My fret crowing files are getting worn and I also need to add additional files for different widths of wire.

To date I have used the Stew-Mac diamond files ground down a bit to reach lower frets and mar the board less or hopefully not at all.  I've been happy with them except that one of my files needs to be rocked or it leaves the crowns looking like a school bus roof....

Before I invest in several new files I wanted to check-in with the repair pros here ans ask you what you use, do you like it, do you do any modifications and if so what modifications, etc?


(Thanks in advance not this is Africa.... from the film Blood Diamond...)

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I use only a triangular file with safe corners to make little lengthwise facets on the frets, which are then rounded in the process of polishing with 6oo grit and finer abrasive paper, cloth, and/or steel wool.  I'm a big fan of the StewMac steel file guards, which enable me to do the entire job neatly without masking off the board.

Others get good results with crowning files, which personally I've only found useful for rounding over the tops of bone saddles.

As always, choice of tool is personal and the real variables  more the  practitioner and technique. 

We retired our files and stuff some years back and started using Stewmac diamond files (the long ones with different fret widths each side) - the traditional files worked fine but the work was tedious, hard to do and really hard on hands and fingers (which are feeling the work a bit these days).  I have nothing but praise for the diamond grit files. The final finishing is done with Micromesh sticks (both MX and standard sticks)  and an additional machine buff for the deluxe stuff.   Speed, accuracy and consistency are the pillars of production and repair work and we think we achieve these goals.

However, having used the traditional files for a long time and achieved good results there as well it's largely a matter of cost, skill set and time available when making the choice.

The mods to the Stewmac files are to add tape to the handles to bulk up the grip and to linish the ends of the files to take away the 90 degree sharp ends which can do some damage if the file slips of the board.  I also put a strip of pinstriping tape on the wide radius side to prevent forgetting which side I'm on (anything will do just so long as it's noticeable).   These files wear out and need to be replaced from time to time but I haven't experience the "school bus" syndrome with either the narrow or wide file radius which appears to be a consistent radius at the cutting face.

That's all I know. Russ.

After leveling, I'll remove fret metal from the sides of the frets with a safety ground cantsaw file--I have a couple of sizes--and follow with the diamond crowning files. I rarely tape off fingerboards anymore, prefer the SS fretguards.

I use a Stew Mac safe ground cant saw file like Jeffery, then finish with Frank's method.  Sometimes I'll use a small safe ground triangle file as an intermediate step.  If it's a refret, not much crowning is needed, just 600 grit sandpaper.  I'll only do a level/dress/crown if there's plenty of metal still there.  Otherwise, you get much better results with a full refret.

Since I posted this, I've grown less enamoured of my Stewmac diamond crowning files, and I'm probably going to sell them.  The 2 (hideously expensive) ones I have, show very little difference between what's supposed to be medium & large crown radii, and are too, "school bussy".

Furthermore:  I've started using a couple of pieces of binding tape, working each fret up to final polish, then moving to he next.  I can use the binding tape for 4-6 frets before I need to change it.

The Littlebone diamond file things are intriguing...

I'm with you Jeffrey on the SM diamond crown file. I have the offset one and I only use it on the upper frets to clear the body. That Little Bone might be a good substitute for that area. The two angles seem to mimic what I do with a cant saw file. FWIW: I did some searching and I saw someone post that those little bones are actually knife sharpeners?  They look fairly easy to make. Two angles and some sticky sandpaper.

What Pierre-Antoine said, one of the SM tools that I would re-order immediately should it ever get broken. I have both the 150 and 300 grits, and find them very comfortable to use. They really hog off metal quickly without leaving burrs. Before I started to use the diamond ones, I used the cranked-handle Gurian files, but they are no match for the diamond ones, they don't even come close.

What I like about these files is that, after levelling with 180grit sandpaper along the strings' axis, I can color the frets with a dark pen (those for graffitis) and crown safely, being sure not to remove too much material.

Thanks for the great replies guys.

The triangular files seem like a skill worth developing since I can't get the results that I want always with a crowning file.  Triangular files were already on my list because I have on occasion been using them to help get my fret ends uniform.

Rusty I will second the need for larger handles on these things and I also have and use the files that you are describing.  It's a great file (except for the school bus shape in my case....) and the heft of the thing is cool to me too.  Great idea on modifying the end so as to not be as potentially damaging during a slip....

I also have the fret guards but rarely use them because at least on worn frets that are pretty low already the guards will prevent the files from getting lower when rocking.  Maybe I just need to nix the file that makes school bus roof shaped frets..... and then have no need to rock the files to the degree that I seem to have to do....

Thanks too for the recomendation of the cant saw files - I'll be checking these out too.

I use the cant saw file the most. I also use that SM diamond file link in Pierre's post. That thing is great on the body extension area. I finish with the 'Teeter' style wood fret burnisher with fine sandpapers. I'm hooked on that thing. For high shine, I go for the Micro Mesh pads. I use green mask tape in three widths to make masking a little faster. I like using my second hand as a guide for my filing hand. Using the little metal SM masks for a whole fret job is tedious for me. Always good to read what others are doing. Tom

I worked with a guy that used the triangle files like Frank I liked the results and how fast it was. I could never get the hang of it, so I've used the same # 3 Herdim file for years, I have a bunch of different sizes and a couple of SM diamond files and several versions of the triangle file but mostly I go back to the same old #3 Herdim. I was just looking at it now and it has a bigger radius than most of the others and is ground down on one side so I guess it's working a bit like a triangle file. I tend to go from one side to the other when crowning working the outside edges towards the middle.

When I first started out I was working in a busy shop in the early 80's and was learning from the seasoned tech between set ups. I asked him what to do about the crowning files slipping off the frets. His answer was "Oh. I don't do that it leaves marks on the fingerboard" 

I use the Lee Valley green honing compound with a felt bit in a Dremel tool as a final polish. As always it's good to revisit these things from time to time and see what the other guys are using.


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