Essential fretwork tools

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M1ckM1ck Frets: 139
edited July 17 in Making & Modding
I’m looking for some advice on tools for an inexperienced DIYer to ‘have a go’ at fettling action and high frets on a couple of guitars. I’m in the process of making a partscaster which will almost certainly require some sorting when its all together and at least two of my other guitars require some attention too. 
Tools seem to be a bit of a minefield, what would be regarded as essential to sort frets and nuts? (I know some tools will be a nice to have for the more serious/experienced), and where to get them? Crimson or Stewmac seem to be the main two! Other suppliers do show up on searches but these two seem to have the biggest selection, happy to be corrected on that though. Is there anywhere or anything I should avoid?
I am under no illusion this could go wrong, very wrong, but I’ve come this far it would be nice if I could set my guitars up the way I think I like them not the way someone else thinks I should have them!
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Comments

  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 7798
    edited July 20
    You will want some kind of file or levelling beam to level the frets.  Crimson do a nice levelling beam, but you can improvise.  Ted Woodford on YouTube uses a spirit level instead of a purpose made levelling beam

    You will want a file for crowning the frets after you have levelled them.  I think the traditional 3 cornered file with safe edges is better, but you can get the concave ones that you use on top of the frets.

    You will want another file (with safe edges) for doing the ends of the frets.

    I think a fret rocker is good as well for identifying high frets.  You can just mark the frets with a sharpy when levelling, and that will show any low spots, but a fret rocker is useful.

    You will need various grits of sandpaper, and something to polish up the frets at the end.  You can use fret rubbers or micromesh for that, or get a polishing attachment for a Dremel if you have one.

    You will also need masking tape and/or a metal protector to protect your fingerboard.

    Crimson stuff is good quality, but not cheap.

    Chris Alsop tends to be cheaper than Crimson, although he seems to go for the concave crowning files rather than the triangular ones.




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  • Crimson have currently got a summer sale on.

    I've bough the large beam, crowning file and the fret rubbers. £70.
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  • M1ckM1ck Frets: 139
    Lol  =) you wait for a bus then two come together!
    @crunchman cheers, I’ve ordered a leveling kit from Crimson with some nut files and other bits and pieces - some recommended by Crimson I should have them at some point this week. 
    As @GordonBennett says there’s a summer sale on just now, I’d put a load of stuff in my basket on Sunday ready to talk through it with Crimson on Monday and as we went through my list it updated and I got the discount.
    Thanks Crimson now I know why you’re so highly regarded by some of the folk on here.
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  • TrentGuitarsTrentGuitars Frets: 740
    Don't discount StewMac though, I've actually had several orders arrive faster from StewMac than from Crimson - and I live in the same county as Crimson!

    The StewMac Z file is by far my favourite crowning file and it is actually incredible user friendly for beginners. 
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  • M1ckM1ck Frets: 139
    @TrentGuitars ;
    Cheers - I ordered my stuff from Crimson yesterday and got a text this morning saying it had been dispatched so I guess it’s down to how efficient the courier is! I did check Crimson and StewMac side by side as they both have good reputations (I think!) - Crimson came out on top for price and availability. I was very tempted to get the StewMac z-file and probably would have…if they’d just been the one but with three or four to choose from, and me being an absolute noobie, that was me out! 
    Of course none of this would be happening if the very talented, gifted and generous builders on this here forum weren’t so helpful with their ‘build diaries’ I’m still some way from having the confidence to tackle it but I’ll get there, I’ve got an old neck with a bit of fret wear to practice on.
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  • TrentGuitarsTrentGuitars Frets: 740
    M1ck said:
    @TrentGuitars ;
    Cheers - I ordered my stuff from Crimson yesterday and got a text this morning saying it had been dispatched so I guess it’s down to how efficient the courier is! I did check Crimson and StewMac side by side as they both have good reputations (I think!) - Crimson came out on top for price and availability. I was very tempted to get the StewMac z-file and probably would have…if they’d just been the one but with three or four to choose from, and me being an absolute noobie, that was me out! 
    Of course none of this would be happening if the very talented, gifted and generous builders on this here forum weren’t so helpful with their ‘build diaries’ I’m still some way from having the confidence to tackle it but I’ll get there, I’ve got an old neck with a bit of fret wear to practice on.
    Excellent news! 

    Yes! Get on it!
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  • M1ckM1ck Frets: 139
    @TrentGuitars ;
    Soooooo close to getting a z-file from StewMac, just ordered some rolls of abrasive for the leveling beam from StewMac and had a z file in my basket but bottled it! I’ll give the Crimson triangular one a go first, I don’t intend making a living out of it just being able to occasionally sort my own gear it is enough for me.
    I’m on the last leg of amassing the gear for a partscaster and starting to think about finishes and setup, it’ll still be a little while but it will be proudly announced when it’s done, like the arrival of a newborn.
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  • TrentGuitarsTrentGuitars Frets: 740
    M1ck said:
    @TrentGuitars ;
    Soooooo close to getting a z-file from StewMac, just ordered some rolls of abrasive for the leveling beam from StewMac and had a z file in my basket but bottled it! I’ll give the Crimson triangular one a go first, I don’t intend making a living out of it just being able to occasionally sort my own gear it is enough for me.
    I’m on the last leg of amassing the gear for a partscaster and starting to think about finishes and setup, it’ll still be a little while but it will be proudly announced when it’s done, like the arrival of a newborn.
    Yeah I get my abrasive rolls from them, cannot find a decent supplier here in the UK and its so much better than sticking normal paper on! You can make it last a very long time if you frequently blow/hoover off the paper as it gets clogged.
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  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 7798
    Don't discount StewMac though, I've actually had several orders arrive faster from StewMac than from Crimson - and I live in the same county as Crimson!

