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Making Fret Files

Discussion in 'The DIY Tool Shed' started by mPacT, Mar 20, 2017 at 3:37 AM.

  1. mPacT

    mPacT Tele-Holic

    822
    Dec 23, 2014
    Burbank, CA
    Hey all,

    Sooooo, I decided to make some new fret files. Thought I would take pictures and stuff for some of the new guys. Am I an expert on the subject? Nope. But I'm going to do it anywho!

    I like fret crowning files for some silly reason. I have purchased several from different luthier suppliers but I have had trouble finding exactly what I wanted. Size, shape, handle, handle angle, straightness of the file, temper of the file, cost. I have had trouble with all of these.
    Having gotten burned with my last purchase from a certain UK luthier supply that left me a certain shade of red, I decided to make the files I wanted and thought I would send a set to a buddy as well.

    So, what is the difference between a "luthiers" fret crowning file and a regular, three corner file? Not much. The main difference is someone rounded over the sharp corners of the file so the fretboard doesn't get damaged as you use the file. This rounding over has to be done by hand so that is why luthier files usually cost so much.

    I purchased two 6" Nicholson #21866N three corner files from Home Depot and two Mercer 8" cantsaw files from Highland Woodworking. I like the size of the Nicholson files for easy handling and overall use. It also works good for rounding fret ends. The cantsaw file, though big and seemingly unwieldy, really work fast to put a crown on a fret. Work slow and check often with this one but you can get a fretboard done in no time.

    IMG_6378.jpg

    First thing I did was attack the edges with my little 1 x 30" belt sander and an 80 grit belt. I should have used the grinding wheel first to get rid of all the tiny file teeth as I ended up standing there a long time doing pass after pass after pass. . . But anyways, the belt sander worked great ultimately. I went over the ends as well.

    IMG_6381.jpg

    After the belt sander, I grabbed some 120 grit and 320 grit and a sanding block to go over the edges.

    IMG_6382.jpg

    I spotted a couple of spots where the teeth remained and marked them with a Sharpie. Then I went back to the mini belt sander to DEAL WITH THEM!

    IMG_6383.jpg

    After that, I changed the abrasive belt to a 600 grit belt and went over the edges again. I very carefully softened the transition from the now rounded corners into the files cutting teeth. To do this you have to hold the files cutting face at a very slight angle to the belt. Using the higher grit belt let me miss a couple times and not ruin the cutting surface.

    IMG_6384.jpg

    I checked all the file edges by running them over the edge of the wood block to see if they cut at all. They were all good but I used a little more sandpaper to take down the transition areas some more.

    More coming.
     
    John Nicholas likes this.
  2. mPacT

    mPacT Tele-Holic

    822
    Dec 23, 2014
    Burbank, CA
    Next, I used my dental buffer to polish the edges with some compound as my metal polish had dried up. Of course you don't need a dental buffer, or a mini belt sander or unicorn dust.

    IMG_6388.jpg

    But it sure speeds things up considerably!

    IMG_6390.jpg IMG_6391.jpg

    Next, I need to make some handles. My buddy requested bocote for his so I may need to turn them on my mini lathe. I'll take some pics of that too.
     
  3. Piggy Stu

    Piggy Stu Tele-Meister

    Age:
    37
    122
    Feb 26, 2017
    Manchester UK
    If it cheers you up, I tried the fret files selling on eBay and Amazon for under £5

    Not even round inside. Flatted the fret worse

    In fairness the guy did give me my money back, but I got a ruined fret now

    I'm always wary of cheap tools but like to give them a chance sometimes. Big mistake this time
     
    pdnate likes this.
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  5. mPacT

    mPacT Tele-Holic

    822
    Dec 23, 2014
    Burbank, CA
    The worst of the purchased fret files was from fleabay. The metal of the file had not been heat treated properly!
     
  6. 5ofeight

    5ofeight Tele-Meister

    Age:
    58
    351
    Oct 17, 2016
    Glasgow
    I picked up all my files at carboot sales,I didnt bother rounding off any of the edges what i did do was make a fret protector from a beer can, slips over the frets and is held in place with a strip of masking tape..works for me.
     
    Piggy Stu likes this.
  7. John Nicholas

    John Nicholas Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 26, 2014
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    These look absolutely amazing!!

    You my friend have a great deal of patience!!

    Where can I buy unicorn dust????
     
    DrASATele likes this.
  8. bparnell57

    bparnell57 Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 10, 2014
    Philadelphia, PA
    Just get a drafting eraser guard. Same thing. $2 or so. That's what I use when polishing my frets.
     
    5ofeight likes this.
  9. 5ofeight

    5ofeight Tele-Meister

    Age:
    58
    351
    Oct 17, 2016
    Glasgow
    Saved some money and recycled an alloy can..win win situation for me.
     
  10. adirondak5

    adirondak5 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    60
    Oct 24, 2009
    Long Island NY
  11. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Poster Extraordinaire

    May 12, 2013
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Its a common misconception that unicorn dust is ground unicorn horn. Its is actually ground unicorn seeds. Finding unicorn seeds and a proper unicorn seed grinder is really tough. Your best bet is Amazon.
     
    John Nicholas likes this.
  12. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    Drafting eraser shield. I have the Stew-Mac one too but it slipped under some other tools in my tool box and I couldn't find it that day.

    This is a flat needle file from a harbor freight $3 set, narrow edges and end ground smooth with a scrap piece of dowel for a handle.
    I have cut U-shaped cereal box cardboard to do single necks before, the steel lasts many jobs though.
    I recently bought an inexpensive set of contoured fret files to see how that works when I have to do several necks at a time and see if it saves any time of the single file.
    [​IMG]
     
    bparnell57 likes this.
  13. NotAnotherHobby

    NotAnotherHobby Tele-Holic

    960
    Oct 27, 2015
    Da' Magic Mittin'


    OMG! Thank you!

    Been slowly building up the tools I need, and if I can avoid just modifying some common tools it eliminates spending a lot of money for specialized stuff.
     
    John Nicholas likes this.
  14. mPacT

    mPacT Tele-Holic

    822
    Dec 23, 2014
    Burbank, CA
    If you are going to do this with the 1" x 30" belt sander, it is a good idea to get a silicone carbide belt instead of using the normal sanding belts as they will be worn out by the time you are finished. Plus, they are inexpensive.
     
  15. NotAnotherHobby

    NotAnotherHobby Tele-Holic

    960
    Oct 27, 2015
    Da' Magic Mittin'
    Somewhere in that process a laser is involved somehow. I know it.
     
    wtk0315 likes this.
  16. John Nicholas

    John Nicholas Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 26, 2014
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    The only way to grind unicorn seeds is with a laser!! :D
     
  17. cleanheadsteve

    cleanheadsteve TDPRI Member

    54
    Mar 4, 2010
    Arkansas
    So I saw that metal fret protector thingie and thought it was a spatula. So now I'm off to the kitchen to find a spatula that I can turn into my fret protector thingie. Thanks guys!
     
    DrASATele, Mat UK and RogerC like this.
  18. LeftFinger

    LeftFinger Tele-Holic

    731
    Aug 16, 2015
    Saskatchewan
    We call files ground like that "safe files" I have cabinet rasps that came that way. Saves me a lot of trouble
     
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