I found a pair of side cutters a year ago that have a compound linkage on one side (Princess Auto used to carry them), it makes cutting strings about 70% easier. Now I need new end nippers so I'm looking for something that cuts fret ends easier.  I had issues with golfers elbow from cutting strings and frets a few years ago and I'd like to avoid getting that again. 

Any suggestions?


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I purchased a pair of rather longish-handled side cutters from Lowes under the Kobalt brand name. I ground the faces down so as to cut as flush as possible. The leverage is better than the shorter handled cutters but you have to open your hand wider, so that could be an issue for you. I don't know what is worse: having to squeeze harder (with a shorter tool) or open your hand wider.

Piano wire cutters

I have a set like these

grind down the outer face

Good luck - I've been looking for an improvement to my end nippers for several years now and keep coming up empty...

What I have are the last generation Stew-Mac nippers and my beef with them is that the angle of the jaws is less radical than Stew-Mac's end nippers of the past.  The old ones have a decent bevel so that it would lift a fret well just by closing the grips.  I prefer this action to ever attempting to "pull" a fret as this can result in some chipping where simply closing the jaws and letting the shape of the tool lift the fret has yielded better results for me.

My current nippers have the less radical bevel so I use a different tool to "lift not pull..." frets.  Sure would like to see more angle on the bevel like the older Stew-mac nippers have.

Consider these, sold by a model railroad supplier.  They're pretty sturdy and are ground so they cut near perfectly flush.  They're used to cut nickel silver rail for modeling so they should be up to the task with frets--most common rail sizes are larger than frets ("code 100" is .100" tall) and the rail is work hardened from the drawing process.

To buy, Go to the home page at, select "Online Catalog" and go to "Tools."  The pliers are on page 3.  

I think it's fun to find useful tools on sites for other specialties.  I've found several on the Rio Grande Jewelry supply site.


Thanks much Larry but I also use my nippers to "lift" frets for refrets which means that they have to be able to get under the fret as I walk the nippers along the fret.  This action lifts the fret while the outside of the jaws press on the fretboard preventing... or nearly preventing any chipping.  It still happens but far less so in my experience then when I try to "pull" a fret after parts of it have been lifted.

Gotcha.  I have one of the older pairs of StewMac lifters as you describe.  I've had them for probably 8-10 years so maybe they're the ones that have the right bevel to lift frets.  They certainly work well for me.  I don't use them at all for trimming the fret ends--I use flush cutters similar to what I referred to.



My fretlifting tool:


Jeffrey LOL - I think that you "nailed..." it...;)

PS:  Why no emoticons on this site - after all some Luthiers still have a sense of humor.... ;)

Credit where it's due: invented by Paul Dwyer in the 1970s, when we were both working at St. Louis Music Supply.

Here's some flush nippers I made out of a (good) yardsale find, really nice for working over the body:


Yeah you bet - those would be great for the fretboard extensions on acoustics.

You were old enough to be working in the 70's?  :)

I know, I know I am not that far behind ya my friend.....

These (22-EC8 HIT bools) ( )  are the cutters I have been using for several years.  The kind folks at Warmoth Guitar Products turned me on to these.  These are the ones they have been using to trim their Stainless Steel fretwire.   I modified the head grinding them flush, being careful not to overheat and take out temper, and also reshaped the head so that I could get in between the frets at the end of the board.  They are a compound lever handle which makes it easy to cut the biggest Stainless fretwire.  They have served me well and have found nothing that beats them.  These look similar to the Piano wire cutters Jeff told us about.

Brady these look interesting and I want to check them out too - thanks for this!!!


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