329 W. Pierpont Ave. STE 100, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
There are many questions surrounding the Plek that I hope to answer here. If you are interested in knowing if the Plek is right for you all you need to do is ask:
Then read on, my friend.
State of the art: (sometimes cutting edge) refers to the highest level of general development, as of a device, technique, or scientific field achieved at a particular time. -via Wikipedia
PLEK is the most state of the art tool for measuring a guitar along with the highest level of:
Next to the tone, the playability is one of the most important characteristics that determines the quality of a musical instrument. The Plek process guarantees the best possible string action for each instrument, matching the individual style of the musician. A guitar with optimized playability just sounds better: the strings do not strike the frets during playing and any intonation problems that may occur due to too low a string action are eliminated.
“…The turnover was quick and when I picked up my Martin and played it the difference was incredible! I had no idea it would make that much of a difference in playability…”
“Just had a great experience with the service at Crossroads Guitar Shop. They turned my very inexpensive Tele knock off into a monster instrument with their Plek machine and general expertise. Thank you guys, I’m going to keep playing my guitar now….Can’t put it down!”
“Aaron just PLEK’d a Maton 808 for me. It’s a different guitar and plays great! Thanks Aaron!”
“I took my MIA Strat in for Pleking. I picked it up today and I am here to tell you that it plays 10 times better than it has since I have owned it! These guys did a fantastic job!”
The Plek Pro is an integrated tool which uses a scanning module that consists of a sensor finger combined with a high-resolution magnetic linear encoder. In English, this means it takes extremely precise and accurate measurements, at 0.00004” tolerance to be exact, all while the guitar or bass is under string tension and then populates the information into different numerical and graphical representations. With the data, we can see exactly how the fingerboard is reacting under each individual string as well as the measured relief from any fret point, the exact fret height under each string at every note position, the exact radius at the 1st, 12th and last fret and the nut and saddle action from any fret point. All this can be juxtaposed against an ideal curvature of the neck specific to your individual needs including: string gauge, tuning, and target action.
Proper neck adjustments are then made by the tech and the guitar is re-scanned until optimal relief is achieved. Then, a virtual fret dress can be manipulated to determine the best fret dress scenario. This software gives us the foresight to see exactly how much fret or fingerboard material will be removed at every note position, the ability to keep or compound the radius and to add or improve upon the fall away. This insight allows us to determine if the fret dress would benefit from compensating the neck adjustment or if the frets would be too low after the dress before ever attempting it. When milling fingerboards this foresight is extremely valuable particularly when working with vintage instruments that have Brazilian Rosewood or a thin, radiused veneer. Finger grooves can even be left in the wood if desired to keep the instrument looking its age but still be perfectly planed.
Once the tech has decided on the dress that the Plek will execute, the strings are removed from the guitar and it is re-scanned to determine how the neck reacts without string tension. Then, a specially manufactured carbide cutting wheel levels and crowns the frets with 0.0001” accuracy or for planing the fingerboard a diamond down cut bit is used. After milling, the instrument is strung back up and scanned to ensure it meets Plek profile quality.
Following the Plek process, we setup the instrument to your desired specs and push it through its paces to ensure it will perform and meet your expectations. Then, any protruding tangs or sharp edges are smoothed out and the frets are hand buffed and polished. The fingerboard is conditioned and new strings are put on and intonated. At this point, your instrument will play better than it ever did new. There is also a record to always check your guitar against, because wood will react to its environment. These records can also help with determining the target action you wish to have for other instruments, too.
Yes. Not only can you feel the difference, you will be able to see the record of the difference. Your guitar doesn’t leave our shop until you are completely satisfied with the results, and sometimes, we need to make some final tweaks to achieve that. We do our best to effectively communicate that your expectations can be achieved before you leave your instrument with us. We are fully confident that we can make any guitar play the best that it possibly can, and we have met those needs for many of the most discriminating players. We also know when someone’s desires are beyond the laws of physics or their expectations seem insatiable, and in such cases, we will graciously decline our services.
“It’s like saying, ‘Give a man a Les Paul guitar and he becomes Eric Clapton’, and it’s not true” –Rodger Waters, when asked if the new synth technology is taking away the art of making music.
Many great technological advancements have been confronted with resistance and the Plek is no exception. However, the conventional tools and techniques used to perform leveling jobs, even by the best luthiers, don’t have the accuracy of the measuring tools now available. The complex geometry of a guitar neck, the unique, individual way every piece of wood moves, combined with the physics of a proper setup demand an extremely low margin of error to accomplish a fret dress capable of allowing the lowest possible action.
Take the invention of the hand drill which was extremely useful and can still serve a purpose today, but the electric drill allows us to work much more efficiently. Even still, it is just a tool and it’s the user who determines how well it executes the job. The user must know how to choose the proper bit, speed and depth stop, as well as avoiding problems like splitting, tear out, and finish chipping. Ultimately, the user must drill exactly where he or she measures. In the end, most of us are glad we don’t have to use hand drills for everything anymore.
The Plek is still a tool which is only as good as the operator controlling it, and the entire job is only going to come out as good as the combined efforts of the Plek operator and the technician that performs the following setup. If the technology to execute perfect playability exists, those in search of delivering perfection are bound to use it. Can a human achieve the same level of perfection as the Plek? Yes, it’s not impossible. Can they consistently and efficiently execute at the level as the Plek? No, not even close. That’s why some of the most revered luthiers and repair shops in the world use Plek technology today such as: Santa Cruz, Suhr, Collings, Joe Glaser, Mike Lull, and TJ Thompson.
Aaron Keener – Owner
I’ve been operating the Plek Pro since July of 2007 when it arrived in the first month I started working at Crossroads Guitar Shop in Falls Church, VA. The experience has given me a rare and unique insight of the physics and geometry of guitar necks and string motion. I’ve witnessed the evolution of the capabilities of the Plek solely through software updates and modular tool changes. I am a perfectionist that believes in slow and steady processing and I prefer to do things once, the right way. I strive to provide the highest and most profound level of service and to achieve unparalleled fret work, which is the single biggest factor in play-ability.
For over a decade now, musicians, builders & manufacturers, even other techs and guitar shops, have brought their instruments to me because they know I can achieve the highest level of play-ability. I have been able to breathe new life into many troubled instruments that other luthiers/techs did not want to touch. The PLEK allows me to know, without any doubt, if an instrument can or cannot be leveled or planed properly before any failed attempts to repair happen which could ruin or devalue an instrument. I’m constantly studying and striving to improve my craft and ensure my services exceed the high expectations my customers have, hold or assume of me. My extensive study in many styles of playing allows me to properly “test drive” (the fun part) any guitar and ensure a reliable, durable setup.
Born and raised in the D/FW area of Texas, I’m a self-taught guitarist and was granted scholarships to study music and audio engineering (which I received an Associate of Applied Science degree in both as I wanted to be Jimmy Page). I’ve been performing live since 1997 and teaching since 1998. I’ve worked as a freelancer and an employee for recording studios, performing arts schools, guitar shops, original and cover bands and myself as a solo artist. My repair skills developed over this time in my passion for excellence in everything guitar related, and it all eventually brought me to where I am today, owner of Crossroads Guitar Shop.