Jump to content
Difficulty: Intermediate

Semi-hemi Fretwork

As the part of the instrument the player is in constant contact with, this method of preparing fretwork lends a touch of class and luxury to your custom build or refret work.

I'm impatient usually. A proper hemi-semi fretwork detailing takes 2-3 times as long as this method, but hey! Practice makes perfect, and if you are willing to spend that extra time then it's always worth it, and very satisfying 

So here's my hackjob tutorial. You will need:

  • Enough fretwire to do a fret
  • The correct profile crowning file for that fretwire
  • A small fine flat-faced file (no technical names here)
  • Abrasive foam pads (I use 180 grit and 240 grit)
  • Good lighting (and a white paper work surface)

Also useful:

  • Good lighting
  • Clean work area
  • Micromesh pads (grades up to 2400 preferably)
  • Fret tang nipper
  • Good lighting

First step is to identify the end of the fretwire. This can usually be found by following your wire until you find the end. You should have two. As you can see, this end is raw from having been snipped from the previous fret.

1.thumb.jpg.ad3e62746a90646bfced6acde5eb

 

If you're nipping your tangs back, now is the time to do so.

2.thumb.jpg.944c9750377d1adadde96706b6923.thumb.jpg.84cef8d99f74506dfcb9cd1b31c2

 

Use your flat file to finish the raw end of the fret, flat. Apologies for the poor picture. If this is the second end of the fret, then you really should be offering up the fret to the slot to make sure there isn't any overhang. Or you've cut it short perhaps, silly. That'll teach you to work from the highest (longest) frets down the fingerboard just in case.

4.thumb.jpg.9ac426e672420afe2978a2397eb0

 

Using the crowning file, run the wire down the teeth to create a semi-circular end profile. I hold the wire almost perpendicular to the file, and 45° to either the left or the right. This takes off the right angle from either side of the ends. You might think it's more logical to run it along the centre to create a fully rounded end in one pass, but this isn't so. The file is likely to go off-centre, and you'll end up installing this fret lower on the board after you've rectified the error!

5.thumb.jpg.b3f04d5f5bd1d80cbd0b19ccb2b16.thumb.jpg.f8bc05acb2ee6aa268501da7c50e

 

...and this is what you're aiming to create at this stage. A nicely rounded end profile. You can fine-tune this with the file using a rolling motion around the profile.

8.thumb.jpg.5663ad3a9decea9e4197f2cbcba0

 

The next step is to repeat the filing with the crowning file, but holding the fret at 45° between perpendicular and parallel to the crown of the fret. Rolling the wire cuts this round profile across the wire. I use one or two light strokes at a time constantly checking the progress. Repeating this at various angles between perpendicular and towards the crown creates a smooth hemispherical shape. The cut of the filing should be kept within the first 90° of the hemisphere you are working towards on the end. Where the "semi" profile cut in the previous step ends (full 180° arc) is the limit of where we're shaping.

9.thumb.jpg.04f88a82d6a5e8faff9230fd9b41

 

With a little practice (lop the end off, start again....cheap to practice!) you will end up with this. It really isn't difficult as long as you have an understanding of what you're trying to achieve, and the time to practice it. I got to this point of ability after doing something like ten fret ends of practice. The reflected light makes it look like there is a sharp corner....there isn't!

10.thumb.jpg.667fbc34b8a05807eb59c1ecb5d

 

I "prove" the shape by drawing the wire down an abrasive pad a couple of times. This smooths the fret end, and shows any inconsistencies in the shaping.

11.thumb.jpg.36ea219079f56d142162313a203

 

If the profile passes inspection at 180 grit, I polish the fret end up by drawing down a 240 grit pad a few times. Again, any inconsistencies should show. If they do then sort them out with the file or start again and put this fret elsewhere on the board!

12.thumb.jpg.4d06eb30191677b3e6d0f420bd5

 

13.thumb.jpg.6492922a165acbd28880e0490d8

Yoink.

It is worth noting that your pre-radiusing and bevelling of the fret slots will affect the look of hemisemi fretting A LOT. If your wire is heavily pre-radiused (12" pre going into a 20" board) then you'll find it horrendously difficult to gauge the final fret length before installation, as it'll widen as the wire's radius flattens out in the slot. If you didn't remember/know/care to bevel your slots and/or the wires radius wasn't small enough then the fret end won't sit flush with the edge of the fingerboard no matter how much you hammer it. I aim to have around 1mm-2mm grace in the centre of the fret above the slot when offering the wire up.

Hope this helps, and I'd love to see more people doing this. It's just patience, practice and making sure you have extra wire on hand. If you're unhappy with a particular fret, do another one! It's all good practice.

Cheers. :player

 

Oh yes - after installation, I polish up the frets with sanding pads of progressively finer grit up to a 2400 grit Micromesh pad and finally metal polish like Brasso.

This is what it being aimed for:

14.thumb.jpg.bbb98bf7c622ae5e646ba1190de

Also - if it helps - here is a graphical illustration of the steps of the filing process.

15.thumb.jpg.bf19701fce0a72d195eb3432bb9

 

Raw cut wire

r1.thumb.jpg.794a22cf98ac68ef2995619ba78

 

End profile

r2.thumb.jpg.6ae21e1c4e6cd01c810fcbcd130

 

45° bevel added

r3.thumb.jpg.98a248c03e62c27c96a4d6be330

 

Two more bevels added halfway

r4.thumb.jpg.67346ae00b148e4681e724ee96e

 

Polished and rounded

r5.thumb.jpg.872f9e8cce16740ff33ddf7babe


Creative Commons Licence

Semi-hemi Fretwork by Carl Maltby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

You are free to:

  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material

Under the following terms:

  • AttributionYou must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

  • NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

  • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

  • No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

  • Like 1
Report Tutorial


User Feedback


There are no comments to display.



Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×