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View Full Version : Fret Crowning Mania



dmecha1012
06-08-2014, 10:47 AM
I am in the elementary phases of my uke building hobby, and have been researching fret crowning devices ad nauseum. There are very few optimally sized fret crowning files for Ukuleles.

Some of you like the Stewmac two sided fret file, while others like the 3 in 1 Gurian style fret file.

Then there are those of you who SWEAR BY the Japart (Hiroshima) 1R .
One of you respected pros even said that "it is not even necessary to get the diamond surfaced 1R, as the regular one is already so good".(paraphrase)

Now some people believe that if you are just getting started in Uke building, you should get good tools, but not go crazy on the "Cadillac" of tools if you aren't even sure you are going to last in the hobby.............I am NOT one of those people. I am not exceptionally talented, and therefore want to use the absolute BEST tool to help make the job even a drop less challenging. I am already going into the poor house anyway.

When one says that the Regular $37 Japart 1R is sufficient, does that mean that the Diamond surfaced one is superfluous? I am willing to spend $95 for an expensive tool even if it is a little frivolous. I am just not willing to waste money on a "bone inlayed pool cue" that will not increase my success at shooting pool.

What do you guys say?

BlackBearUkes
06-08-2014, 10:55 AM
I am in the elementary phases of my uke building hobby, and have been researching fret crowning devices ad nauseum. There are very few optimally sized fret crowning files for Ukuleles.

Some of you like the Stewmac two sided fret file, while others like the 3 in 1 Gurian style fret file.

Then there are those of you who SWEAR BY the Japart (Hiroshima) 1R .
One of you respected pros even said that "it is not even necessary to get the diamond surfaced 1R, as the regular one is already so good".(paraphrase)

Now some people believe that if you are just getting started in Uke building, you should get good tools, but not go crazy on the "Cadillac" of tools if you aren't even sure you are going to last in the hobby.............I am NOT one of those people. I am not exceptionally talented, and therefore want to use the absolute BEST tool to help make the job even a drop less challenging. I am already going to the poor house anyway.

When one says that the Regular $37 Japart 1R is sufficient, does that mean that the Diamond surfaced one is superfluous? I am willing to spend $95 for an expensive tool even if it is a little frivolous. I am just not willing to waste money on a "bone inlayed pool cue" that will not increase my success at shooting pool.

What do you guys say?

For what it is worth, I gave away or threw away all my diamond surfaced tools.......WHY? they clog up and I spent more time cleaning them than doing fret work. The only crowning file I use now for the actual crowning is a good quality 3 corner file. Crowning frets is a technique that you learn from doing many fret jobs of instruments of all sizes. A 3 corner file is good for any size fret, cuts fast and are not expensive, but the technique for using one takes time. I can do a complete resurface and recrown on a guitar neck to a high polish in less than one hour. Good luck with your hobby.

Allen
06-08-2014, 11:18 AM
I've got a couple of diamond fret crowning files for guitar work, and don't like them at all. I got them for working with Stainless Steel wire, but gave up on that as the wires is too hard on my other tools. I love the 1R Hiroshima file and it's very easy to use. It also does a brilliant job of contouring the fret ends.

Titchtheclown
06-08-2014, 03:35 PM
It does depend on if you are after the perfectionist look and on the work you intend to do. On a new build you should have taken care your fretbord is flat and your frets are hammered or pressed home evenly. If you are not fussy a big as you can find in your toolbox bastard file to flatten the frets and bevel the ends.

On the cbg nation forum I saw a great little home made jig from a snapped in half file glued into a bit of hardwood at an angle that a guy said meant he could dress his fret ends in under a minute.

A quick rub with 800 or so grit sandpaper on the end of your finger or 000 grade steel wool will take enough of the edge off to make it smooth to touch.

On the other hand not every fret board is as dead flat as you thought it was. Not every laying operation is as perfect as it might be and sometimes a girl needs a little bling. If you see that shiny new tool in the catalog (now showing my age) and you can see yourself not being happy till you get it, by all means go for it. Who knows you might even use it one day.

Bruce Sexauer
06-08-2014, 04:15 PM
I have been using the StewMac 150 and 300 double sided (narrow and wide) crowning tools for . . . could it be 15 years? Probably between 500 and 1000 fret jobs. I haven't noticed any tendency to clog at all, and I've never cleaned them. I am very surprised to hear that my case is not absolutely typical. I will say that my fretting skills are much better than they once were, and there isn't much tendency to flatten the tops to where they need serious recrowning on new work.

Michael N.
06-09-2014, 01:56 AM
I had the 3 in 1 Gurian. I used it on a few boards and then gave up on it. Even with using chalk it's a 'rough' tool for recrowning frets. I just use a good quality Grobet fine cut flat file. Many use the 3 corner but I find I'm better at judging the angles with a flat file. It just takes a bit of practice before one becomes good at it. You kind of roll the file over, on the forward stroke. Rounding the fret without touching the very central peak. If you use a permanent marker you should be left with a very thin line down the centre of the fret.
I've never used a diamond fret file so I can't comment on those. I suspect they aren't any 'better' just that they might require less skill to complete the job.

1931jim
06-09-2014, 03:49 AM
For what it is worth, I gave away or threw away all my diamond surfaced tools.......WHY? they clog up and I spent more time cleaning them than doing fret work. The only crowning file I use now for the actual crowning is a good quality 3 corner file. Crowning frets is a technique that you learn from doing many fret jobs of instruments of all sizes. A 3 corner file is good for any size fret, cuts fast and are not expensive, but the technique for using one takes time. I can do a complete resurface and recrown on a guitar neck to a high polish in less than one hour. Good luck with your hobby.
I agree with BlackBearUkes, fret dressing takes time. Any machinist supply house will have a 1/4" three corner with the tapered end. The benefit of the 1/4" size is the taper on the end makes a nice reamer whenever you are making the tapers for the bridge on six or twelve string guitars.
The skill to dress frets will come, practice makes perfect.
PS: I should clarify the tapered end as a reamer, it is to be used gently and turned clockwise. Whenever it binds just turn anti-clockwise. Another skill awaits you.

jcalkin
06-09-2014, 12:59 PM
In the early '80s a friend went dumpster diving at the Martin factory and came up with a few three-square, safe-cornered files. The one he gave me has been a part of my fretting kit ever since. With a proper fret file you'll still have to roll the file around the fret to keep from cutting the top of the fret, which you want to maintain once you have leveled them. A fret file is nice if you have to flat file the crap out of the frets to get them level first, but that should only happen if you're dressing the frets on a new, cheap instrument, or if a customer doesn't want to pay for a refret on a well-worn neck. Your own work should eventually require the minimum of leveling. I'll keep my steel files and skip the diamonds. There are too many other places to spend money on your shop equipment.

Timbuck
06-10-2014, 01:15 AM
I also use a fret crowning file from StewMac...Here is a video of me at work with it..."warning it's a bit boring":o

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sWa42j1JEs