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Woodenspoke

Fret Press Conversion

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Woodenspoke    2

I recently posted info about the various clamps used in making a hand Fret Press. The two style of clamps used are the standard Vice Grip or Mole-grip style C clamp; or welding clamp; and the Facom 506. The Facom 506 in the USA is a hard to find tool. If you happen to be in Europe where it is manufactured (made in France) you should be able to get one easily and for less money.

You can see the differences in this picture.

IMG_0655.jpg

For this conversion I decided to go with a Facom 506. Why use a more expensive pair of pliers you may wonder. First I was able to find a pair on ebay for a reasonable price and I don't have to modify these pliers to make the conversion. I can use the production Fret Press "Jaws" made by Stumac to guide me through the process. If I follow their design I should have a working Fret Press as soon as I am finished. Yes it will cost me about $30(US) more to use these pliers over a Vice or Mole-Grip, but I will still save approx $130 (US) over the original. I expect to spend less time on the conversion or less time reinventing the wheel.

You can also use the Facom 501 pliers (same pliers but without the swivel pad) however you will have to change the Lower jaw shape using a grinder then drill a hole for the pin. If you have these pliers look at the picture below to see what you have to change.

PART 1 : Disassembly (plans are in part 5 of my thread)

Step one disassembly. Using a drill bit, hand drill and a several narrow pin punches I was able to remove the upper jaw and the swivel jaw. The Pliers are now ready to convert into a Fret Press. How simple.

IMG_0668.jpg

The 506 is shown upside down for this picture so the upper jaw is on the bottom. If you look at the StuMac "Jaws" this is the direction we will make our conversion. If you think about it you will be pushing down on the pliers and seating your fret just like you would with an arbor or drill press. Makes sense, but seems weird if you have ever used a pair of locking pliers. The tension/pressure screw is the barrel on the handle. Works just like most locking pliers external screw.

To remove the pins I drilled out one side of each of the two solid pins until I was close to the shaft. This means there was still a small thin ring of metal around the flared pin. I then use a narrow punch to hammer out the pins. The small roll pin did not need to be drilled. The tension washer was from the swivel pad. Not sure if I will reuse it but I have the loose parts in a plastic bag if I do need anything.

The two solid pins will be replaced with roll pins for this conversion plus one additional roll pin for the lower support block. I will also need a small piece of 3/4 x 1 " x 2 3/4" aluminum rectangle for the Press arbor, and a 3/8 x 1" x 4 1/2" aluminum rectangle for the lower support rail. These will be a readly available T6061 grade aluminum. The original uses a Brass lower rail but after doing some research on material hardness I saw no reason to use the more expensive brass rail. The lower jaw block will be made of wood as I couldn't think of any other material that would be as easy to shape and not add to the overall cost. I will assume every one has enough material to make a hardwood block 1 1/4" wide 3" long and 1 3/8" tall (slightly over sized).

Since we will be using woodworking power tools I suggest you have at least 1/2 ft of length of both of the aluminum rectangles so you don't kill yourself trying to feed such small pieces through a machine by hand. I will be using a 1ft length of each for my own safety.

I will use a table saw, dill press (hand drill) and a router table to make the parts as most members have access to these tools. A band saw can also cut aluminum easily. If you don't have a good router you can use a hand drill and a file to make some of the parts.

More to follow

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Woodenspoke    2

Part 2: Bottom Rail

Using the 3/8 x 1" stock I measured out two pieces on a 1 ft length of stock. If I mess one up I still have another. Each piece will be 3/8 x 4 3/4 x 3/4" when finished. I started with a 1" piece rather than a 3/4" piece as I felt more comfortable cutting off 1/4 of an inch rather than running a smaller piece through the router. The 3/8 aluminum width is a perfect fit for the pliers.

Note: after looking at the original I realized the bottom rail gets it strength from the lower portion under the slot. So making the slot as close to the top of the rail is the best solution. The block will ride against the top of the rail but the lower rail will take the force when pressure is applied. The pin and slot does nothing but hold the block to the rail.

