So, I have my old department-store guitar (see recent disscussion on locating the bridge; actually, it looks just like an Oahu I recently saw on eBay) strung up and playing, and I am having my first experience with bar frets. Specifically, I can't play a glissando. It feels as if my finger hits a square edge. I suppose that is actually what is happening, since the fret does not have a little ramp to help the finger slide over it as a T fret does. I read up on bar frets in Dan Erlewhine's Guitar Player Repair Guide, and his interviews with Dana Bourgeois and T. J. Thompson convinced me that I would be in over my head to mess with them. Certainly I do not want to mess with the neck relief which is perfect.

So, is this the luthiery equivalent of the old joke which goes, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." 

"Then don't do that." 

By that I mean is a glissando just going to be more difficult to play on bar frets?

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Just read Frank's article on replacing bar frets. Page 6 describes rounding them with the cant saw file. I guess that is my answer.

Still any advice born of experience is welcome.
Yes Rick, you have answered your own question.

For frets to have a good feel, not create unnecessary buzzing and intonate well they need to be round on top. I really like the hollow ground diamond grit fret files for this. They are a bit pricey but if you do much fret work it is a worthwhile investment. Stewart MacDonalds sells them.
I'll second the diamond files...
First, make certain that they actually ARE bar frets. Often when I talk to players about replacing bar frets, they already have "T" frets in their old instruments. Don't forget that it was common for guitars in the early part of the last century to have frets that are ony .050 to .060" wide but are, in fact, regular "T" section frets. I'd expect the guitar in your photo to have "T" frets that are quite skinny. . .
Indeed, the frets look to be about as wide as a low E string. As for "T" shape, a definite maybe. I looked at the fret ends using a magnifying glass, and some might be overlapping the fingergoard, some just look rectangular.

I should mention that someone, sometime, filed frets three through 10 (roughly) flat. I am guessing this was a way of adding relief on a neck which has no truss rod. the first two frets and those approaching the body and extension still have round tops.

I have a Gurian fret file with the wide, medium and narrow blades. Should I use the wide one to make a few passes and see if that brings the frets down to a comfortable profile?
I'd put a line of magic marker on them to make sure I wasn't taking the peaks first it I were doing it. (assuming the point is only to round over the square edges. )

You need to use a narrow file on narrow frets. The wide one won't put enough arch on the fret to make any difference.
Just wanted to report good results, so far. The wide blade on the Gurian file took the corners off the flat-top frets without disturbing the inked line down the center (thanks for the reminder on that, Ned). Still many frets were "unfriendly" to glissando so I have been using a flat file from a set of needle files, held at an angle, to bevel the sides further. This seems to be working. I run my fingers over all the frets and they feel fine, then I string it up and still find spots where my glissando hangs up. So, I make a note and bevel that spot a little more.

Notice, BTW, that Frank's expectation of what kind of frets would be on this guitar was more accurate than my observation: skinny T-frets they are.

I'll never be known for my fret work, but this one is just for me to experiment with and play for fun. Thanks very much for all the helpful suggestions.
I want to reinforce Frank's comment re 'real' bar frets, as the frets found on many guitars in the early 20th c are actually very narrow 't' frets.
Ned's idea with a marker is the ticket to get these accurately rounded, and I find the small, triangular file with 'safety' edges the tool for the job.
Also, I've played on these type frets for the past 20 years or more, and with experience, you actually get used to them, so you may want to focus on a lighter touch than when playing modern frets..and many like them because of this. Sounds like things are working out for you..Tom
Just to keep the record correct; using marker on the frets isn't my "idea", I got it somewhere else. I don't remember where but it's a good one.

it is also how they teach students at Roberto -Venn in AZ mark the fret level, re mark crown, re mark crown again ,and polish out .it has become a good way to make a buck i charge from $180 to $400 for a re fret .
Thanks, I appreciate the player's perspective on this. It's good to recognize that it will not feel just like more recent guitars, and let that influence my technique when I use this one. Wouldn't life be boring if they all played the same way?


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