    The StewMac Z file is by far my favourite crowning file and it is actually incredible user friendly for beginners. 

    I think Crimson have got themselves better organised in the last year or so.  The stuff I've ordered recently has come quite quickly, unlike the stuff I ordered a couple of years ago.
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  • JazzthatJazzthat Frets: 127
    edited July 21
    M1ck said:
    @TrentGuitars ;;
    Soooooo close to getting a z-file from StewMac, just ordered some rolls of abrasive for the leveling beam from StewMac and had a z file in my basket but bottled it! I’ll give the Crimson triangular one a go first, I don’t intend making a living out of it just being able to occasionally sort my own gear it is enough for me.
    I’m on the last leg of amassing the gear for a partscaster and starting to think about finishes and setup, it’ll still be a little while but it will be proudly announced when it’s done, like the arrival of a newborn.
    I bought triangle one from G&W . Apart from quality control issue that they didn't want to hear about , I just couldn't get on with it at all ( and I am precision engineer ) .
    This type of file will never create a nice shape in my opinion .
    You would likely be better off sticking that stewmac file back in the basket .
    I have a Gurian crowning file ( bought it used from here ) and I am very happy with it  , tho I am sure stewmac would make the whole process even less painfull

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  • M1ckM1ck Frets: 139
    @Jazzthat ;
    Cheers though I don’t know who G&W are and you don’t say what the quality issues are! Not that I’m doubting your opinion or ability to use it. 
    I must admit I’m a bit skeptical about a triangular file and was leaning towards a concave one, until I read Trent guitars post about fret leveling and crowning but it’s ordered now and it would be rude to not at least give it a go, plenty of people seem to be able to use them with satisfactory results. It would be interesting to know what the professionals tool of choice is, I’m sure it would be varied.
    I’ll check out the Gurian crowning file to see who stocks them for future reference.
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  • CorvusCorvus Frets: 2120
    tFB Trader
    I like a 3-corner file both for crowning and ends, Kalico sell the same file as Crimson but cheaper... used it lots. I do wish it didn't taper but it does give close control once you're dialled in to it.
    I've also used flat diamond files which I safe-edged, but these wear out more easily than trad files.
    Also have a Z-File, it's very good but needs to be for the price.
    The Gurian file was my least favourite. But everyone develops their own preferences. Get used to your 3-corner file and it'll be just fine.

    if you only need to do a bit of spot levelling, lengths of aluminium T-section sanded flat with abrasive stuck on can work for that. I have a few of those. You can do it strings-on if needed. Saves level & crown on a whole board for the sake of 1 or 2 frets.
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  • JazzthatJazzthat Frets: 127
    edited July 22
    M1ck said:
    @Jazzthat ;;;
    Cheers though I don’t know who G&W are and you don’t say what the quality issues are! Not that I’m doubting your opinion or ability to use it. 
    I must admit I’m a bit skeptical about a triangular file and was leaning towards a concave one, until I read Trent guitars post about fret leveling and crowning but it’s ordered now and it would be rude to not at least give it a go, plenty of people seem to be able to use them with satisfactory results. It would be interesting to know what the professionals tool of choice is, I’m sure it would be varied.
    I’ll check out the Gurian crowning file to see who stocks them for future reference.
    G&W are pretty well regarded company for their luthiers jigs and tools .
    https://guitarsandwoods.com/?gclid=CjwKCAjwruSHBhAtEiwA_qCppvrgLsKAFYoFTRrhz97Phq5CuAs7qoGA09YpWLq-uKIdN3KmfVU5FxoCUX4QAvD_BwE

    They stock loads of tools on eBay .

    My triangle  file though wasn't great . One of the edges was overrun with sanding wheel or belt ( near the safe edge ) and made that face unusable ( one out of two ) .
    So I was left with one working edge , therefore I had to go round the neck to file opposite side of fret !
    Of course there was a third face on the file , but that had no round edge and therefore would have been unsafe to use near fretboard .
    Apart from that issue , the triangle file needs a steady hand and plenty of practice ( like with any file doing precision job ) .
    You'd need to ideally maintain the angle on each side of the fret which isn't easy .
    Once you have polished frets up , you will notice frets being an odd shaped ( not very round ) .
    So it is really up to you , if you care about the look or just usability .

    With the Gurian one , all you need to worry about  is the top of the fret ( fairly straight fine  line ) .
    It cuts both sides of fret at the same time ,so you get even surface afterwards .
    Also the other benefit is , it doesn't dip deep enough to touch the fretboard , so makes it safer in general to use .

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  • M1ckM1ck Frets: 139
    Thanks for all the tips and advice, my ‘kit’ arrived from Crimson last week - lots of new shiney toys! Checked out some StewMac and Crimson videos on you pube and now feel well equipped to royally screw it up! 
    Seriously though thanks for the advice and tips - I did watch the videos on you tube and feel more confident about taking it on, my only reservation is my choice of file but I have a ‘spare’ neck with some wear to practice on once the rest of my gear arrives.

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