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Home : Tools : Special tools for Fretting : Fret Barber

Fret Barber

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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.

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Fret Barber

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Item# Description In stock Price Quantity
4363 Fret Barber Yes

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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.
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 Ratings and reviews
Fret Barber
Fret Barber
5 out of 5 stars
Based on 5 ratings Write a Review
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Displaying 1 – 5
5 1-29-2014

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!

JLondon  Owensboro, KY Read my reviews (13)
5 11-24-2013
Fantastic tool!

Recently, I was working on a 1939 Martin D-28. I had to reset the neck and completely refret the fingerboard. Due to the non adjustable T-bar neck reinforcement, the fret tang size was crucial to getting the right amount of compression so that, under tension at full pitch, the neck relief would be about .004". Rather than taking the time to source the perfect fret wire for the job, I purchased the Fret Barber. What an amazingly simple to use, well designed tool! No more hunting for sources for fret wire, no more fixing chips in ancient ebony fingerboards while re-sizing the slots! I can't believe I waited so long to get this tool! This tool will make you a better guitar tech and save you a lot of time, (making you more profitable!) which there is never enough of! A must-have tool in any guitar shop...

Jim Merrill Jr.  Va Read my reviews (5)
5 1-19-2012
It really works

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.

jacksdm  Nashville Read my reviews (2)
5 11-16-2011
Absolutely brilliant!

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!

Claus Løber  Denmark Read my reviews (2)
4 4-19-2011
not too simple but helpful

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.

MoorMusic  Switzerland Read my reviews (44)
Displaying 1 – 5 /\ Top of Reviews

Shown on page 7 of our latest catalog.
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