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Mind Riot

"hand Swipe" Recrowning?

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I'm always on the lookout for information on fret leveling and such, and I've come across a couple of tutorials with a rather unusual method described for recrowning frets after leveling. One of these tutorials was written by Dan Erlewine on some bass website.

Basically, what was described was leveling the frets using one of the standard methods (radius blocks, steel bar, etc.) and then wrapping sandpaper around your hand and using long strokes up and down the fretboard with moderate pressure, going both ways, to recrown the frets. It seemed that the softness of your fingers would help to conform the sandpaper to the frets, facilitating the recrowning. Another method I saw somewhere was using a foam block wrapped in sandpaper using the same strokes.

Here's the link to Dan Erlewine doing this on a Gretsch Electromatic bass:

http://www.bassplayer.com/story.asp?sectio...storycode=15211

To be honest, neither of these methods seem very precise to me, and I was somewhat surprised to see Mr. Erlewine using such a technique. It seems that there would be a huge probability of human error. However, I am curious to hear any thoughts on this that anyone would like to share.

But something occured to me when I was later pondering what I had read. Say one was doing a fret level on a cylindrical board, so radius blocks could be used. Now let's say the leveling has already been done.

If someone were to attach a couple of layers of double sided foam tape or a double stick foam pad to a radius block, then attach sandpaper to that, so that you had a radiused but soft surface of abrasive capable of hugging the contours of the frets, would running that gently with even pressure up and down the fretboard recrown frets with any kind of effectiveness?

I hope I'm describing it well enough to it's easily understood. Basically some kind of firm but soft foam sandwiched between a radius block and a sheet of sandpaper.

This would seem to me to work at least as well if not better than the simple "hand swipe" method. The foam would allow the abrasive to follow the contours of the frets and gently knock the sharp edge off the tops, and using the radius block for backing would keep the radius even and keep the leveling from being wrecked. It might help to remove some of the human error, and keep things more consistent than using just your hand.

Of course, the primary logistical problem I see with this is the same as with the "hand swipe" method, namely that of attaining a thin, neat contact point on the top of the fret. Both the "hand swipe" method and the one I've just described seem to me that they would probably knock the sharp edge off the fret top, but neither of them seem like they would very precisely and truly crown a fret to a thin and clean contact point. It seems that they would both round the fret top somewhat, but also leave a pretty wide flat still on top.

Personally, I don't think I'll be using either method. But reading about it did pique my curiosity and I thought I'd share my thoughts and see if anyone else has any experience or insight to offer. :D

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Oh boy. Well I don't want to go back to being a regular here, but I'm waiting for an IE update to load on this backup computer brought up from the basement.

So, some thoughts :

Those cheapo modern import guitars/basses like that, have pretty soft fret-wire, so it's not a great idea to go all the way with a super deluxe fret crowning, plus the "hand swipe" method will do the job well enough, if it rounds the fret enough to get rid of sharp edges and keep the string contact point from being too wide (and they have to be quite wide on top to be a problem for buzzing, etc). So it works, and some even prefer it (even some top pro players). It's subtle, but the flatter crowing sort of "blurs" the notes a little. I think it's a nice way to treat a bright sounding guitar that usually has a floyd bridge. But, I'm pretty sure I really prefer a meduim to narrow width fret which retains it's original crown shape, for a clear note, and let any "blurring" happen with the body wood, pickups and amp. (and I hate floyds)

Also, between that (cool) article (thank you bass player mag for putting that stuff on the net), Erlewine fretting videos and books, it seems Dan is usually doing that quicky crowning method on fairly new necks where they are not as worn down as some of us have seen on old necks.

As for your padded radius block, look up the Thomas Ginex fret-crowning/leveling tools (not sure how well I spelled their names), which are a lot like what you are saying. I never bought their gizmo and don't plan to.

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I've only seen the hand swiping method done at the beginning of the polishing stage. That is, frets have already been crowned with a file. I'm not sure if rubbing a cushioned block over the frets will do the trick at knocking down those edges. You will still be contacting the fret tops and cutting them down further. The hand swiping method works because the paper wrapped around your finger or edge of the hand only contacts the fret from the side. Either way, its never an exact science. There are lots of variables that can cause tiny differences in frets, but not enough to make a difference in their function, that is, IF the job was done properly in the first place. Differences in finger / hand pressure while sanding, rubbing , swiping (or whatever you do) and progressive wear / buildup on sandpaper as you move along can all be factors. The trick is to just try to be consistent and monitor your progress regularly.

Everyone has their methods. Mine are pretty straightforward and possibly more labor intensive than the hand swiping. But it works for me and I enjoy doing it. :D

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my thought is that it's also Dan the Man doing this job

and i think i would let him refret any of my guitars blind folded.......he's just that experianced

me i stick to the long labor way as its never failed me

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Just to reiterate, I don't plan on using this method, and frankly when I first read about it I thought it sounded pretty, um, well, dumb. I don't plan on using my foam padded radius block method either, I was just curious what everyone thought.

