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Fretting Tools

Jon Bell

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I'm preparing fret my first first fingerboard. I've got the board radiused, slotted and cut to the right size but I'm a bit unsure what tools I will needs for applying the frets.

The minimum required seems to be:

A small hammer: Could you use a regular hammer and protect the frets from damage by laying a piece of scrap wood over the frets and hitting that?

Fret cutter: I know there are special fret cutters but could you get away with normal wire cutters or will they not cut close enough? Is there a cheap, easily available tool that will do the job?

Fret files: Is there anything special about "fret files" or can you use normal files to finish the fret ends?

Oil stone: Can you use wet and dry paper or wire wool to level the frets instead?



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The hammer:

I have heard of people using a regular hammer but I use a plastic hammer (when not pressing them in) from Home Depot ($9.00).

Fret Cutter:

I have used the hardware store type and they do leave a bunch more metal as you mentioned. After battling through one neck, I decided to get the cutters that but closer to the end. I think you would be OK without them - as long as you are fine with the extra work to file the edges down.

Fret Files:

The only files that I have are for crowning. They are special and are expensive. I think you can get away with a normal file but you will have to be careful and will spend more time working on it.

Oil stone:

Don't have one. I used a precision straight edge with sand paper stuck to it. After that, sand paper on a stick for spot leveling.

If you don't mind the cost, the fret pressing cauls are really great. If not, practice hammering frets in, AND practice pulling them out (both on a scrap piece - preferably of the same type wood). I found that the practicing pulling them out helped me to understand exactly how big of a problem I have if I made a mistake - and developed a good technique just in case.

One more thing:

Examine the fret wire carefully before placing them in. I cut one and nicked it without noticing - then pressed it in nicely. Afterwards, I noticed the nick and had to pull it out. If I had paid more attention, the entire fretboard would have gone without any problems.

Good luck and have fun.

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I just thought of something else:

What are you going to use to pre-radius the fret wire? I think Brian has a tutorial on how to make a cheap tool for this. I blew my bank account buying stewmac tools on my first neck. I bought the fret wire radiusing tool for big $$. If I could go back, I would probably go with Brian's idea instead but I'm not dissapointed with the stewmac tool. It's very reliable and fast but probably not worth the money.

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hey fellas

i thank you both for asking and answering questions that i would have asked sometime in the future. :D



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