Fretting tools - stew mac vs etc

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by tdukes, Dec 29, 2017.


  1. tdukes

    tdukes Member

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    I was looking at getting set up to fret my first neck. Are the tools from stew mac significantly better than random tools I can find on Amazon or ebay. They are much cheaper?
     
  2. lespauled

    lespauled Member

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    What tools are you looking for? You can make your own tools.

    Use a dremel to cut the tang on the fret ends.
    Get a dead blow hammer to hammer the frets.
    Buy a cheap pair of cutters, and grind the end down to get closer cuts to the fretboard.
    Get a couple of straight edge rulers, and grind out notches for the frets to test the straightness of the neck.
    Get a few box levels, and put double stick tape and sandpaper for fret leveling.

    Many options out there.
     
  3. Jack Daniels

    Jack Daniels Supporting Member

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    Good/proper tools will last for a long time and make an task even easier than it is. Crappy/wrong tools make easy jobs more difficult. I buy mostly StewMac tools with few exceptions. I think all my fretting tools are Stew Mac.

    There are many cheaper tools on eBay that are just not that great. Especially fret dressing files. The cheaper diamond crowning files are junk that sell for $25-35 on eBay.

    If you want professional results, you need to use the right tools.
     
    KGWagner likes this.
  4. Khromo

    Khromo Supporting Member

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    Never try to save a few bucks on a tool that is used to cut.

    That includes files, and even sandpaper! It is almost always a false economy, and more importantly, it will usually show up in your finished product.

    StewMac's tools are priced in the same neighborhood as typical pro-level tools, with a premium attached for the specialty files and similar job-specific tools that are not available from most sources. Most of the whining I hear about StewMac's prices seems to come from folks with little or no familiarity with anything beyond Harbor Freight and the big-box home improvement stores. A lot of guys don't know much about long-life, pro quality tools, and know even less about specialty tools that are specifically tweaked for guitar work.

    Some tools are not guitar-specific, and those are a different story. Hammers, straightedges, even your leveling beam can be sourced elsewhere if you know what features you want and don't want. You may have to tweak them a little bit.
     
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  5. thunderbolt

    thunderbolt Supporting Member

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    Jaws fret press from Stewmac, for my setup, is an essential tool. I also got sanding beam, fret beveling blocks (both sizes), and crowning file from them. All the rest is either sourced somewhere else or modified tools.
     
  6. Guitarworks

    Guitarworks Member

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    Don't cheap out. When I attended Galloup School of Luthery, they had the best equipment available, and all we used was StewMac tools - they worked perfectly. It's most of what I have in my shop. They're meant for the job. The only time our instructors used something else, was when it was a tool they had to fabricate themselves (pro tip: always good to make friends with metalworkers:)) because it didn't exist and couldn't be found in the StewMac catalog. StewMac is not inexpensive stuff, but it is selected and designed by luthiers for luthiers, which the cheap knock-off copy stuff on ebay is not. You don't need to get your buffing arbor or your bandsaw from StewMac, and you can make your own jigs too, but any tool you need that is luthery-specific, I would stick with them.
     
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  7. tdukes

    tdukes Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I placed an order with stewmac for a fretting hammer, press caul, fret cutters, a six inch leveler, and a small fret dressing file.

    The z file looks interesting for crowning. Has anyone had good luck with them?
     
    Cal Webway likes this.
  8. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    Opinions vary on the "Z-file" design. I haven't bought any yet, so I can't say. But, I have bought StewMac's fret cutters before, and been sorry. For something designed to cut metal, they're pretty fragile. You probably won't make it though a full refret if you're using EVO or stainless wire. Not sure how long they'll last with nickel-silver wire, but I assume they do better or they wouldn't be able to sell them at all.

    For straight-up cutting, I'd strongly recommend these Knipex 71 12 200 cutters. They'll cut damn near anything, and just laugh at stainless steel. Even using your weak hand, you can single-handedly chop up a pound of stainless fretwire and they're none the worse for wear. For flush-cutting edges or tang nipping, you may want to review the offerings at Jescar from Summit Tools. They'll also handle stainless without issue, which means they'll last approximately forever if you're still doing nickel-silver frets. I'm not impressed with their straight cutters, though. They'll last for more than one fret job, but just barely, and at the price...
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
  9. Jack Daniels

    Jack Daniels Supporting Member

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    For stainless and EVO, I use something similar as KGW. But otherwise use Stew Mac or similar with a flush cut edge for nickel frets.
     
  10. Ayrton

    Ayrton Member

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    I have used the HD flush cutters from Fastcap on stainless for a couple years now. I did slightly chip the edge after the first 4-5 months and Fastcap replaced them no questions asked. Not a problem since.
     

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