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FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Question about tools for stainless steel fret work

Tinkerer
Contributing Member
**

San Diego, CA USA

Mar 3rd, 2012 12:41 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have recently started leveling, crowning, and polishing the frets on my guitars. I have seen the recent thread about stainless steel frets, but have a specific question about the proper tools for crowning after leveling on stainless steel.

I purchased a 16" leveling bar, and diamond offset crowing files , both the 150 and 300 grit, from Stew Mac (their 5053 and 5054). I am using 320 grit self-stik sanding paper for leveling. I have done 5 of my guitars with nickel steel fret wire, and those have gone well, although my polishing needs improvement.

I have one guitar left to do, and it has stainless steel frets. I called Stew Mac and asked if the diamond offset crowning files I purchased were appropriate for stainless steel frets and was told "no".

I am wondering what my options are for crowning? Also, any suggestions about how to do great polishing would be appreciated.

wrnchbndr
Contributing Member
*******

New Jersey

The otters threw me out
Mar 3rd, 2012 04:05 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have what is called the "Offset Diamond Fret File" from stewmac and I also have the straight version. These are the tools that I use for stainless steel fretwork and I would not do stainless steel frets if I didn't have them. If I lost one, fretwork would stop in my shop until I got a replacement. I only use the 300 grit files. The key to using these files is to not use downward force and to do slow strokes so you do not build up heat. Heat is about the only thing that will ruin these tools and mine are about five years old doing fretwork professionally and almost on a daily basis. The diamond grit is sharp and it will cut just as fast via little more than the weight of the file or if you use force which will gum up the diamond grit on nickle and over heat the bond on the diamond on stainless. I only crown to leave an even .020 flat spot along the length of the fret and then I switch to 500 grit sandpaper backed by my fingertips. This rounds the sides up to the flat strip along the length of the fret and my sanding is up and down the length of the neck across the direction of the crowning file marks. I then repeat using 800 grit and then 1200 grit and polish out with a 1" 2500 rpm felt wheel and polishing paste. Using the wheel takes a lot of care and practice. If you're not careful, it will heat up the fret enough to burn the wood in the fret slot. The wheel will eat right through masking tape in a millisecond and ruin a lacquered finish on maple or totally munch binding. But this is what really gets the job done for mirror gloss fretwork and especially stainless steel.

Tinkerer
Contributing Member
**

San Diego, CA USA

Mar 3rd, 2012 05:43 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Thanks wrnchbnder! Should I be doing anything to maintain these files?

Thanks again!

FunkyKikuchiyo
Contributing Member
***

New England

Mar 3rd, 2012 07:23 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"Heat is about the only thing that will ruin these tools and mine are about five years old doing fretwork professionally and almost on a daily basis. "

+1. Take it easy and go slow and your tools will thank you. I"ve ruined these style files before by going too fast.

The polishing is where you'll notice the difference in hardness more. You'll have to take more time and use the finer steps in sandpaper; it is harder to take out deep scratches as you go finer if you go too fast. Fret ends can be a pain too, because if you're not careful you can get a sideways scallop.

You'll find it a bit easier than you're expecting, especially if you're not in a time crunch.

Peegoo
Contributing Member
**********
**********

That chicken

is WRONG, baby.
Mar 3rd, 2012 08:12 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

wrnchbndr is a wizard with stainless steel fret wire. I've never played better fretwork than his.

FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Question about tools for stainless steel fret work




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