I suppose someone like Dan Erlewine can successfully level and crown frets using a variety of methods, even some most of us consider quite unorthodox, due to his level of experience.

I'm still trying to decide what crowning file to get for my bad self now that I've returned that diamond file. Any thoughts are most welcome. I'm considering just getting one of the traditional long toothed files, the one for medium and large fret wire. I don't see myself working on any older Fenders with small fretwire any time soon, all of my guitars are newer, less expensive imports with bigger wire. Thoughts?

And soapbarstrat, why don't you want to be a regular here anymore? In all my searches on stuff, you've posted some very informative information and I know I'm not the only one who would appreciate your continued input.

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Buy the best tools you can afford

remember back in the day they did not have whats availible now

and time and practice will make perfect at one point and time

i still use toothed files. thats how i learn'd and what im comfortible with

but im sure ill try more options as i can save the money for them

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The method you refer to is what Dan calls a "quick fret dress". He only uses it in cases such as a new fret job where the fret levelling (yes you still have to level the frets with a long flat bar as always) only removes a tiny amount of the fret top, because the frets are already pretty close to even. Because the flats are so small, you can get away with the technique of flapping the sandpaper up and down the board with the paper hitting the side of the fret and then riding up and over it to provide a slight rounding. It is a shortcut when you don't want to invest the time or effort into a full crown and polish -- but it won't give the same final result either.

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And soapbarstrat, why don't you want to be a regular here anymore? In all my searches on stuff, you've posted some very informative information and I know I'm not the only one who would appreciate your continued input.

I "think out loud" too easily. Maybe I'm actually talking to myself, trying to steer myself into being more productive (you know, more time in the shop *doing*, instead of online *talking*)

I wrote "oh boy" because you wrote about a topic I couldn't resist adding something to.

Something else : If you ever watch some of those videos where they do this quickly sandpaper fret-rounding, you might notice they seem to do it more in some parts of the neck than others. That bugs me when I see that. Maybe being on camera throws them off or something.

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And soapbarstrat, why don't you want to be a regular here anymore? In all my searches on stuff, you've posted some very informative information and I know I'm not the only one who would appreciate your continued input.

I "think out loud" too easily. Maybe I'm actually talking to myself, trying to steer myself into being more productive (you know, more time in the shop *doing*, instead of online *talking*)

I wrote "oh boy" because you wrote about a topic I couldn't resist adding something to.

Something else : If you ever watch some of those videos where they do this quickly sandpaper fret-rounding, you might notice they seem to do it more in some parts of the neck than others. That bugs me when I see that. Maybe being on camera throws them off or something.

I would love to see any videos I could find on fret work, if I could find any that won't cost me fifty bucks. I'd love to make the investment; I know they'd teach me a lot, but at the moment my budget is going for fret tools.

Speaking of which, any recommendations for a fret crowning file for a novice? I'm thinking of just getting one of the traditional double sided toothed files and picking up one of the digital calipers while I'm at it. All the options with the toothed versus diamond, offset versus traditional, radiused versus triangle, I'm going nuts here.

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Speaking of which, any recommendations for a fret crowning file for a novice? I'm thinking of just getting one of the traditional double sided toothed files and picking up one of the digital calipers while I'm at it. All the options with the toothed versus diamond, offset versus traditional, radiused versus triangle, I'm going nuts here.

Well, consider this : Most people who've used both the diamond and the toothed crowning files like the diamond ones better, so that leads me to believe that *I* would like the toothed ones even less, but I haven't tried either, and I've been re-crowning frets for about 20 years ! I just use a flat file on one side of the fret at a time, and use some straight swipes while moving the file little by little, or use a "rolling action". Often the part of the fret that's still got the original crown will give me a "lead start" on how to use the file to continue that same curve more towards the top of the fret.

It is the most PITA thing that I do, and would always love a better way to come along. If I can't find ultimate crowning files, how are you ? (but everyone's different, so what doesn't work for me, might work just fine for you, and the opposite could be true as well).

Yeah, it can drive someone nuts whose really fussy about how a guitar can possibly play and sound it's best.

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Speaking of which, any recommendations for a fret crowning file for a novice? I'm thinking of just getting one of the traditional double sided toothed files and picking up one of the digital calipers while I'm at it. All the options with the toothed versus diamond, offset versus traditional, radiused versus triangle, I'm going nuts here.

Well, consider this : Most people who've used both the diamond and the toothed crowning files like the diamond ones better, so that leads me to believe that *I* would like the toothed ones even less, but I haven't tried either, and I've been re-crowning frets for about 20 years ! I just use a flat file on one side of the fret at a time, and use some straight swipes while moving the file little by little, or use a "rolling action". Often the part of the fret that's still got the original crown will give me a "lead start" on how to use the file to continue that same curve more towards the top of the fret.

