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Which Diamond Fret File?


Phil Mailloux
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I need to buy a diamond fret crowning file but am dead broke. I've seen this one on Ebay :

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...E:X:RTQ:US:1123

Does anyone have this one and do they like it? I'm hesitating between that one and this Stewmac one:

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_suppl...Fret_Files.html

I can't afford anything higher than that price. I'd love to hear about people's experiences with either of these two fret files. I'd prefer the cheaper Ebay one but am suspicious about the quality and longetivity of the file.

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I need to buy a diamond fret crowning file but am dead broke. I've seen this one on Ebay :

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...E:X:RTQ:US:1123

Does anyone have this one and do they like it? I'm hesitating between that one and this Stewmac one:

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_suppl...Fret_Files.html

I can't afford anything higher than that price. I'd love to hear about people's experiences with either of these two fret files. I'd prefer the cheaper Ebay one but am suspicious about the quality and longetivity of the file.

I bought one of those. Nothing fancy and nothing really to write home about. After 2 ebay crowing files, I ended up buying the stew mac ones and they're the best.

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I bought one of those. Nothing fancy and nothing really to write home about. After 2 ebay crowing files, I ended up buying the stew mac ones and they're the best.

Why two Ebay files? Did that one break down or start losing its diamond grits or something? Nothing to write home about but did it do the job right? Which Stewmac file did you end up buying?

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You'd think I would have coughed up enough tool cash at some point to buy actual concave fret files, but I never did.

This might help explain why.

And I've now gotten to the point where my frets need so little leveling (on a complete refret) that I think it's impossible that any crowning file would do me any good, because if the files radius was any larger than the fret crown radius, the file would hit the very top center of the fret right away, and that's the part I don't want any filing done on (usually).

So I keep using "flat sided" files for taking care of the minimal amount of re-crowning needed on a complete fret job.

With leveling existing frets: If they're crazy uneven, I'll re-seat of refret the real problem ones, to keep the leveling reasonable. Sure, usually more recrowning needed, but I just start out being heavy handed with one of my usual flat sided files. I do think that it's quite possible on these more "rough" fret levelings, that a set of generic sized crowning files would be nice to start with. But I'm just not that dedicated to "tooling up" for questionable factory fret-jobs (fret-wire is often on the soft side and won't hold a good level/crowning for long)

Finer and finer sandpaper always in the final stages and it amazes me how well I can still keep from hitting the very center strip of the top of the fret-crown (coloring the fret with a marker shows this, as I end up with a super narrow marker strip down the center of the fret). When it's time for 1000 grit and finer, I try a little more to hit the very tops a little.

If I had concave files with a perfect match to the fret crown, Then they'd be useful. Sure, I'd like to try such files, but I don't think they exist. Anyone have an idea of what it would cost me to have nickel/diamond abrasive bonded onto my own home-made concave edged piece of steel (about the size of a fret file) ?

With that ebay file, I wonder how it holds up after many fret-jobs and how many fret jobs are most of the buyers even doing (I suspect most of the buyers just do a fret-job once in a blue moon). Plus the feedback is not anything about how the tool is months after the sale, it's about the tool right after the sale, probably most of the time, feedback left before the tool was even used.

I've heard many say the StewMac files hold up well over the long run (Might have heard a few who said they didn't, too)

But, I think that "150 grit" sounds a little crazy. Is that the same 150 as in sandpaper terms, or do diamond grits have a different grading system ? If it's the same like sandpaper, I think 150 is just way too coarse.

So, with that, I think the Ebay file has a much smarter choice of grits. Is that a sign that other things about it are better too ? I sure don't know. The ebay sellers "grammar" leaves a little to be desired too, and I'm not even much of a grammar nazi, but still felt that way when I saw his ebay listing.

I was close to buying all 3 stew-mac dual grits, but in that other post, you can see what killed it for me.

I also didn't like the fact that when buying the full set, they still give you 3 of the snap on/off handles, when in fact, you only need one of the actual plastic handles. They could have made the price lower with just one plastic handle.

Anyway, I was always hoping they'd re-tweak those files to make the sizes more sensible. They even told me they were thinking about doing that ! But that's been years ago now, and with Dan Erlewine now having a Plek machine, I think advancements in fret files is unlikely to happen.

