I use Dunlop 6180 brass frets with a thick tang, about 0.85 mm thick. The standard fret saw makes a 0.6 mm wide cut and that is not a good match at least on a ebony board. Previously I have used thick enough Japan saws to make the cut wider, but the cut may chip.
I bought the Stewmac fret barber and it worked, but it was a pain to use.
With a cheap Dremel copy, 3 cm wide diamond cutting discs and shims with the desired thickness I can now very quick and easy grind the barbs to match the cut in the fretboard. I made three tools to grind to 0.6, 0.7 and 0.8 mm thickness. One big advantage is that I can precut the frets and then grind the barbs, with the fret barber I need long frets to be able to grip the fret with the pliers.
I used two cutouts from a sheet of carbon fiber that is 0.3 mm thick and added pieces of 0.1 mm thick paper in between like a sandwich. No glue needed for the shims, it's a good thing that the cutting discs can be flexible for a thick tang.
I wish the cutting disc was not cutting on the edge, but there is a nice space between the barbs and the backside of the fret. Works great!
This looks like a great soution. Maybe you could tell me why these odd brass frets though? Thanks!
The tool is really great if you need a fret barber. Why I use brass frets is a bit controversial.
Brass frets was very common in Europe before WW2. After the war everything American was considered modern and popular. People wanted the silver colored frets and not the brass colored ones. In the 1950s and 1960s cheap guitars often had brass frets of low quality, when pulling them out they act more or less like a rubber band! Brass frets got a bad rep.
When doing restorations of old prewar European guitars I noticed that many old guitars had worn fretboards with deep pits in the usual chord positions but still had brass frets looking almost as new. I was curious and found the Dunlop 6180 frets made of brass and decided to try them out.
These brass frets had about the same hardness as the Stewmac nickel-silver frets I used before when cutting them with the pliers. The big difference was the feeling when playing. The brass frets has a slick and somewhat oily surface. The string glides on top with a smooth feeling. The nickel-silver frets tends to "catch" the string making the string cutting the top of the fret like a file. The end result is that the brass frets have at least twice the lifetime compared with standard nickel-frets.
I haven't made an A/B test between brass and nickel-silver frets, but I suspect that the tone may be better with brass too, when dropping them on a hard surface they have more life than the nickel-silver ones :-)
EVO frets is a new thing that surely is harder and will last even longer, maybe a better choice going this route. But brass frets like the Dunlop one is way better than standard nickel-silver frets if the color is not putting you off.
Brass frets may feel "oily" because they probably are. And the origin of the brass may be a factor, too. I've worked with brass sheet and found out from an importer/manufacturer of products using it (model trains) that brass retains a lot of the oil used in the rolling process in the molecular structure. Some of this depends on the particular rolling process; the manufacturer said that brass rolled in Korea has much more oil than Japanese brass, so he specifies Japanese brass in his products. I found this out with one Korean brass model that paint wouldn't stick to it-the impregnated oil kept bleeding, even after heavy duty degreasing. There may be similar situations with brass sourced elsewhere.
So, what's a problem for painters may be an advantage for frets. I'm unfamiliar with the situation with nickel silver, but I do know that such processing makes it very hard on the surface so maybe there's little oil retention. Application of some chemical blackeners to NS usually results in little effect unless the surface is first bead blasted to roughen it up.
Oil in bedded in a metal? Never heard of that before! Very interesting and if so would explain the "oily" feel of the brass frets :-)
Made an improvement of the concept. Grinded the 0.7 mm cutting discs I use the most against a very hard sanding stone (on the side of the stone not to ruin it). Grinded until I got sparks from the metal of the wheels. Got rid of most of the cutting diamonds on the edge. Now the edge will never grind the backside of the frets if I get to close!
Great idea! Thanks for sharing it
Good out-of-the-box thinking, Roger. Nicely photographed and explained as well....thanks for sharing!
I have a big roll of brass frets that was bought in the 60 or 70s I have never used any,I guess I need to try some.