Fret-Tech Goes High-Tech


Norman L. Beberman

Rodney Millar loves picky guitarists. He is one of three Plek-techsin the United States & the only one in Southern California.Using a revolutionary new machine known as "Plek", Rodneyfine-tunes the neck, frets & the bridge that anchors the strings,to ensure optimum sound & ease of playability.

In his shop located at 1748 1/2 Westwood Blvd, Rodney uses"Plek" to adjust and set-up guitars to "cnc"(computer numeric control) precision that is difficult to comprehendand much appreciated by guitarists. These adjustments matter tremendouslyto the guitarist. Consider that the neck is designed with a slightcurve outward at the first and sixth strings. Then, Rodney mustget the strings, which are of varying thickness, or, "gauges"to be the exact same height above the neck and frets.

Making these adjustments used to be more of an art than a science.Relying on traditional measuring tools often meant getting theseadjustments only as precise as the human eye could measure. Thismeant that making these adjustments to computer-precision wasimpossible. The quality of these adjustments depended entirelyon skill, experience and expertise.

Those days are on the way out.

Rodney analogizes playing a guitar that has not been throughthe Plek process, to shifting a manual transmission that doesnot shift smoothly. It is not that the driver can not shift thecar at all; rather, the driver learns to shift "around theproblem". Similarly, guitarists play "around the problems"that come with imprecise adjustments.

What if the gears in the transmission were machined to tolerancesthat only "cnc" could ensure? The result would be aperfect meshing of gears and shifting would become effortless.This is the same type of result that Rodney achieves with the"Plek". Guitars are capable of optimum sound and playabilitybecause the required adjustments are now done with plek-processprecision.

Visiting Rodney's shop on a recent Saturday morning, he explainedhow Plek works, demonstrated it on a guitar in his shop &let me play a guitar that had just been "Plekked". Folks,let me tell you, setting up guitars will never be the same!

After performing a pre-Plek exam for such things as neck straightness& type of strings, the guitar is placed on a pre-adjustmentcradle in the vertical position. The neck & strings are scanned,under tension, and neck is divided into string areas. Next, comeswhat Rodney calls the "action shots". Plek measuresstring height above each fret by gently pushing the string down.Plek is also measuring fret height and string spacing, the nutheight (action at the first fret) and the action at the 12th fret.

Plek generates graphic views of the fret plane, fret heights,fret shape, fret placement, fingerboard relief radius, etc. Within& using this extremely accurate map of the neck on the monitor,Rodney creates a "virtual fret dress" that incorporatesany individual real-word preferences. Then, Plek very gently moveseach string aside & does that particular fret dress, usingcomplex relief calculations to the particular action & stringgauges of that guitar, to an accuracy of .00005inch. Keep in mindthat a difference of .003inch is a night & day differencein playability. Before Plek, .003inch was a typical, acceptabletolerance or level of accuracy because you were dealing with thehuman eye & measuring instruments that were read with thehuman eye.

Plek guarantees a consistent, equal center on the frets allowingmaximum clean attack at every point on the neck. Thanks to Plektechnology, Rodney can perform a virtual fret dress to accountfor every possible consideration, such as putting any particularcompound radius further up the neck because a guitarist bends& likes low action, or, if the guitarist wants lower fretsin the first position to keep a hard grip in tune while leavinghigher frets up the neck for vibrato.

Remember how you had to guess at the pitch of a string in orderto tune your guitar before the advent of digital tuner? Do youlike the digital precision that your digital tuner gives? Theanswer is that we all hated the old tune-up drill & that wecan't believe how easy it is to get everyone in tune with digitaltuners.

Plek is bringing a level of technology & sophisticationto guitarists that was previously unimaginable. An un-Plekkedguitar can still be played, meaning that it is possible to playwithout it. A transmission with worn or broken synchronizers canstill be shifted; its' performance will be substantially lessthan optimal.

Optimum guitar performance & playability, measured withcomputer-precision, is now available. Its name is Plek & itis a revolution that has turned the art of fret dressing intothe science of fret dressing.

For more information, feel free to call Rodney at 310.474.2238or visit him on the web at