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Crowning Files - Regular or Diamond??

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by The F-Bomb, Apr 15, 2010.

  1. The F-Bomb

    The F-Bomb

    Mar 3, 2007
    Vancouver BC
    Hi Guys,

    I'm looking to pick up a couple fret crowning files this week (online) and I'd like to ask a couple questions to those more experienced. I'll mostly just be using these on my basses and friend guitars. My questions are:

    Are diamond files worth the extra cash?

    Do regular files leave marks that are really hard to get out?

    Do I really need a small file or just medium/Jumbo file?

    I'm thinking a double sided diamond file (med/Larg) would do?

    Thanks for all the advice
  2. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I like the diamond file.
  3. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Not trying to hijack the thread! I just figured I had a related question.

    What tool is best for smoothing the ends of frets? (They're a bit rough on one of my basses.)
  4. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    GOOD diamond files will do you well, cheap ones will not.
    There are horror stories of lousy ebay diamond files losing their coating. Get both grits, Stewmac's are 150/300, follow w/3m sanding pads fine/superfine/ultrafine/microfine, 0000 steel wool.
  5. vejesse


    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    Diamond rounding files are truly superior. The regular 'toothed' type of file that used to round countertops made of Corian will round frets but it's easy to get a piece of fret lodged in the teeth and before you know it you've left a scar that regular polishing won't remove. I'd suggest staying away from the new, cheap Ebay diamond files. Get a long length Stew Mac 300 grit file.

    For rounding the ends check out flea markets for very small, extremely fine double cut files. Leave one edge sharp for getting rid of the burr on newly installed frets and one edge you make 'safe'. Nicholson doesn't make these anymore but Grobet still does.
  6. The diamond will cut easier, where the steel can cause chatter marks. There are seasoned repairmen that prefer the less expensive regular steel file and don't have any problems with it. You can get just as good results with a steel file with practice and attention to cleaning the teeth, but the diamond will be "easier".
  7. joinercape

    joinercape Supporting Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Stewmac's diamond files are the way to go. A bit more expensive but I've had mine for years and have done dozens of recrowns with them. I still have old steel files too and use them on occasion but as someone already posted, they can leave deep grooves if not cleaned with a small brass brush after nearly every fret. And they definitely require a practiced hand compared to the fine cutting diamond files. For most occasional users, the diamond files will last a lifetime.
  8. lethargytartare


    Sep 7, 2004
    Diamond is absolutely worth it, and eBay ones are highly suspect. Standard ones can leave chatter that is annoying to eliminate, but not awful.

    I have purchased a straight diamond (coarse/fine, medium/jumbo) file and an offset one (150/300, medium/jumbo) from ebay. The offset one is crap -- the profile is so broad that it won't crown effectively. I might be able to use it like a 1/4 round and do the two sides of a fret, or it might work for really jumbo frets, but that's about it. HUGE disappointment. The straight files are interesting -- I wouldn't count on them for a lot of jobs -- i think their coatings will wear off fairly quickly. When I agreed to do some work on a friend's guitar, I bought a stewmac steel crowning file -- I wanted a higher-quality profile and tool, and could deal with the chatter.

    I revisited the straight files, and have started doing the following:
    I use the stewmac steel file to get about 80% of the crowning done. Then I use the straight file, coarse, to go 15% more, and finish with the fine side. That file isn't great, but it does well enough to finish off the crown, and takes out the steel file's chatter. I figure the diamond file will last longer that way (and was cheaper than a quality one to begin with).

    I finish with 220, 320, 0000 steel wool. I've got 3 projects underway with this approach, and I'm very happy with the results.

    If I was going to work on 3 or more guitars for friends or pseudo-customers (that is, paying friends, neighbors, etc.), or if I was going to work on my own high-end instruments (that is, not my ibanezes), without a doubt I'd spring for a stewmac diamond offset file -- in a heartbeat. I used one in my fretwork class, and it makes the job go by so much faster, and the final polishing is much easier.


  9. ewimsatt


    Jul 1, 2008
    Nashville, TN
    Pickup Maker, Luthier, and Repairman, Wimsatt Instruments
    When you first get the regular file, it cuts better than the diamond file. The problem is it gets dull with persistent use. The diamond file cuts well non-stop. That said, I WAY prefer a Triangle Cant File to do fretwork. Using a Cant file, you arent limited to the two crown sizes a concave file forces.
  10. Chuck King

    Chuck King Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2006
    I took a fretwork class and had the opportunity to try a bunch of different crowning files, and I found the StewMac offset diamond file to be clearly superior to any of the others. I have never had any trouble crowning skinny frets with it. The only time I've had trouble was with really really low frets, but that would be a challenge for just about any file. Before taking the class I was looking at various files and I was disinclined to spend the extra money for the diamond file, but after actually using them, I consider it a bargain! I got the fine version---I can't see any need to have two of them. Crowning frets doesn't involve hogging away such huge amounts of material that you need a special coarse file for it.

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