StewMac Z-File Fret Crowning Files Video

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Z-Files won't mess up your carefully-leveled fret tops because they only touch the sides of the frets.

Video Transcription

( fast music playing )

[on-screen text reads: StewMac Z-Files for fret crowning. Erick Coleman Guitar Repairman]

Erick Coleman: The frets on this neck have just been leveled and they're nice and even with their neighbors all the way down the neck. That makes the tops flat and wide. What I need to do now is crown them.

Traditional fret crowning files

What crowning means is to take the flattened fret and rework it into a nice rounded shape, which is better for playability and intonation. The difficulty with traditional crowning files, like the 3-Corner or the Concave File, is they can be hard to control. See that thin line? That's the top that I do not want to touch. With the 3-corner file, it's really easy to slip and dig into the top of your freshly leveled fret. And with a concave file, it's difficult to see your work. So it's easy to just wipe off the top of the fret. What that'll do is cause buzzing in the area of where you made the mistake, and basically require you to re-level the entire fingerboard that you've just leveled, which is really a pain when you're halfway through the job and you make it happen and you've got to do a whole lot more work.

Now, that's not possible with the Z-File, because the top of the file never actually touches the top of the fret.

How the Z-File was created

A little background on the Z-File. Dan and I were talking one day about how there was a need for a new type of crowning file. We both liked the speed of the concave file and the accuracy of the 3-corner file, but those take too long to master their use. So we prototyped a few different models using traditional tooth files, and then we finally ended up on a diamond-coated file with a V-shaped groove in the top of the file that wouldn't be able to touch the top of the frets and ruin your level job. When it comes to hand tools, this is really the first significant update to fret crowning files in probably the last 50 years or so.

The different types of Z-Files

We have three different types of Z-Files available. The centered, the safe edge, and the original. All three have 300-grit diamond abrasive on them, and all three are really fast and accurate to use. All three of these have their benefits, but if you're only going to purchase a single file, let me help you decide which one to buy.

Centered Z-File

The first one is the Centered Z-File. If you're used to using traditional concave files, like the tooth and diamond files that we carry, this is the one for you. It's got symmetrical sides [on-screen text reads: Centered 300-grit diamond], so it cuts evenly on both sides of the fret. And it also fits all sizes of fret wire.

By marking the frets, that allows me to see exactly how much material I've removed. I want to leave a thin line right in the center, and that's my crown [on-screen text reads: Centered 300-grit diamond]. As the file removes material off of both sides of the fret evenly, you get your nice, thin line on the top of your fret very, very quickly.

Safe Edge Z-File

The Safe Edge File only has the abrasive on one edge [on-screen text reads: Safe edge is smooth]. The other one is totally clean. So it works a lot like a 3-corner file. The safe edge file only removes material from one side of the fret at a time. Flip it over, bring in the other side of the fret for a nice round crown.

Original Z-File

The Original Z-File is my personal favorite and it's the fastest of all three of them. It has an asymmetrical cutting surface [on-screen text reads: 300-grit on both edges] that removes two different angles off of the fret on one side. Flip it over to the opposing side. And you even it up for a perfectly rounded fret.

I've wanted an easier to use and more accurate fret crowning file for a long time now, and we put a lot of effort into research and development to get exactly that. Whether you're a seasoned pro or you're just getting started in fret work, I think the Z-File would be a great addition to any toolbox.



Erick Coleman

StewMac Senior Technical Advisor

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