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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 11:57 am 
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Has anyone tried Stew-Mac's new Z-File Fret Crowing Files? I've been intrigued by them for the past few weeks and would love to hear more about your experiences with them. Are they really very different in practice than a traditional fret file? I have the classic dual-grit diamond fret file from Stew-Mac, and it's always served me well.

My sense is that the Z-Files offer a safety of sorts that (I believe) guarantees the perfectly narrow flat strip at the top of the fret we all hope for? Is this correct? And why would a person want all three?

Anyway, I'd love to hear any thoughts from anyone who's used them. [:Y:] I don't see myself pulling the trigger on one any time soon, but it's always interesting to discuss something new.


Last edited by James Orr on Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:39 pm 
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I plan to buy one of these just haven't done it yet. I've always had trouble staying off the top of the fret when re-crowning and these may help. Sure look like they would. I hope we hear from someone who has used one. The seem pricey, but if they worked would be a bargain.



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:00 pm 
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I thought they were a good idea. Never liked using the round-topped ones I have for crowning. But they are pricey.

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Last edited by Chris Pile on Sat Oct 08, 2016 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 4:15 pm 
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Have never used one, but I'd be concerned that they'd leave too wide a flat on the top of the fret.

Steve



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 4:44 pm 
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Have never used one, but I'd be concerned that they'd leave too wide a flat on the top of the fret.


Maybe if the frets had been leveled several times before. The round ones do the same thing once the frets are already low.

At any rate, over the years I have developed a method of sanding the file marks out that adds a radius to the side of the frets.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 4:47 pm 
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Dave wants to try one and thinks it's a great idea.

My only concern is that sometimes in the repair world the budget is not there for a refret making a fret dress the only way to buy a client some more time. Some frets can get pretty low after leveling out the divots. Frets in the .022" height area may not be possible for these files because one leg is distended.... But that will just have to be something that we measure and try when we pop for these and I am sure that we will.

The other thought that I had about these has nothing to do with the files themselves. As we know Stew Mac has a new owner and as we also know seemingly much of the Stew-Mac line is now offered by others as well. This did not used to be the case.....

It could be that Stew Mac is looking for some product differentiation and expansion of the offerings in a effort to get ahead of the Chinese copy threat and reality. Speculation on my part but also standard fare for well run businesses.



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 5:23 pm 
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Which of these are you guys leaning toward? The original, centered or safe edge? I'm thinking the centered makes sense if only buying one. What do you all think?


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 5:40 pm 
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If I buy just one it will likely be the original. I like the two cut angles and I like the fact that you can flip it over to get the reversed shape.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 5:53 pm 
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I'll hold off till they are out in the wild for a bit and get good reviews. I tried one of their diamond fret files, very expensive, and it's a good file no doubt but I keep going back to my triangle file. The rounded diamond one is good for jumbo frets though.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 7:14 pm 
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I ordered the centered Z file as soon as I received the Stewmac email advertising it, and I am well impressed with it , but then again I have always (or at least for many years) crowned all my frets Petillo style, so what I used to do with a triangular file now gets done twice as fast.

I don't see the virtue in spending twice as much time filing each side of the fret separately, when the Z file does both sides in one pass, and centers the crown automatically. I also don't see the need for the two other files in the set if you have the centered file.

The file has two differing V slots ... the wider slot has what I estimate to be an included angle of 120 degrees, and the narrower V has an included angle of 90 degrees, far as I can tell. I haven't had any occasion to use the narrow V slot yet, but the wider slot crowns the frets perfectly as far as my needs are concerned.

I haven't used it on a stainless refret yet, but there is one in the offing and I am sure the file will be up to the task.



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 7:24 pm 
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murrmac wrote:
The file has two differing V slots ... the wider slot has what I estimate to be an included angle of 120 degrees, and the narrower V has an included angle of 90 degrees, far as I can tell. I haven't had any occasion to use the narrow V slot yet, but the wider slot crowns the frets perfectly as far as my needs are concerned.


My thoughts are right along the same lines as yours, Murray. I'm not sure why all three would make sense to someone, either, and the centered file was the one that stood out to me, too.

So here's a question. With the sides of the file being straight, are the sides of your frets still round at all?


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 7:42 pm 
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James Orr wrote:
murrmac wrote:
With the sides of the file being straight, are the sides of your frets still round at all?


Essentially, no, the sides are not round, nor do I want them to be. The junction between the unfiled portion of the fret (where the base sits on the fretboard) and the filed part just gets smoothed out with sandpaper, as does the narrow crown which is left on the top.

I once tried to put forward the benefits of Petillo style fret dressing on the UMGF but got shouted down by some of the dinosaurs there, so I have never made a big deal of it since, but maybe now that the Z file is available, more people will see the benefits of having a V shaped fret rather than the conventional school bus profile.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 8:23 pm 
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bcombs510 wrote:
Which of these are you guys leaning toward? The original, centered or safe edge? I'm thinking the centered makes sense if only buying one. What do you all think?

The centered one looks the best to me. If you're going to work the two sides of the fret separately then a LittleBone style fret file is much cheaper and looks easier to hold as well.



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:39 pm 
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Probably I'm not enough of a player to make sense of it.
What is the relevance of the fret shape below the contact area necessary to stop the string?

Lets say you have a fret.040" high and .080" wide, with a perfect radius on the top. How would this preform differently from a triangular fret .040" high but .110" wide at the bottom with a .040" radius crown on the top?

Or in other words, if a smaller string contact is desired, why not just use narrower wire? (No "tone" arguments accepted!)


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 2:26 am 
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Seems like with the duel angle you could get those lower frets better...


