For a musician who has been playing the guitar for several years now, you have probably heard a lot about Plek machines from your fellow axmen. You are now at a stage in your guitar life wherein you are mulling if a Plek setup on your Fender would be worth it. But still, you aren’t quite sure if this relatively new technology is just all hype designed by the industry to take away your hard-earned money.
Meanwhile, your local luthier isn’t in the right position to give you a clear answer on this matter as well because he is also experiencing a similar dilemma. As a growing guitar builder, he is now entering a phase in his career wherein an upgrade to his shop is the next step to expanding his business. Intensive capital is a requisite in guitar-making and just like other luthiers, your friend is having some difficulty deciding whether a very expensive Plek machine is worth procuring or not.
Due diligence and research are of utmost importance in dealing with this kind of matter, as musicians and luthiers should be careful in making decisions that could affect their craft in the long run. Plek machines are high-end technology from Germany and the price tag of the machine, as well as the services that it can provide, could get quite hefty. Depending on your needs however, having your favorite Fender “Plek’d” could be satisfying. As for your friend the guitar craftsman, a Plek machine might just be his ticket to the big leagues.
What can Plek Machines Do?
Plek machines are very powerful tools that can aid guitar builders in crafting the perfect instrument. Massive guitar assembly lines as well as individual luthier custom shops will benefit from the versatile capabilities of Plek machines.
The company behind Plek machines recommends the Plek Station to smaller builders and individual luthiers, but if you are manufacturing more than 400 guitars a month, the Plek Pro is the best option for your company.
Guitar repair centers can benefit a lot from a Plek machine especially when it comes to solving fingerboard, fret or neck-related problems. Along with the training and knowledge of a luthier or a guitar technician, the Plek is a valuable workhorse that can do some of the most sensitive tasks in fixing guitars.
Plek machines are worth having in guitar repair shops as they can simultaneously cut multiple nuts, saddle slots and fret slots, as well as cut and crown frets with an astounding accuracy of a thousandth of a millimeter, making it easy to adhere to the most minute of details.
Guitar maintenance for musicians
Guitar players all over the world can maximize the capabilities of their instruments with the help of a Plek machine. While these machines are very expensive and are only usually procured by bigger music instruments shops and guitar builders, musicians may ship their guitar to the nearest service center that offers Plek services.
After diagnosing the problems of your guitar and having these issues addressed, your instrument will be sent back to you, along with a certificate that it has been successfully Plek’d. These documents will be proof that your guitar has undergone some vast improvements using the machine.
Plek setups on brand new guitars is not actually worth it, since they don’t usually need this service yet. If you are not quite sure whether your guitar needs to go on a trip to the Plek center, here are some signs that it’s about time your instrument gets a complete checkup and repair:
- Irregular fingerboard surface
- Action is either too high or too low
- Buzzing sounds on some areas on the fingerboard
- Existence of some dead notes or lack of sustain
- The height of the frets are uneven due to fret wear
The technology behind Plek machines
Using a Sensor Module, a Plek can provide detailed data on a guitar’s nut, fingerboard, frets and string action. The accuracy of these machines can go down to a thousandth of an inch, allowing its three-dimensional, magnified view of the fingerboard to give luthiers and guitar technicians the specific information they need to solve potential issues.
The Virtual Fret Dress
Using the info gathered by the scan, the next step would be to utilize the Virtual Fret Dress (VFD). The VFD is a software tool that can virtually set the amount of fret height needed and make some radius adjustments, allowing you to simulate cutting before proceeding with the actual procedure.
With all the data in store, the guitar builder can now easily make decisions without having to resort to experimentations. Luthiers can go ahead with fingerboard planning, cutting, dressing, crowning and other steps, without having to worry about committing errors in the instrument-making process.
STS – String Tension Simulation
A Plek Pro machine’s String Tension Simulation (STS) module can simulate the tension of stringed instruments without the strings. Using a computer-controlled pneumatic procedure, guitar builders can calculate and assign a predefined string tension for each guitar neck. The STS will simulate the truss rod and neck reactions within the instrument, the same way they would when equipped with strings.
Does Fender Plek their guitars?
Fender does not use Plek on their instruments since they have their own age-old standards to follow. The biggest guitar manufacturer in the world prides itself as one of the pioneers of modern instrument-making and Plek machines might affect certain characteristics that made the brand a global guitar juggernaut.
Even though Plek machines are worth having in manufacturing facilities, Fender will definitely stick to their specifications for decades to come, in order to satisfy aficionados of the brand. However, there are also Fender guitars that have been Plek’d by stores that offer such services.
What guitar manufacturers use PLEK?
Gibson, Suhr and Taylor are some of the most popular guitar brands that Plek their instruments.
Are Plek machines and Plek setups worth it?
For guitar manufacturers and luthiers
Although some have dismissed Plek machines as an attempt to replace the expertise and craftsmanship of technicians and luthiers, there are miniscule details that are impossible for the human eye to spot. This is why Plek machines are valuable tools of the trade and a growing number of believers are grateful for the accuracy that they can achieve with the help of this amazing piece of equipment.
Having your guitar Plek’d is alright if your instrument has already served you for a long time and major issues are already hounding it to the point that simple remedies just won’t cut it. However, for guitars that aren’t too worn out yet, $200 can be a little pricey especially if your instrument’s problems can be solved with some minor tweaking.
Also keep in mind that even though Plek setups can be worth it if your guitar requires a lot of fixing, vintage Fender guitars follow a different set of standards when it comes to fixing and refurbishing. Pleking your vintage Fenders can ruin its age-accuracy and devalue the guitar in the process.