Fret Barber

  • 7 Reviews
  • Write a review

"Take a little off the sides!" File away some (or all) of the fret tang barbs to control fret compression, relieve backbow, and make installing frets easier.

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Fret Barber

Item # 4363
In stock, ready to ship!


Total: $0.00
Quantity: 20


Fret Barber guitar fret tang resizer

Dan Erlewine demos the Fret Barber: a tool that will "take a little off the sides" of fretwire, making it fit fret slots that would otherwise be too tight.

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"Take a little off the sides!" File away some (or all) of the fret tang barbs to control fret compression, relieve backbow, and make installing frets easier.

File several feet of fret tang quickly.
Fretting expert Dan Erlewine designed this ingenious tool. Simply pull the tang of the fretwire between the Fret Barber's adjustable file jaws as needed for the desired fit.

The Fret Barber lets you "take a little off the sides" to adjust the width of the fret tang by removing metal from the barbs. This way, you can control how much force is needed to press the frets into the slot.

Even when the fret tang matches the width of the slot, the barbs can add enough mass to create more compression than you want. The pressure from this added metal, multiplied by the number of frets, sometimes is enough to force the neck into a back-bow. More often, it simply makes it hard to install the frets — especially with the harder rosewood and ebony fretboards.

By sizing the fret tang, the Fret Barber can also help a back-bowed neck to "relax" into straightness or a controlled relief (slight upbow). The thinner tang allows each fret slot to close just enough to accomplish this.

This ingenious tool, designed by fretting expert Dan Erlewine, comes with a set of 8 gauged shims:
.018", .020", .022", .024", .026", .028", .030", .032" and instructions.

Most guitars have slots of about .018" to .023" — the most common is .022". Fret tangs usually range from .021" to .024", so the tang is already a tight fit even without barbs — add the barbs, and the fit can be too tight.

This tool is for preparing uncut fretwire.

The Fret Barber is included in our money-saving Fret Tang Tool Set along with the Fret Cutter, our specialized tool for resizing a fret's barbed tang for a custom fit.

Works on stainless frets, too!
All of our tools are suitable for use on stainless-steel fretwire, with the exception of our Fret Tang Nippers and Fret Cutters. Modern stainless-steel fretwire is known to be harder than the traditional nickel-silver blends, but our own shop experience indicates the wire does not cause premature wear of files or sandpapers.

Product Instructions

Fret Barber Instructions

The Fret Barber lets you "take a little off the sides" to adjust the width of the fret tang by removing metal from the barbs.

Ratings & Reviews

Fret Barber

  • Based on 7 Reviews
Write a review

Awseome product

By Tarek S. from Plymouth Meeting
(Customer's Reviews) Saturday, January 03, 2015

This fret barber is extremely helpful and very easy and quick to set up and use. I seldom write a positive review of anything. But, in fairness, this fret barber is a superb product and well worth the money.

Could be finer...

By \N from \N
(Customer's Reviews) Tuesday, July 01, 2014

I needed this for use on mandolin fret wire. The barbs on this wire are very small, causing them to grab in the relatively course teeth in these files, making it very difficult to pull the wire through. Overall I like the tool but I wish there was an option for files with finer teeth, or even abrasive plates.

Another great specialty tool

By Dogwood Guitars from Kansas City, MO
(Customer's Reviews) Monday, May 05, 2014

The fret barber works well and is just the thing for adjusting fret wire compression. Although all of Stew Mac's fret wire is designed for .023 fret slots, I find that the different wire sizes have different tang and barb sizes, and some fit in .023 slots better than others. I took some #152 wire from .038 barbs down to .032 for an easier fit in a Blueridge I am refretting, and this tool did the job nicely. I am deducting one star because with the supplied set of feeler gauge spacers, you can't set up the tool for an .036 or an .034 result. The sizing goes from .038 (stacking the .018 and the .020 spacers) to .032. I had to supply my own .010 spacer to get the results I needed. Otherwise I found this to be a well-made and designed tool that belongs in the fretting kit of anyone who does a lot of fretwork.


By JLondon from Owensboro, KY
(Customer's Reviews) Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Of all the tools I've purchased over the last several years, this one (along with the "fret krimper" which serves exactly the opposite purpose) should be high on everyone's priority list. Kinda pricey I know - but I can assure you, I'm kicking myself for having passed this one up for as long as I have. Seriously!

It really works

By jacksdm from Nashville
(Customer's Reviews) Thursday, January 19, 2012

This idea really works. Absolutely necessary on occasion. Bowed fretboards are stress. Build a stress free guitar.
Also when a fret is out in a tricky place, don't hurt the guitar.

Absolutely brilliant!

By Claus L++ber from Denmark
(Customer's Reviews) Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Saved the day recently when I had some (Stewmac) fretwire with barbs too wide for the slots in an ebony board (also bought here). Was very easy to shave some of the barb width off the fretwire to make them fit perfectly. Thanks Dan and Stewmac!

not too simple but helpful

By MoorMusic from Switzerland
(Customer's Reviews) Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This is one of those tools that may be a bit tricky to use at first. But once you got the trick it can really do great things for you.

Shown on page 13 of our latest catalog.