Crowning home-levelled frets? (Level by previous owner)

Blues Twanger

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Dec 4, 2007
Posts
1,510
Location
SoVT
Strat not Tele, with apologies.

I got a really good deal on this Am Special because the previous owner had left some work undone (bought from a shop where his family had sold it).

The jumbo frets look to have been levelled but not crowned. It plays OK, whoever did the job levelled it well. But the tinkerer in me thinks it might be a good chance to get my feet wet with fretwork. There is plenty of meat left on the frets.

I presume that if I leave the slightest flat on the top when crowning it won't ruin the level, correct?

How difficult is it to make a decent crown and not go sa far as to lose the level? I have a fairly steady hand from years of blade sharpening.

Also any recommendation on a file or files to use to crown frets this size, jumbo? I would have to purchase the tool/s.

Hopefully the pic shows the current profile
IMG_20220504_161112539.jpg
 
Last edited:

Wallaby

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Posts
2,979
Location
Here
Hi @Blues Twanger , there is a sticky post at the top of this forum section that explains most if not all you need to know to get started. Since your frets are already leveled you could read through to the part on crowning, maybe. If you're sure they're level.

TLDR; version - it's not too difficult, and it helps to be comfortable with hand tools.

I've used the Z-File with good success, that file is basically training-wheels for the likes of me! :D.

You could add a good straight-edge to your shopping cart, so you can make SURE that your frets are level ( if you don't already have one ). Random thought - feeler gauges are only so thin - mylar gift-wrapping paper can be even thinner! :)

You'll need an assortment of abrasive papers or pads to put a smooth finish back on the frets after you've crowned them. And some low-tack masking tape will be needed.

It pays to shop around for tools and supplies, the costs can really add up!

There are far more experienced individuals here than me, and hopefully they'll contribute to your post.

Best of luck :)
 

Freeman Keller

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
9,340
Age
77
Location
Washington
Fret leveling and crowning is not difficult and it is the key to a perfect setup. It gets discussed over and over and over and the sticky is a great guide. I approach things a little differently - before I start working on any guitar I do a bunch of evaluation - I measure everything and write it all down. Then I have a sequence of dealing with what I find, and frets are one of the first. My procedures are outlined here, fret work starts at post #13


That thread is also available as a pdf if you want to print it out and take it out to the shop.
 

Blues Twanger

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Dec 4, 2007
Posts
1,510
Location
SoVT
Thanks folks, I didn't read the sticky because I assumed from the title it only covered levelling.

I've been doing setups and wiring for years, but never ventured down the path of fretwork other than addressing some sprout here and there.
 

Cyberi4n

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Oct 28, 2020
Posts
1,000
Age
49
Location
Chester, Uk
Hosco do a great set of fret files. I have the TL-FF3 for jumbo frets, and the TL-FF2 for medium size. Pop a sharpie line on the fret top to mark your work and see where you're taking off. Afterwards, use fret rubbers or the like to clean up, from 180 up to 1000 is what I normally use.
 

charlie chitlin

Doctor of Teleocity
Silver Supporter
Joined
Mar 17, 2003
Posts
17,278
Age
60
Location
Egremont, MA
If you're comfortable driving hand tools, it's easy.
Put sharpie on top of the fret and file until there is a sharp line maybe the width of a fine pen line.
I finish with 400, 600, 1000, 1200, 1500, Brasso.
I've done a ton of fret jobs with this file.
I never particularly likes using it, but I own it.
It just doesn't feel like any other tool...weird design.
It chatters a bit, but it cleans up in the finishing.
crowning file.jpg
 

FuncleManson

Tele-Meister
Joined
May 23, 2021
Posts
391
Age
58
Location
Moline, IL
Just my two cents. I recently did my first ever refret. I put Jescar 57110 stainless on my '76 Strat. I was worried about how tough the stainless would be to work with, but it really wasn't a problem until I got to crowning.

Using StewMac cutters and files, leveling, beveling and dressing the fret ends went very smoothly. For crowning, I bit the bullet and purchased the StewMac centered Z file ($100+). It was my first refret, so it very well could have been user error, but it didn't work very well for me. It reduced the flatness some, but I couldn't get a super nice crown on them, so they're still a little flat on top, more like Gibson frets. It plays just fine though.

So, long story short, I wouldn't recommend the centered Z file. Others might have a different opinion though.
 
Last edited:

telepraise

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Posts
1,936
Age
66
Location
Tampa Bay
For crowning those jumbo frets you'll be removing quite a bit of meat. I would spend the extra $$ for a diamond file, and not the $20 ones on ebay. Philadelphia Luthier Supply has some that are less expensive than SM. The ones with a longer blade allow a longer, smooth stroke. I prefer the 300 grit as it leaves you less sanding afterward to get rid of the scratches.

Plenty of good instruction on net. I always mask the fret board and blacken the tops of the frets before starting.
 

