If you had to do it on the tightest budget possible you could use a single trinagle file with the corners ground off. You could crown frets with it and dress fret ends. It takes a lot of skill and patience though...I would just break down and get a stew-mac diamond fret crowning file. You won't regret that.
The first guitar I ever did, I planed a pice of oak flat, glued some wet and dry to it and stoned the frets flat. Then taped up the board and had a small cranked piece of hard wood with a fret shaped concave groove in it, used various grades of wet and dry to bring the frets to shape and poish them. (vanishing marker pen on the flats showed me when I was done) I had a small flat file for the fret ends.
I still have it, and I'm still happy with the fret job.
I don't have to be really cheap I just saw a set of files for around $80 but I didn't see the stewmac ones until know. I guess I overlooked them. thanks guys I'm hopefully placing an order tonight for the neck stuff.
i'll show my ignorance and get flamed for it, but here goes.
I found a 24" aluminum level in a ditch outside my house. I checked it and it is flat, so I 3M spray glued 220g wet or dry to it. I use that to flat file my frets after i 'paint' them with a black marks a lot.
I then 'paint' them again, and mask off the fretboard around the fret i'm working on. I then take a fine grit 6" file from the hardware store and round the fret from both sides, gently rolling the file, leaving a fine black line in the center of the fret. I then work the filed area down with 400, 600,1000,1500, then 2000 grit paper. then i polish with polishing compound.
I'm not against the other better tools, it's just that I did my first one that way because I didn't want to spend money on something only to find out I couldn't do this and have specialty tools i'd never use for anything else. It worked so well, I just haven't converted over. It is how i've done all of my fret jobs...all 5 or 6 (lol). I haven't heard any complaints an on the contrary, have had quite a few compliments on the fretwork. ( I don't say this to brag, I just want to say that it is possible to do it without breaking the bank) I plan on investing in fret files when I have the extra money.
sure thing, andrew. I'm not trying to talk you out of buying specialized tools, just tried to reinforce that you may indeed already have what you 'need' and maybe make a move later. Your a smart fella, you'll do what you need to do. have you ordered another neck blank yet?
I reckon that luthiers were doing good fretwork long before Stew Mac made specialized tools readily available to all of us. Some nippers, a fret hammer and basic files would probably be all you need to "do" a fret job but a crowning file would make things easier. Some basic files might be wonderful in a skilled hand but not all of us have that experience. The best tool I have from Stew Mac is probably the fret press arbor thingy though. Pressing in frets is heavenly compared to hammering.
^^^agreed with all of the above. mighty distressing to put an 'elephant track' in a freshly polished board while installing frets. I suppose the main reason I continue to do it this way is to force myself to be patient, pay attention, and be more disciplined.
Having just done my first fret job I think I'm happy with the level/crown/polish.....but getting the ends of the frets smooth so that your hand does not catch on them up the side of the fret board is proving illusive. Any tips?
If I had to choose in the diamond crowning file array, I would buy the Gurian style-the stubby handle with angled cutting surfaces. You kind of need two of the three to cover fret sizes- I got the set but I mess around with all varieties of guitars. My real favorite is that "swoopy" one. You can sneak the stubby-handle style in without removing or "losing" strings. especially good near the body to touch up "fretting out" areas ; sometimes you can sneak in the "swoopy" too. I have gladly loaned out my stubby-handle diamond set but wouldn't risk loss of "Mr. Swoopy." STEWMAC.COM : Dual-grit Diamond Fret File
For sharp fret ends, I use a coarse DMT 6" x 2" diamond plate which can be used for some spot leveling- an 8" x 2" is long enough that it will do initial fret leveling. I don't get to work on guitars as much as I used to and those plate are dual-purpose-shaping and honing steel too in the kitchen.