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The mechanical portion of the Plek
Measuring the fret/fretboard height.

The international area at Summer NAMM doesn't often draw a lot of attention, but at this year's Nashville NAMM show, a curious piece of machinery called the "Plek" caught our attention. Something that seemed to belong on a factory floor, the machine was methodically examining an electric guitar that had been strapped down against its will.

This oddity was courtesy of a German company that also goes by the name Plek, and it was performing a commonly needed task of fret dressing. Aiming to bring high precision to what is otherwise a bit of an art, the Plek is a computer controlled machine that carefully measures the fret and fretboard height underneath each string (it actually pushes the string aside slightly so they don't need to be removed, maintaining the tension on the neck).

Once the Plek has recorded all the measurements, it will then put its grinding wheel in place and grind the frets to proper heights, taking into account the gauge of the strings used, eliminating buzzing and improving overall playability.

While it is pretty amazing to see the machine in action, it does need some assistance. To get it started, you do need to supply some information about the guitar or bass, the strings on it, and calibrate the position so the Plek knows exactly where the instrument's fretboard is.

The Plek carries a pretty hefty price tag, and is being sold to music stores and repair shops, with a number already installed in Europe. The first US-based store to purchase one of these machines is Glaser Instruments in Nashville, and the manufacturer expects more stores soon as well.

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