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Jay5's $12 Fret Arbor


jay5

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In this instalment of Jay5"s "To Cheap to Buy the Real Thing" I will show you my fret arbor I built this afternoon. Again, the motivation being my lack of $$ and need for the tool. So here it goes;

1/8" X 1" X 36" aluminum $4.27

Stewmac 12" radius fret caul $4.29

3/8" X 36" aluminum roundstock $2.49

3 #6 X 3/4" machine screws and nuts $.85

*I bought a tap and set screw with the intent of having a way to lock the caul in but it proved not to be needed.

My goal was to build this with the least amount of cutting and filing as possible as my tool inventory is not huge. I used a hacksaw, a mill file and a drill press.

Here is a finished picture with the roundstock installed. I dont know if you can see but I filed 2 opposite sides flat. This allowed me a flat surface to drill through and made it sit a bit better inside the cut out area. I took about 1/16" off either side so I shimmed it back to 3/8" with 2 small washers.

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This shows the 5 pieces of aluminum that will sandwich together to form the body.

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This shows the 3 inner pieces that have been notched out to make room for the 3/8" roundbar for the drill press to hold onto. The notches are a bit rough as I dont have a dremel and did everything with a file but it really shouldnt matter as long as youre close.

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This pic shows the backside. I could honestly do without the nuts on the back, I think it looks a little sloppy but it works. You could tap the back 1/8" piece and thread the screws right into it for a cleaner look if you want but this worked ok for me.

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This is a crappy side view but it shows the little channel that holds the brass caul. Like I said, I was going to use a set screw to hold the caul in but the two screws that hold the 5 pieces together create plenty of pressure to hold it in.

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Here you can see how I countersunk the 2 holes. I will do the same for the hole where the roundstock will mount.

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Finally, this is a top view that shows the empty space created by the three notched pieces that will accept the 3/8" roundstock. As you can see, things are a bit rough in there but if you have a dremel or a grinder you could really clean things up nice. I wish it looked a bit better. I will definately spruce it up a bit when I get a dremel.

100_0183.jpg

I will make up a little blueprint tomorrow that will show the measurements and such. Hope someone can use this!

Josh

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You can make all your pics visible if you want, since this is a tutorial

That's right! actually both threads you started should have been in the tutorials section. I wouldn't mind if you made that pic visible (on the other thread) where you see all the components next to each other in the order they go. I tried downloading it from photobucket to put in my saved threads folder on my PC but it didn't work. I think Photobuckets wants money for it :D

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Thats cool man! Alot of things stewmac has can be made quite easily by the budget minded luthier. B) If you check at like harbor frieght or some other discount tool places, you can find the little press that stewmac sells for about $30.

Here's a link for anyone interested

small press

I think stewmac wants about $90 just for the press. The press on the stewmac site looks about identical to the harbor freight one. :D

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Hey thanks guys, Im glad I could help! When I get a second I will edit the threads to show all the pics. I planned on using the drill press for now but one of those presses would be nice. I wonder if it would need to be modified to accept somthing like the arbor? I'll check it out, there is a H.F. in my area. Thanks again!

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One of the main reasons I have been keeping away from making my own necks was the cost of the tools for pressing in frets. I have all the tools I need to make one of those so I most certainly will be building one!

BTW, you could use steel round stock if you had to, right? Although I would be a little scared it'd damage the caul and the aluminum possibly.

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Kyle, steel would work. I choose aluminum because its softer and easier to drill. I only had a hack saw and a mill file to cut and shape with so I figured aluminum was the way to go. Plus, I wouldnt have to worry about it rusting.

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Thats cool man!  Alot of things stewmac has can be made quite easily by the budget minded luthier. B)  If you check at like harbor frieght or some other discount tool places, you can find the little press that stewmac sells for about $30.

Here's a link for anyone interested

small press

I think stewmac wants about $90 just for the press.  The press on the stewmac site looks about identical to the harbor freight one. :D

Here's another press from Northern.

Has anyone tried to fret the fretboard before they attached it to the neck? I have a book on building acoustic guitars and that how they show it being done. This way you can press the frets with a bench vise. Comments!

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Hitone, I think fretting with a vice might be somewhat difficult. You would have to make a caul of somesort and attach it to the vice. It also seems like it would be pretty awkward. You would also need to temporarily fasten the fretboard to somthing to keep it from snapping.

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Yes, the HF one needs to be mod to accept the round stock.  Stews already have a hole set up to accept the arbor.  iwill like to say that it can be drilled but its hardened steel!

They both look the same as mine which wasn't hardened steel and drilled out fine with normal drill bits.