Ok we mark out our 4 3/4" pieces. Measure down 1/4" and 1/4" from the front edge of the rail and drill a 1/4" hole. Then measure 2 1/2" from the front and also 1/4" down and drill another 1/4" hole. You should now have two holes 2 1/4" apart (outside dimensions) with a 1/8" edge above. Set up your router table with a 1/4" router bit and make sure you sand or file off any rough edges as you work.

Routing or drilling. You can drill out the space between the two holes and file. Much safer especially if you don't have lots of time on a router table. On the router table try and take at least 4 passes to cut between the two holes. This is a blind drop in operation and your holes are your stop guides. You can also make a jig and use the plunge feature of your router and you would not have to drill any outside holes. More work and I am lazy.

I set my router bit 1/16" deep and routed one side, I then flipped the piece over and cut again, so one setting cuts twice as deep. Always feed from right to left for safety. In order to keep the router bit clean of aluminum slag spray some WD40 or similar lube on the bit for the first pass. Then spray the slot on subsequent passes as it is cleaner. You should check the bit for aluminum slag every run and clean as necessary or it will be hard to plunge the bit.

After routing the slot, cutting to length and in my case removing 1/4". Its time to file the slot and sand the rail to make it pretty. I used a belt sander but a block of 120 grit paper will work to give it that brushed aluminum look.

Finished rail

IMG_0671.jpg

You can see my slot is a bit rough so I need to spend some more time filing. I think this step should be minimized in the process because as long as the pin you selected to hold the block in this slot moves freely thats all that matters.

I wish I had more pictures but I had a camera malfunction, Ugh.

Now the rail is not finished as the pliers have a curve on them where the rail is attached and this profile has to be filed into the rear of the rail, or ground or sanded. Then we have the two pin holes to drill but we will use the existing holes in the pliers to mark these once its fitted.

Next filling and setting the rail at the proper angle.

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Woodenspoke    2

Part 3: Fitting the Rail to the Tool

Well now the fun begins. If you look at my pictures below you can see that we need to get the rail at a 90 deg angle to the inside of the pliers. Since the pliers are curved you have to remove a bit of material. I rounded off the edges where the rail meets the pliers but I will assume if you remove enough material at the rear you can skip this step.

Just to let you know I am winging this. I do not have the Jaws fret press. I am using several pictures from the Stumac web site and a few I found online showing its use. These dimension are my own taken from these pictures. I will say they should be a very good guesstimate. But as you know I am sure they did a few things that I have not or removed less material to make the fit. So use this guide as one way to make your own, since its not an exact copy.

OK take a file or belt sander or grinder and start fitting. This is the profile you should end up with. It at least the one that worked for me.

IMG_0672.jpg

This is the rail inserted into the pliers

IMG_0675.jpg

Checking the angle it should be very close to 90 Deg.

IMG_0676.jpg

Now I will mark out the holes and drill for a set of pins. I will not show this step since you should be able to drill holes. The pins you choose have to fit tight against the pliers they cannot be loose.

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Just to let you know I am winging this. I do not have the Jaws fret press. I am using several pictures from the Stumac web site and a few I found online showing its use. These dimension are my own taken from these pictures.

Well, you could check out StewMac Trade Secrets volume 15, 6th page. Could save you some guesswork :D

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Woodenspoke    2
Well, you could check out StewMac Trade Secrets volume 15, 6th page. Could save you some guesswork :D

That means I would have to buy something else. Besides I think I am doing OK so far. :D

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Woodenspoke    2

Part 4: Making the Arbor

I am going to make this discussion of the process short. For the arbor you can use other materials. Possibly even a very hard wood. Keep in mind the distance from the rail to the insert. I will stick to aluminum since I have no issues machining it.

The almost completed Fret Press. Looks larger than the Stumac arbor but its not. Adding the larger taper on the top of the arbor will make it swing easier. See the original. So far I see no problem with my design (this was a problem see part 5).