-Hawk-

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Oct 14, 2015
Posts
3,424
Location
IL, USA
Well, like I said, could have been user error. :rolleyes:

Do you use the centered version or the safe-edge version?
Sorry, just saw this. I have the original version and have used it for a half dozen guitars or so. I found it pretty easy to get a nice, thin crown. The trick for me was to snug up against the side of the fret (flip it over to do the same on the other side) and file until you don’t really feel/hear anything.
 

NoTeleBob

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
Posts
3,345
Location
Southwestern, USA
I'm an amateur, so I work a little differently. But first, read Freeman's stuff, he knows. Watch several youtube videos. There will be variations in technique. But it's better to watch it in action before hitting your own frets. Discard techniques that seem invalid.

I use a wide marker, not a Sharpie. I want the top surface of the fret all marked in black (or blue, etc). File from the edges, leaving the center. It goes fast unless you have stainless - frets are soft, files are hard. A few strokes is all you usually need. When done, you should have a narrow line about as wide as a fine point Sharpie down the middle of the fret.

I've spent a lot of time shaping things with files and it sounds like you have too. For that reason, I use a triangular file on which I have Dremeled the three edges to soft and round. That way they can't scratch the fretboard... at least not if it's double masked and I'm careful. The reason I go with the triangle file is my life experience: I like to see what I'm filing. Crowning files hide what's gong on and that makes me concerned (probably works better for pros, but for me, I want to watch what I'm filing).

As mentioned above, fine papers when done to remove marks, smooth, and polish. Again, just a couple strokes is all you need up through a few grits. Finish above 1000.
 

Steve_U1S

Tele-Afflicted
Ad Free Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2013
Posts
1,360
Location
Toronto, Canada
To reduce excessive ''faceting' of the crown, it works well to take the Z-File over toward both sides to get incremental facets, blending them together to maintain a relatively rounded surface which will smooth out to very rounded while doing the sanding operations.
I prefer the Centered version, but I also have the Original profile - I'm now favoring using the short no-handle versions, which also come in both 150 and 300 grit equivalents; when the scenario calls for it, you can hog more material with some aggression (relatively speaking of course) with the 150, then switch to the finer 300 to smooth it down when approaching the finish of the crowning. Readies things decently for papers & polishing.
I've found them to be very effective (though I do sometimes combine those with some other diamond and conventional crowning files to spread the wear and tear, especially with occasional more radical material removal.
 

Personal Gsus

TDPRI Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2021
Posts
46
Age
48
Location
Atlanta
I own the Fret Guru crowning file – as far as I can tell, it makes excellent work of the frets – and is fairly well regarded.

New_FretGuru_File_RAW_Main_ON-WHITE_Mod_FINAL_4-5_PS-w-©.jpg
 

Boreas

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Posts
9,150
Age
67
Location
Adirondack Coast, NY
Personally, I prefer steel files instead of diamond, because the diamond files (Z-files) tend to be too aggressive and require more final filing/sanding to polish. For the job you have at hand, you don't need to make a perfect crown RADIUS, but need to put enough of a radius on there to remove the flatness.

I would recommend starting with a simple triangular file with at least one safety edge. Many pros ONLY use these files. You can also do fret ends with them. IMO, you won't need to remove much material to put enough of a radius un them to play well - just a flatter radius with a peak. You could also likely do it with a sandpaper "flapper", but it sounds like you want to try a file.
 

chris m.

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Mar 25, 2003
Posts
10,418
Location
Santa Barbara, California
The leveling is the hard part. The crowning is the easy part. Mask up the fretboard and go for it. Give it as much bevel as you like. Use whatever file or sand paper or sanding block you like. What takes the longest is getting everything nice and polished and shiny. I like the variable grit fret erasers from Stewmac for that part.
 

Freeman Keller

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
9,340
Age
77
Location
Washington
I've been using standard crowning files for such a long time that I just automatically go for them. I have both diamond and steel files, most of the time I use the 300 grit StewMac diamond file for the actual crowning. One little trick after I put the crown back on I lay a piece of 400 or 600 grit wet and dry sand paper (dry) in the radius of the next bigger file (if I'm doing medium frets put it in the jumbo groove) and make a couple of passes - that takes off the file marks from the 300. Follow that with steel wool and bingo, nice shiny smooth frets.
 

KokoTele

Doctor of Teleocity
Vendor Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2003
Posts
14,797
Age
47
Location
albany, ny [not chicago]
When there's such a wide flat fret after leveling, I either go for a Z file first or a 3 corner file to take the shoulder way down. Then I use a crowning file to finish the top for a nice, round profile. If you just go for a crowning file, you wind up with a flatter, more oval-shaped profile. That works fine, but they wear into a flat spot faster.

3 corner files are cheap, but there's a bigger learning curve and it takes longer. Z files are comparatively expensive, but faster and there's less learning curve.
 

schoech1

TDPRI Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
Posts
13
Age
43
Location
Mobile, Al
I just did my first leveling and crowning job following the sticky guide posted here. I used the fretguru and honestly, for a beginner, I don’t know how there could be a better tool for the price. It worked really well. I started with one of the crowning files that comes in the cheapo guitar tool kit with the orange handle. It did not work well at all. Lulz
 




Top