Have no idea on the radius of that ebay file, also. Would be good to know.

Edited by soapbarstrat
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I bought one of those. Nothing fancy and nothing really to write home about. After 2 ebay crowing files, I ended up buying the stew mac ones and they're the best.

Why two Ebay files? Did that one break down or start losing its diamond grits or something? Nothing to write home about but did it do the job right? Which Stewmac file did you end up buying?

The first one was an offset diamond grit file from "the fret shop". I just didn't like it. It didn't do the job right and it was way too wide, even for wide frets. It was also way too coarse. Just unuasable. It gave me more work than anything.

The second is the one you mention. Its allright but the diamond coating isn't very abrasive and its VERY thin.

I got these files in narrow and medium and they work on narrow to wide fret wire. I'm not sure why anyone would buy the wide fretwire file.

For brand new fret work, you shouldn't need the files. I got them more for maintenance

Edited by guitar2005
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Thanks for the replies guys. Just to make things worse I broke down and bought the Ebay file barely 5 minutes before Guitar2005 posted his first reply :D I pretty much regretted it right away. Especially after the second reply when he mentioned he loved the cheap stewmac one I was looking at...

I have two necks on the workbench waiting to be fretted so I guess I'll give my own review of this file when it gets here for future reference.

Rob, thanks for the elaborate reply. I read the other thread too and it was very nice to hear all the points of view of these files. I've done my crowning in the past with regular small rectangular files and it was about time to get a dedicated tool. For me, the jury is still out on those things. I might still get a set of triangular /Cant files at some point and try it out and I might also get a more expensive Stewmac diamond one. At this point I'm broke and need to get those two necks done. In a few months I might be able to get some decent tools in. First, let's check out the quality of the Ebay stuff :D

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I certainly want to know your opinion about the ebay file, after you've used it.

If I were you, I wouldn't bother with a cant saw file, unless you find one at a really good price or some place you're odering other stuff happens to carry them (that's how I got mine). I ended up going back to the old safe cornered slim triangle file. And I also keep trying a small rectangle file, but still keep leaning to the triangle file.

The cant file seems like it's really suited for "old school" fret filing where they've really whacked a good amount of metal off the frets. (Maybe I should have wrote *bad* instead of *good* there). Seems like the real point in the cant file, is to have part of it always resting right on the fret-board while in use. This doesn't work well with my method of only needing to do minimum re-crowning.

I'm pretty sure on the Erlewine fretting videos, that even when he uses a specialized diamond crowning file, he only goes so far with that and then uses a triangle file for the last bit. However, I think it's a mistake to watch how he's using the triangle file and try to copy exactly how he's doing it (like how he's holding the file), because I think it works much better if a person finds their own most comfortable way of using the file. For example, I hate the tapered end of the slim triangle file, so I often have that part in the palm of my hand (or, I guess it's at least touching the palm of my hand) with the other end filing the fret (yes, now the file is cutting on the pull stroke). Usually a rolling or "sweeping" motion, starting down low on the fret-crown, then when it gets up to where the business needs to be done, the file teeth start clipping off that sharp edge, created by the fret leveling. I've already got the "flow" of going in a rounding motion from the file starting on the rounded crown (not putting enough pressure to actually file that part, but it is putting scratches on that part, which go away later with sandpaper)

I'm using the sandpaper backed by a finger or thumb. I have one of those belt "sanding sticks" but keep going back to using my fingers. Good enough as long as I end up with that thin magic marker strip going down the frets center-line.

Sandpaper is only about 1/2" wide (usually about 4" long and I keep folding it over about every 1/4" as I do one side of a fret (actually sand one side, then flip the sandpaper over for the next fret side, *THEN* make a new fold 1/4" away)

Takes very little sandpaper too, at least for me.

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I worked in a shop for a few years and honestly the best tool is a medium sized triangle file with the sharp edges ground flat on a belt sander...

The only time I really needed to crown frets was for extreme situations. Like a partial refret or a when a customer couldn't afford a full refret and needed a really cheap leveling/fix.

I never use one on a new fret job. If anything I use a rosewood sanding block (with a curved groove) with some 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper to clean up the sides

If I was going to buy one I would get the 300 grit Stew Mac Offset Fret File as a luxury.

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