IMG_0694.jpg

Using a triple chip Blade on my table saw I was able to form a length of 1" x 3/4" aluminum into a fret press arbor. 1" is the height. This is wider than the original arbor but that was steel and this is aluminum.

IMG_0679.jpg

Fitting the Stumac Insert into the first cut. Center your blade and make a pass. If you have a 1/8" blade this should be a single pass 1/4" deep. The inset should just clear the arbor by 1/8". This slot should not be loose, if the insert flops around it's to loose.

IMG_0687.jpg

To cut the opening for the pliers (opposite side) try and keep the opening slightly larger than the width of the pliers. I set the blade 1/2" deep and made teo passes flipping the arbor material around on the second pass. This keeps the slot centered. Then I remove the material in the center using the same method. The sides were about 3/16" thick when I was finished, this is where the arbor is attached to the pliers. I added a 15 degee angled cut to make the press look pretty but it's not required. If you do use the fret press clamped in posistion this 15 degee angle gives you extra room to work glue under the fret..

A little sanding a few holes and the hard part is over.

IMG_0690.jpg

One note is that I did not have to reuse the washer from the Pliers, you cam but for me it didnt seem to matter. The arbor has to swing freely and you need to pick a pin slightly smaller than the hole on the pliers used for the pad.

Next the wood block.

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Prostheta    1,257

Reinventing the hammer :-D

I've found the Facom 506 pliers at £53 here in the UK - what sources did you find yourself? I might do this myself....

Topic pinned.

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Woodenspoke    2
Reinventing the hammer :-D

I've found the Facom 506 pliers at £53 here in the UK - what sources did you find yourself? I might do this myself....

Topic pinned.

Picked up a set of 3 on ebay. Spent about $48 US for each (including shipping). One was a 501 which I am also converting, A bit more work to grind off the tip and drill a hole but it's worth more to me as a fret press. I still think I got a good price over all.

This link may be a better source in the UK since this is where I found my first Facom listing, £46 for the 506 and the 501 is £30. Some banner about a Facom sale going on as well.

Prime tools UK link

Hope this helps

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Woodenspoke    2

Part 4: Support Block

Really the last part but I will post some plans next time.

Well back to wood. I used a hard maple for the support block because thats what scrap I had laying around that wasn't going into a guitar.

First we need to cut the channel in the bottom of the block which slides along the rail. Again you need this channel snug but not tight or the support block will flop around. remember we are fitting it over a 3/8" rail.

Once you have the channel cut your piece should look like this. Now I always use more than I need because if I make a mistake I have wood precut. In fact I make several extra and choose the best one.

IMG_0703.jpg

Then once I finish the channel I cut out the curve for the support. Actually a spray paint can was the perfect size for the curve. I am sure most people have at least one spray paint can handy. I also used the edge of my 6 X 48 belt sander to get a perfect curve. However this is a bit larger than my drawing and the paint can, but only a little so I went for it. the bottom cut away is necessary as the block must slide over the pliers. I assume the extra 3/8" nib is for additional support.

IMG_0708.jpg

OK looking close to the original. Here is a shot with all the pieces together.

IMG_0710.jpg

Now I have to put some finish on the block attach it to the rail and add some felt or cork to the face to protect the neck of the guitar.

Next full plans and the completed fret press.

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Prostheta    1,257
Picked up a set of 3 on ebay. Spent about $48 US for each (including shipping). One was a 501 which I am also converting, A bit more work to grind off the tip and drill a hole but it's worth more to me as a fret press. I still think I got a good price over all.

This link may be a better source in the UK since this is where I found my first Facom listing, £46 for the 506 and the 501 is £30. Some banner about a Facom sale going on as well.

Prime tools UK link

Hope this helps

It does indeed - thanks! Shame their site doesn't allow direct linking to products very well. Stock code is XF506, £43.56 (£50.09 inc. VAT@15%). I'll pick this one up once I find another job, what with having been made redundant in Jan :-\ Yeesh.