It is the most PITA thing that I do, and would always love a better way to come along. If I can't find ultimate crowning files, how are you ? (but everyone's different, so what doesn't work for me, might work just fine for you, and the opposite could be true as well).

Yeah, it can drive someone nuts whose really fussy about how a guitar can possibly play and sound it's best.

Honestly, it was kind of a dumb question for me to ask anyway. I'm sitting here asking everyone for recommendations on a file when every single thing I've read and seen on fret work tells me that there is no one best way and that everyone uses something different.

I think what I may end up doing is buying a toothed traditional file from Stew Mac and picking up a cant saw file while I'm at it, and try them both out. That way I don't have a large investment in a diamond file if I end up liking the triangle file more, and more options are always good. My first instinct is that I'm too new to this to use a triangle file, but I won't know until I try it if it will work for me.

I'm sure I'll be posting more questions and updates as my tools arrive and I progress. :D

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Stew-Mac might not like me posting this out in the open, but they didn't tell me to be quiet about it either. Early this year, when I was asking them about size specifications on their diamond files, they said they were thinking of re-doing them. Don't know whatever happened with that idea/plan. I kept hoping I'd open a new Stew-Mac catalog and get a nice surprise. Oh well.

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Stew-Mac might not like me posting this out in the open, but they didn't tell me to be quiet about it either. Early this year, when I was asking them about size specifications on their diamond files, they said they were thinking of re-doing them. Don't know whatever happened with that idea/plan. I kept hoping I'd open a new Stew-Mac catalog and get a nice surprise. Oh well.

Yes, I remember reading the thread where you posted the measurements as I was researching. I have to say, the numbers were quite :D I don't know what kind of fretwire was used for designing those files, but it's not like any wire I've ever seen.

Perhaps as stainless steel fret wire becomes more common, diamond tools for fret work will also become more widespread and have more variety.

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But something occured to me when I was later pondering what I had read. Say one was doing a fret level on a cylindrical board, so radius blocks could be used. Now let's say the leveling has already been done.

If someone were to attach a couple of layers of double sided foam tape or a double stick foam pad to a radius block, then attach sandpaper to that, so that you had a radiused but soft surface of abrasive capable of hugging the contours of the frets, would running that gently with even pressure up and down the fretboard recrown frets with any kind of effectiveness?

If you stick some foam on your radius block and stick sandpaper to that then you're going to reduse the radius of the block. This would probably mean that that the outside fo the frets would get a much better sanding than the middle of the frets.

Well that's how it seems to work in my head anyway :D

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I'm sitting here asking everyone for recommendations on a file when every single thing I've read and seen on fret work tells me that there is no one best way and that everyone uses something different.

Yes, you'll pretty much have to work that out.

My first instinct is that I'm too new to this to use a triangle file, but I won't know until I try it if it will work for me.

I would suggest practicing on a guitar you don't care that much about, but still has reasonable playing action etc. After all, you won't know if you did a good job if you dress the frets on an unplayable guitar. :D

I've used the triangle file with good results, but it takes practice. I've also used the toothed fret file, takes a bit more effort than the diamond file. I don't own a diamond file but I've heard a fret will crown in only a few swipes with one of those. One thing that should be part of everyone's method is to mark the frets (with a felt marker) prior to levelling and then again, prior to crowning so you can monitor your progress. When finished crowning a fret there should be a tiny bit of felt marker left down the center. That way you know you haven't gone too far. Take your time and have fun with it. :D

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I'm sitting here asking everyone for recommendations on a file when every single thing I've read and seen on fret work tells me that there is no one best way and that everyone uses something different.

Yes, you'll pretty much have to work that out.

My first instinct is that I'm too new to this to use a triangle file, but I won't know until I try it if it will work for me.

I would suggest practicing on a guitar you don't care that much about, but still has reasonable playing action etc. After all, you won't know if you did a good job if you dress the frets on an unplayable guitar. :D

I've used the triangle file with good results, but it takes practice. I've also used the toothed fret file, takes a bit more effort than the diamond file. I don't own a diamond file but I've heard a fret will crown in only a few swipes with one of those. One thing that should be part of everyone's method is to mark the frets (with a felt marker) prior to levelling and then again, prior to crowning so you can monitor your progress. When finished crowning a fret there should be a tiny bit of felt marker left down the center. That way you know you haven't gone too far. Take your time and have fun with it. :D

I've got two junk necks to butcher in my mad experiments. One of them has fret damage and the other has a long crack in the neck wood. I got them from a friend who got them from a small builder. I'll be using them to test out my tools, but in order to actually tell if I've done a good fret level I'll have to try it on one of my own guitars. My modified Squier '51 will be my first real instrument test subject, and I'll make sure to take lots of pics. B)

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