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Diamond Crowning File Question


Mind Riot
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Hi all. My second topic about fret work. Groovy.

So I ordered an offset diamond fret crowning file from some guy on ebay. It arrived today. Looks just like the Stew Mac one, minus their logo. 150 grit on one side, 300 on the other.

I have a junk neck with fret damage and a busted truss rod that I use for testing out tools. So I took a bit of 320 grit sandpaper, and used my finger to sand a flat onto the top of one of the frets. This flat was not the width of the fret or anything, but about 5/64" wide. I would imagine it would be somewhat similar to the kind of flat one might have after a light leveling.

These frets are jumbo. Looks like typical jumbo frets. I can't measure the width very well as I don't have calipers (yet), but they measure about .055" tall with feeler guages stacked next to them and a straight edge used for measurement. Pretty tall wire, and they're wide as well. Using my Stew Mac action guage, they look like they're a typical .110" width for jumbo wire.

So I whip out my new file to see how it will recrown this bad boy. It doesn't seem to be cutting the sides at all, but the top. I keep going, figuring at first it won't be obvious, and it's probably cutting just the very edges of the flat. But I keep going, a few strokes at a time, and checking. It's not narrowing the flat at all. There are marks very clearly showing the file is contacting the entire flat, and not touching anything else. I keep going, same result.

I want to make sure I'm not imagining things, so I polish the top of the fret with a scrap of 800 grit to remove some marks, and file again. Same thing. I mark the top of the fret with a sharpie, so see if it's actually leaving a tiny flat and my eyes are playing tricks on me. It removes all the sharpie mark at once.

So I look at the file. It's quite a bit wider than the fret (5/32"). I expected this, if it was designed to cut various widths of fret wire then it should still work if the surface is sufficiently convex. But the cutting surface is so shallow and flat that it won't recrown this JUMBO fret at all! It's just lowering the flat as it files.

Now, everything I've read has told me that the contact point where the string meets the fret should be very narrow after recrowning, to avoid buzzing and most importantly for accurate intonation. I measured the flat after all this, and it's still 5/64" wide. I highly doubt that all those professional fret levels leave a flat on the fret after they've recrowned that's more than a 16th of an inch wide. Especially on some of the widest fret wire available on the market today! If it's doing this now, I wouldn't want to get it anywhere near smaller frets.

So it appears this crowning file isn't going to crown jack squat. It's absurdly wide and the cutting surface is too shallow and flat to recrown anything even close to the size of a fret wire.

So am I missing something here, or is it time to see if I can send this back? Any information is appreciated. :D

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I say "send it back" and while I'm at it, I'm gunna throw in a question of my own:

If ya'll were to buy ONE diamond file, would you get the 150 grit one or the 320 from stewmac? Cause I'd like to buy a file that does multiple sizes (medium and jumbo) insterad of the files that do ONE size, but come with both grits...

Chris

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Take a close look at the stewmac file and you'll see the difference.

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Files/2/...Fret_Files.html

The stewmac files are not two grit files, but instead are two size. For example, the 150-grit file has one side for small/medium and one side for large/jumbo. Seems like you've got the small/medium one and are using it on jumbo frets. A one size fits all file would not be very good for accurate recrowning.

I'd say try to return the file and see if he has a large/jumbo one.

For Chris, I'd say take the 150. Since it is a lower grit, it will last longer (the law of any abrasive). In my opinion, a crowning file is only going to be needed to roughly shape the frets. I always polish with sandpaper, steel wool, then buff.

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The stewmac files are not two grit files, but instead are two size. For example, the 150-grit file has one side for small/medium and one side for large/jumbo. Seems like you've got the small/medium one and are using it on jumbo frets. A one size fits all file would not be very good for accurate recrowning.

I'd say try to return the file and see if he has a large/jumbo one.

I'm afraid I don't understand. The cutting surface is 5/32" wide, way wider than any fret wire. And with the shallowness of the cutting surface, it would cut the top of any fret the same way (unless the fret was close to 5/32" wide). If I had a file that was too small for these frets it would be cutting into the sides of the fret without recrowning it as the cutting surface would be too narrow for the width of the fret. The file is too wide and shallow, not too narrow.

In any case, I'm going to send it back as it's completely useless for crowning any fret wire I've ever seen.

