Fret Barber

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Fret Barber

Item # 4363
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Fret Barber

About This Item

"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. 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.


Trade Secrets!

Trade Secrets!

When frets don't fit the slot, resize the fret tang

This week, Dan Erlewine's pumping iron (nickel steel, actually!) He's showing how to bulk up your skinny fretwire and slim down your fat fretwire.


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.

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  • 4.50 average rating from 8 reviews
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Fine Quality Tool

(Customer's Reviews)

I passed on buying this tool for a while because of the price. I'm glad I finally pulled the trigger. It isn't cheap, but in terms of time saved and stress minimized, it paid for itself the first time I used it. After getting by with self-made jigs and modified files I found it to be simple to use and very effective.


Awseome product

(Customer's Reviews)

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...

(Customer's Reviews)

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.

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StewMac PDF Catalog, page 13 See Fret Barber
on page 13 of our StewMac Catalog PDF

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