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Proper Technique For Using A Fret Crowning File?


bluesy
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I have purchased a proper fret crowning file - a Hosco TL-FF3. It is double edged, and described as a wide file, suitable for medium to large frets (up to 3.3mm).

So, the fretwire I have been using is 2.6mm wide, and this means the internal curve of the filing edges, is just a little larger. I was looking for tips on the way it is supposed to be used. I am imagining that I am supposed to apply the file with pressure to one side for a bit, then use it with pressure the other way, thus rounding each edge of the fret alternately?

The 2 small flat edges, on each side of the concave curve on the edge of the file, are rough, so I imagine I need to keep the file from contacting the fingerboard on each side (or at least the tape that I will be putting there :D ) Is this correct, or do people grind these edges flat to avoid any possibility of damaging the fingerboard?

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I would most definitely add tape to the board. I have been broke, but am planning on buy the long diamond file from SM as I hung around and questioned a local repair shop for a good while and not only did they agree they were decent files, but they actually had the set and used them themselves. Anyhow, I had ended up using a small triangle file not just recently to crown frets on a cheapy ibanez I own. It actually went well, but took freakin' ages to do. Basically, when you level you end up with a small flat spot on the frets right and this is what you want to be your new crown, so you shave down the corners of that flat spot basically, leaving the middle untouched since this is the part thats level all the way down the neck. When you level you'll see the sanding marks across the top of that flat piece, just make sure you leave a little strip of that when your crowning, I check often by holding it at an angle in the light so I can clearly see those scratches of the flat part. I'd try to keep the file perfectly vertical and grind down the corners of that flat section and stop before you would end up grinding the very top of the fret. Thats at least the idea. I'm sure those who have done this hundreds of times like soap would have loads better info.

Again, definitely use tape, not only does it prevent scratches, but it prevents all kinds of metal shavings and dust from mucking up the fretboard. If the bottom of that file is really sharp like cutting your tape, I'd probably run it over some smooth sandpaper to take any burrs off. Best of luck and wait for some better info :D J

Edited by jmrentis
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I have the Stew Mac double edged fret file and the edges nearest the fingerboard are smooth so it doesnt mark it.

Once the frets tops are levelled use a permanent marker on the frets. Then file the top moving it on a radius as you file across the top of the fret, until it just leaves a pencil thin line showing. Keep the file square and upright. Sit the fret wire in the radius that best matches the file and use that edge.

Its good practice to mask either side of the frets so when final sanding and polishing of frets are done you keep the fingerboard clean and protect from the odd slip here and there during the filing stage.

Edited by Acousticraft
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. Anyhow, I had ended up using a small triangle file not just recently to crown frets on a cheapy ibanez I own. It actually went well, but took freakin' ages to do.

Yes, I have used a triangular file for single frets, and it takes so long, there's no way I would want to do it for lot's of them. That's why I bought the proper file. Actually, I splurged and bought a fret levelling file and a set of nut files at the same time. Big expense (for me) but I figure it'll be worth it. I've already used the nut files and they are a dream to use. I hope the fret file works as well.

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Mark the flat tops after levelling with a black marker to show when you are reaching that top point during crowning!

I am reading that advice everywhere, and I fully intend to do it. Should make it very easy to see how I am going. I have the perfect neck to practice on. It has many roughed up frets, one or two even need replacing, so I'll replace them, level the lot, and then get stuck into crowning them. By the time I am finished, I should know what I am doing :D

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If someone already said this then +1 to it.

When restoring the crown to your fret make sure you keep the crown centered on the fret for intonation reasons.

Since I use a triangle file with the edges ground and polished it takes a bit of a roll in your wrist so achieving consistency is through practice. I also use a piece of rosewood with a rounded slot to hold my 400 grit sand paper when I start the polish stages.

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I used to use a triangular file quite a bit but the time factor has already been mentioned and I've been doing more fretwork lately. So I use the Stewmac files, got the sm/med one and the med/lge one. I'm glad most of the fretwire I work with is medium size. :D Here are some pics I made, a little tutorial, on how I level, crown and polish. The guitar is my Fender Gemini II acoustic that was due for fretwork after 23 years of playing.

http://www3.telus.net/Alsplace/Fretwork/

I find those little stainless fretboard guards that Stewmac sells are very handy. If you are worried about messing up your fretboard wood then you can use a guard until you get the hang of using the fret crowning file.

Edited by Southpa
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Really nice photos of the process. Worth making into a more permanent tutorial.

Do you ever have a problem where a worn fret is too low for the radius inside the crowning file, such that the file is hitting the fingerboard before the fret is rounded properly?

I bought one of those little stainless guards too. I found it makes it harder to see what you are doing though. Good while practicing however.

I noticed you used many different grits of sandpaper on the frets, and I see some people just use a couple, then polish with steel wool. Any reason, or just being careful? Also, I find steel wool very messy, particularly if the little bits get near a magnet, such as a pickup. So hard to clean up :D . I might need to investigate some other alternative to steel wool.

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You might want to try micromesh pads if you don't like steel wool.

Oh, and be sure to ink the frets *after* you tape up the fretboard! You *will* slip with that marker! :D

Also, when taping, when I get to the frets that are closer together than the width of my tape, I just tear the tape in half lengthwise and use the factory edges against the frets and let the torn edges overlap.

Edited by Rick500
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You might want to try micromesh pads if you don't like steel wool.

Oh, and be sure to ink the frets *after* you tape up the fretboard! You *will* slip with that marker! :D

Excellent tip!

Also, when taping, when I get to the frets that are closer together than the width of my tape, I just tear the tape in half lengthwise and use the factory edges against the frets and let the torn edges overlap.

yes, that's an easy way to do it.

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Do you ever have a problem where a worn fret is too low for the radius inside the crowning file, such that the file is hitting the fingerboard before the fret is rounded properly?

That tells me the fret has seen its day and should be replaced.

I noticed you used many different grits of sandpaper on the frets, and I see some people just use a couple, then polish with steel wool. Any reason, or just being careful?

Although not consistently careful, :D I like to be thorough. I might use different methods where it comes to file and sandpaper use. To tell you the truth I don't really like doing the work, its repetitive and tedious and its also hard on my eyes and hands and fingers.

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