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Which seller sold you this diamond file? I saw some ridiculously priced ones on Ebay going for $16. I'm just wondering if it's the same ones we're talking about.

I got my offset diamond crowning file from eBay, from a seller called "The Fret Shop". Their diamond fret crowning file has the same feature as Stew Mac's 150 Grit but I feel that the small/med side is too wide for small frets. I tried it on an Ibanez Jem with jumbo fretwire and it did a good job at re-crowning the frets. I took very light passes until I could no longer see the black sharpie mark I had put on the top of the flat frets. I tried the same file on a Gibson Les Paul Custom with med/wide wire and it worked ok as well :D

In hindsight, I wish I had gotten the 300 grit from stew mac. The 150 grit is too aggressive and The Fret Shop only carries the 150 grit version :D

Edited by guitar2005
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This one was $40 buy it now with about five bucks shipping. I didn't get it from an ebay store like the Fret Shop, it was just from an individual. While this file isn't satisfactory, the seller has been nothing but courteous and professional the whole way through the deal, and I just heard back from him and he has no problem with me returning it for a full refund.

The Stew Mac file is certainly attractive, but I don't know if I can afford it right now. I may just end up going for the three file Gurian, the regular steel toothed file, unless some cold hard cash comes my way. :D

Tools. What is it about them that has such mysterious mojo?

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My favorite fret crowning file, at the moment, probably sells for under $1.00

I have money set aside in case any of the luthier supply places ever make the fancy diamond crowning files the way I think they should be made. Really makes me wonder why they don't make it clear that the files are actually over-sized compared to the fret sizes they say they are for. To me, *re-crowning* means putting the same shape/size crown back into the fret-wire that it originally had, or pretty damn close to that.

If you want the crown to be more flat than it was originally, that's fine, *if* that's what you're going for, but as I see the specs on those round edge fret-files, they look like a moderately flattened crown is your only option, when used on a lot of fret sizes.

I made some suggestions to them, but doesn't look like any changes are going to happen. You'd think they'd want to bring fret crowning hand-tools to a new level, since there are other people in the world building CNC machines that crown frets.

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I guess it was at least 10 years ago, when I bought a cheap set of Chinese needle files. Maybe $4.00 for the whole set, so each file around $1.00, I guess.

Few years ago, I took one of the rectangle files from that set, made a flat safe edge on one side, and a more rounded safe edge on the other side, and used it for rounding fret ends. Maybe a year ago, I found it works quite well for re-crowning the whole fret. I had been using a three corner file before that, and somehow got to the point where I prefered to use that 3 corner file, by holding it backwards (using the tapered toothed file end as the handle, and filing the frets with the toothed end closest to the file "tang" end). I still use it a little, but the flat little rectangle file has seemed to make a little more sense.

I've done all kinds of weird experiments. I even ground a half circle into a piece of hacksaw blade and shaved a flattened fret back into a perfect half-circle profile, but too scary to do it on frets that are on a guitar. I did it to a fret held in a vise.

I've even experimented with making my own diamond crowning files and actually got far enough with it, that I could keep going and possibly get what I'm after, but I'd rather not risk spending much more time on it , when it's probably a little more likely that it would be a failure. I told StewMac, I'd pay $350.00 for a set of diamond crowning files that are made the right way (and for me, a full set of proper sizes, would mean at least 7 different sizes, so that's why I came up with that price). So yeah, probably looks insane that a guy's using a $1.00 crowing file and refusing to compromise and buy the current fancy ones that probably work pretty well on a few fret sizes, and at the same time is willing to spend a hefty sum for an ideal set. I guess it just comes down to the fact that I can't stand inconsistency.

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Well, now that I've returned the diamond one I'm back in the position of choosing another crowning file. I'm open to suggestions. Looking for something fairly idiot proof as I'm just starting out. I could afford pretty much any file Stew Mac has to offer (at least any ONE of them, heh).

I was thinking of getting the three file Gurian they offer, since it has the three burrs and the ease of use might be better on set neck or neck through guitars (I already own one set neck guitar).

I'm kind of gun shy on the diamond files now; I've heard quite a bit about them not fitting very many types of fret wire well. But all experiences are welcome, and recommendations. :D

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