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They both look the same as mine which wasn't hardened steel and drilled out fine with normal drill bits.

That's what I thought. I think they leave them soft just so you can modify to fit your needs. Even plain old soft cold rolled steel would easily hold up to the small amount of pressure that press can create.

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The arbor press I bought was from Harbor Freight, but I got the 1 ton press. I took it to a machine shop who charged me very little to bore a perfect 3/8" hole into the ram, so that it will accept the Stew Mac Fret Caul system. The reason I did that was so that it was precise and I didn't have alot of metal working tools. Also, I got him to thread a place for a set screw on the side of it, and install a set screw so that I can use a small allen wrench to tighten the Fret Arbor Set with caul in place. Didn't take him very long and I've been using it every since.

Strat_frettingtools.jpg

The Fret Pressing Arbor set will cost you 46.25, but you get four radius cauls with it, so I just bought it instead of making something. But I like the plans.

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Has anyone tried to fret the fretboard before they attached it to the neck? I have a book on building acoustic guitars and that how they show it being done. This way you can press the frets with a bench vise. Comments!

OUCH a bench vise? there is no radius in a vise :D and I'd hate to have to line up the caul every time.

You can fret before putting the board on, but you'll almost always need to level them as the fretboard will bow and you never really know how seated they are. You'll still need to dress all the ends as well because you'll probably have to still fit the fretboard to the neck and sand it.

Anyway, one thing people are overlooking with the stewmac arbor press, is the base is longer than the average arbor presses, this means when doing a neck, the entire neck caul sits on the base, it doesn't hang off the front edge. I bought a regular arbor press myself and kind of wish I'd just bought the stew mac one because the base on mine didn't go under the full depth of the neck caul.

I know Stew Mac seems expensive, but keep in mind, a lot of (or most) of what they sell is specific to a certain job, yes you can mickey mouse other things to work, but it's usually not worth it.

I really respect these how too's on making these tools yourself, I think they're great, and for the DIY'er when you're doing it for enjoyment it's cool, if I had the time I'd probably do some of the same things, but even in my free time, I'd personally rather just buy the tool than take a couple hours to build it, my free time is very limited.

However, one very important thing I'd like to point out with making these home-made tools is, although they may not work the first try, or they might not last as long, you're learning other skills working with different materials, so I think it's helpful no matter what. Anytime you build something with your hands, you're learning more skills than you might think, good on ya!

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Anyway, one thing people are overlooking with the stewmac arbor press, is the base is longer than the average arbor presses, this means when doing a neck, the entire neck caul sits on the base, it doesn't hang off the front edge.  I bought a regular arbor press myself and kind of wish I'd just bought the stew mac one because the base on mine didn't go under the full depth of the neck caul.

Hum.. Mine fits great underneath the neck caul, did you get the bigger 1 ton press? Just curious because that's the first time I've heard about that issue. Did you get yours from Harbor Freight? I'm just genuinely curious as to why yours didn't completely go under, you did take the base spindle off didn't you?

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Anyway, one thing people are overlooking with the stewmac arbor press, is the base is longer than the average arbor presses, this means when doing a neck, the entire neck caul sits on the base, it doesn't hang off the front edge.  I bought a regular arbor press myself and kind of wish I'd just bought the stew mac one because the base on mine didn't go under the full depth of the neck caul.

Hum.. Mine fits great underneath the neck caul, did you get the bigger 1 ton press? Just curious because that's the first time I've heard about that issue. Did you get yours from Harbor Freight? I'm just genuinely curious as to why yours didn't completely go under, you did take the base spindle off didn't you?

Actually mine is a one and a half ton, and yup, I took the spindle off of it, most of the arbor presses I've seen are the way of mine, meh, who knows :D

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If you but the 29.99 press, they wont fit with the Stewmac Arborers?

Not sure, simply because I was advised to buy the 1 ton press they sell instead of the 1/2 ton, and that might be the reason for that advice. LGM did make a good point, if the base isn't wide enough to hold the neck caul under the neck without tipping some, then I can see how you would have some problems with the setup. I just now compared them, and the base on each of them are different.

1 Ton Press

base dimension: 5" x 11"

1/2 Ton Press

base dimension: 4" x 9-1/2"

I can see how that might be a problem if the Arbor Press System that Stew Mac sells, hangs over the edge of the base some when installed. If mine did that I would just mount a wooden base to make it real big so that it wouldn't happen. Actually I want to build a neck template holder that will hold my neck perfectly level and so I can slide it under the fret press with ease. I've seen some guitar builders who have a setup like this since they build the same necks all the time.

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