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 7:16 am 
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Quote:
Seems like with the duel angle you could get those lower frets better...


Agreed, Pat. If I ever buy one, that's the one I'd get.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 10:48 am 
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I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who's been wondering about these!

david farmer wrote:
Probably I'm not enough of a player to make sense of it.
What is the relevance of the fret shape below the contact area necessary to stop the string?


Speculation Alert: I've never played a fret that was just a straight slope. I would think moving around the fretboard or sliding (slurring) would feel different. Would it feel better or worse? I have no idea.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 2:26 pm 
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I worked on some really early stuff, and some of the frets were inlaid bars with rectangular edges instead of round. If you played with a light touch, it wasn't a problem.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 12:10 pm 
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Hesh wrote:
The other thought that I had about these has nothing to do with the files themselves. As we know Stew Mac has a new owner and as we also know seemingly much of the Stew-Mac line is now offered by others as well. This did not used to be the case...


Well I'm all up for someone else selling Waverly tuners at more palatable prices... but I doubt we will ever see someone competing with SM on that.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 6:06 am 
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The geometry of an inverted V-shaped file is such that a family of fret shapes between a V and circular can be produced depending on the rotation of the file along it's access. We use a number of fret shapes for different players, from pyramidal to the school bus top shape, using a combination of a safe-edged cant file and Stewart MacDonald diamond fret files. I hope this will be a faster way to waste the shoulders of stainless and EVO fret wire for some shapes that we get out of wider, fuller profile stainless wire.

The only concern I can see is whether there will be a smaller section version to handle the fine stainless mandolin wire we use on occasion - it looks like the tool will bottom out on the fretboard with the .039" x .040" unless the lower edge is ground back. If those that have received the tool already and have used it on lower, narrower wires care to comment, that would be helpful.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:35 am 
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Woodie G wrote:
We use a number of fret shapes for different players, from pyramidal to the school bus top shape, using a combination of a safe-edged cant file and Stewart MacDonald diamond fret files.



Really?
Players can choose what wire dimensions they want and what crowning shape they desire in your shop?
Do you have a different price for changing the basic geometry of wire?
Most of my customers are overwhelmed by the choices in wire alone.
If I was offering frets with a triangular cross section, I think I would try and come up with way to do the bulk of it off the instrument before installation.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 11:29 am 
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Woodie G wrote:
The only concern I can see is whether there will be a smaller section version to handle the fine stainless mandolin wire we use on occasion - it looks like the tool will bottom out on the fretboard with the .039" x .040" unless the lower edge is ground back. If those that have received the tool already and have used it on lower, narrower wires care to comment, that would be helpful.


I had the same concern. I was hoping the centered file would work well on thin wire for ukes as well as medium and up wire for steel strings. Here is the response from SM. Not surprising I'm sure, but...

-----------------------------------------------

The centered file will work well for small or medium wire. The only instance where you might have a problem is if the wire is so low the edges of the file hit the fingerboard before the fretwire. In those cases a 3 corner file is still the best file for that.

-----------------------------------------------

It's arriving tomorrow so I'll let you know my experience with it.

Brad

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 3:05 pm 
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Yes, absolutely - we tailor the crown height and shape to preference, subject to a core wire we can work with that is reasonably close. An example would be someone that wants a wider fret at about .050" height with a full shoulders (close to the school bus top shape mentioned earlier) - we'd use Jescar 57110 and mill to height, then minor reshaping. For someone looking for a pyramidal crown at the same height and width, we'd start with Jescar 51108 and be within .002" on width. For narrower wires, the fuller crown profile wires can be tweaked as necessary with some additional labor.

We are not all that cost sensitive here in the DC/Northern VA area for repair work, so an extra 0.5 or whatever hours of labor in the estimate to provide exactly what the customer wants is not going to send them off to someone undercutting our price by $80-$90. By the time a customer finds us, he's already been referred at least once if not several times, so that tends to weed out some of the bargain shoppers.

Thanks, Mr. Combs - the information is much appreciated!

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 3:41 pm 
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Woodie G wrote:
Yes, absolutely - we tailor the crown height and shape to preference, subject to a core wire we can work with that is reasonably close. An example would be someone that wants a wider fret at about .050" height with a full shoulders (close to the school bus top shape mentioned earlier) - we'd use Jescar 57110 and mill to height, then minor reshaping. For someone looking for a pyramidal crown at the same height and width, we'd start with Jescar 51108 and be within .002" on width. For narrower wires, the fuller crown profile wires can be tweaked as necessary with some additional labor.

We are not all that cost sensitive here in the DC/Northern VA area for repair work, so an extra 0.5 or whatever hours of labor in the estimate to provide exactly what the customer wants is not going to send them off to someone undercutting our price by $80-$90. By the time a customer finds us, he's already been referred at least once if not several times, so that tends to weed out some of the bargain shoppers.

Thanks, Mr. Combs - the information is much appreciated!



Ouch.

Not all work hours are created equal for me. An extra hour of fret crowning on a re-fret might have it's own shop rate. :(
If someone insisted they wanted a certain non standard shape, I'd probably do it but I don't think I'd offer it up as an option. I'd fear too many would take me up on it. They'd really have to twist my arm. ;)
If there are bad luthiers doing re-frets in hell, they are endlessly turning stainless super jumbo wire into cute little triangle shapes. :)


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:21 pm 
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I won't lie and suggest I am passionately committed to grinding off fret wire as an artistic form of expression, but I have gotten a little faster and more sure-handed from repetition. In 20 years? I am absolutely certain that I will find myself in full agreement with you, Mr. Farmer. Thank you for that delightful mental image as well!

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