Nice tidy work on this tool conversion - do you plan to convert all three of the set so you can leave frets clamped under pressure whilst any glues dry?

Talking of cork padding, I got a bunch of 10 cork tiles for less than £5 from a B&Q sale which have proven to be most useful as caul pads and assembly mats. Flooring retailers might be willing to give the odd one away as a "sample" although it's less likely than with carpeting as nobody colour-matches cork tiles to their decor :-D

Obviously this info is for general consumption as i'm sure you've already got caul pad material lined up, WS!

Edited by Prostheta

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Woodenspoke    2
Picked up a set of 3 on ebay. Spent about $48 US for each (including shipping). One was a 501 which I am also converting, A bit more work to grind off the tip and drill a hole but it's worth more to me as a fret press. I still think I got a good price over all.

This link may be a better source in the UK since this is where I found my first Facom listing, £46 for the 506 and the 501 is £30. Some banner about a Facom sale going on as well.

Prime tools UK link

Hope this helps

It does indeed - thanks! Shame their site doesn't allow direct linking to products very well. Stock code is XF506, £43.56 (£50.09 inc. VAT@15%). I'll pick this one up once I find another job, what with having been made redundant in Jan :-\ Yeesh.

Nice tidy work on this tool conversion - do you plan to convert all three of the set so you can leave frets clamped under pressure whilst any glues dry?

Talking of cork padding, I got a bunch of 10 cork tiles for less than £5 from a B&Q sale which have proven to be most useful as caul pads and assembly mats. Flooring retailers might be willing to give the odd one away as a "sample" although it's less likely than with carpeting as nobody colour-matches cork tiles to their decor :-D

Obviously this info is for general consumption as i'm sure you've already got caul pad material lined up, WS!

I am converting all three and keeping two. One is going to a friend in the states. Lots of people press in the fret edges with an over radiused caul first, then use a caul the of correct radius to finish off the procedure. Kind of pushes the end barbs sideways to keep the edges down. Now I will be able to have two cauls ready at all times. At least where I can use the tool.

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Woodenspoke    2

Part 5: Finishing Up

Lets first start with an easy change. I angled the arbor as the pliers lip was too close for my comfort. Probably the reason the original was angled.

Before picture showing lip close to arbor.

IMG_06942.jpg

Ok here is the finished fret press. With the change to the arbor shown. Also in hindsight the slot in the rail could be shorter, but again it is not a big deal just more work. I didnt change the plans and shorthen the slot, I will leave that up to you if you want to change it or not.

IMG_0720.jpg

I didnt press in any frets but it did feel comfortable and I had plenty of pressure. Locks in tight if you are gluing. After using the arbor press for many years this should work fine. The thick cork I added felt a bit spongy, I used a thick piece only to make up for some of the additional material I removed when i belt sanded the curve. It fits well into the neck curve on the upper frets of the fretboard. I will have to press in a few frets before I say the thicker cork is working. I can sand it thinner or remove it and buy some furniture grade felt pads that go on the bottom of tables and chairs, it's thick and has a peel and stick backing.

IMG_0712.jpg

IMG_0728.jpg

OK here are my plans. I did not draw out the arbor. Use the dimensions given and work from that. It would help to have the radius inserts handy so you know what length to make the arbor. If you are totally confused I have close up pictures of several arbors in another post next to a ruler.

FretPressDrawings.jpg

Well good luck on your conversion.

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Woodenspoke    2

Oh yeah.

Easier to build three than one. The center one is a 501, grinded and drilled.

IMG_0733.jpg

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juze    0

WOAH! Those are some nice presses :D. I want one too! BUT since I'm not a guitar-builder, it would be mostly waste-of-money to me. :D

-Juze aka Ghroath

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Woodenspoke    2

Soap was nice enough to send me some pictures he had from some old StuMac catalog Trade Secret section. These seem to be a prototype designs freely provided by StuMacs long before the Jaws were a product.

Thanks to Soap for his contribution.

vol-15-5.jpg

vol-15-6.jpg

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