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How Wide Is Your Contact Point On A Fret After Recrowning?

Mind Riot

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So I returned the diamond file I bought, and after some thinking, I ordered one of the standard double sided toothed files from Stew Mac. It arrived the other day, and I finally got around to trying it on my junk neck today. I used some 320 grit sandpaper to flatten the top of a fret a tad, then I colored the fret with a Sharpie and went at it with the file.

I looked closely at the file, and the toothed surfaces seem to have very similar widths to fretwire, so I figured it would work fine.

Like my last file, it just lowered the flat, rather than making it smaller.

So now I'm wondering if perhaps I'm expecting something out of my tool that it isn't designed to give me. Most of the stuff I've read on fret leveling (including Dan Erlewine's book) tells me that the final contact point on a fret after leveling and recrowning should be a tiny thin line on the top of the fret. But both of the crowning files I've had in my posession and tested thus far leave a fairly wide flat on top of the fret due to the shallowness of their cut. This one leaves a flat that measures 1.08 mm wide. I know I'm a novice and I'm still learning, but a one milimeter flat on the top of a fret seems a bit wide to call it a 'thin and neat' string contact.

So what's the deal here? Am I expecting a neat, clean, thin contact point when a crowning file simply isn't capable of giving it to me? I've tried crowning with a triangle file I modified (meaning grinding the edges smooth) and although it's tricky I was able to get a tiny thin line of Sharpie left on the top of the fret. This leaves the fret with more of a triangular shape than a round one, I assume just due to my inexperience.

So what kind of contact point or flat do you all have on the tops of your frets after crowning them? Is the triangle file method the only one that is capable of this level of precision, and all the specialized crowning files leave a wider flat, and folks just accept it? Or is there something else I'm missing here?

I know I've asked a lot of questions without contributing a whole lot as of yet, but I'm still learning. I really appreciate everyone's advice and patience. Thanks! :D

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My contact point is usually less than 1mm. I consider 0.5mm to be pretty good on a wide fret. If you're at more than 1mm, that's pretty wide and I'm sure that you could get it narrower.

I found that applying little pressure on the file works best. If I put too much pressure right from the start, I'll hit the sharpie marks right away and I will not have crowned anything at all.


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Diamond files are VERY effective at removing metal and I can crown a fret with a regular steel-toothed file in 3 or 4 good swipes.

Fret width is the factor. Big wide frets need more pressure / swipes than thin frets because there is more metal to be removed. My steel file is a med/large. The medium side gets most of my business because it has a tighter radius. If your file is taking the top off first then its not the proper size (too wide / shallow radius) for the frets you are crowning. You could still try laying the file on an angle so the shoulder to be removed is right in the center of the file, first one side then the other. You have to make the tool work the right way for different situations.

When crowning with a triangular file I roll the file up to the crown while swiping the length of the fret. Both sides in both directions to make sure the outside edges are done well. It doesn't have to be perfect, the next stage (sanding) will take the rest off and give a uniform crown.

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Maybe you got yourself a crowing file for jumbo wire, and you really have something closer to vintage wire on your neck. I have the angled crowning file with the wood ball on the end, and the series of removable files with different widths.

For what its worth, my Strat's frets are perfectly rounded while my LP Custom is one of those "fretless wonders", really wide, flat and low. Somehow my fingers & ear work out any intonation issues.

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I feel like such an idiot. I took a closer look and realized what was going on. When I sanded the top of the fret flat so I could recrown it, I just used a scrap of 320 on my fingertip. It LOOKED like a flat, but upon closer inspection I realized that it wasn't. As I should have known, my fingertip conformed to the fret top and simply sanded the contoured top a bit, not creating a true flat. So when I went back with the file, naturally it filed virtually all of the fret at once, since I hadn't actually created a flat on top and there were no real edges to remove.

Boy, is my face red. At least this was only on my junk neck, and not on one of my guitars. :D

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Maybe I'm missing something here, but it sounds like you're re-crowning without leveling the frets first. If what you're after in the end is nicely dressed frets, you should use your scrap neck to practice the leveling procedure first, then move on to recrowning and polishing...

I've been using my scrap neck for testing out tools, so yeah, I've been crowning without leveling first. That's why I tried to sand a flat onto the fret top, to simulate a single leveled fret and see how my crowning file worked. But when I tried to sand a flat onto there, I made my stupid mistake I described above.

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