high action, you may not need work done even if the fretboard *is* a bit out of level.

But since I don't have the time or inclination to do my own, and since I play with low action, and since I really like having several guitars that play identically, and since I've been having my frets superglued at the same time they're being PLEK'd, etc., I've weighed in on the side of "Yes, definitely!" when the thread title is, "Is getting my guitar PLEK'd worth it?"
#32
Quote by kabadi.man
I still stand by what I said. The neck radius stays the same as you sand with a light touch and even pressure. There is no need to take in to account the relief as the work is done while the neck is flat and the relief is added after.


Relief, like string tension, does not necessarily affect the neck evenly. In fact, it's guaranteed not to. That's why the PLEK machine does its measurements with both string tension and relief appropriately applied.
#33
That price seems kind of steep to me. It's been a couple of years, but I had a bass PLEK'd for under $100. I had frets that almost looked like they had gouges in them. The playability difference afterward was huge.
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#34
In my experience of refretting/fret dressing you can still get excellent playability/action. I have been able to consistent achieve 2.5/64" action at the 12th fret on 9.5" radius necks. Can bend a while step and no choke, no problems.

A good tech or luthier can do the job just as well in my opinion. PLEK is more accurate theoretically but you're talking an extreme amount of accuracy that probably is unnecessary.. Like if you want to get your action even lower. Even then, physics only allows you to go so low before you get some buzz.

Do you guys consider 2.5/64" at 12th fret low?
#36
Quote by Roc8995

It's just a computerized setup. .much like you would do with a PLEK, to get the setup ideal for your needs.


Quote by paruwi
A 'well made' guitar doesn't need any Plek-Job


A PLEK job is not a computerized setup.
It's a computerized fret level/crown done with extremely high precision and with minimal loss of fret material. It includes an analysis of the entire neck/fretboard/frets that can be used to compare to a future (or past) analysis to see if the neck is moving.
It can be *part* of a setup (and I personally recommend it as part of a Great Initial Setup), but a great tech will ascertain your playing style and your action requirements as part of the considerations for the setup.

A 'well made' guitar can easily need a Plek job. I have a ~$4K Gibson Axcess Custom (black with the "Custom" appointments including ebony fretboard, MOP inlays, white binding, gold hardware, etc.) that arrived from Gibson with a Gibson Hump. The guitar was given a complete PLEK plus setup and the frets were superglued and the guitar has been spectacular since then. Suhr guitars are routinely given a PLEK run and setup when they leave the factory. During the time in inventory before they're sold, any number of climatic conditions can lead to them needing another run on the PLEK machine by the time they're actually purchased.

OTOH, Carvin doesn't use a PLEK machine and their guitars routinely arrive with perfect fretwork and in tune. The difference is that owners receive their Carvins shipped direct from the factory with a few days from completion, and Carvin does really good fretwork.

If you have a guitar that currently has issues with the fretwork, and if you generally play with a very low action, I'd suggest that the money spent on the PLEK and (perhaps) a fret superglue and a really good setup is money well spent no matter *what* the original cost of the guitar (I've PLEK'd a $200 B-stock guitar and not regretted it at all).

If you spend more of your time bouncing around the stage, playing a guitar with high action with a heavy hand on both fretting and picking hand, you may not find it's worth the money.