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Stumac Fret Press Caul (arbor Press Model)


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Well last review for now.

A fret press caul. What would I do without it?


For anyone who does not know what this tool is it is used to press frets into the fret slots on the fingerboard. After using it for the first time I regret the many years of bashing in my frets with a hammer and gluing.

Now I am not going to get into fretting as it is lengthy and a very personal choice. This tool does not work in every situation and comes in several varieties.

My set is made for an arbor press but also works in a Drill Press.


The Good: This tool rocks!!! What can I say its well designed and does the job without complaint. This is one of only a few tools I would rescue from a fire if given the chance (maybe a stretch). Also works in a drill press, provided you didnt spend $59 for your drill press. You can buy parts separately or purchase all the parts as a set as I did. You will save a few bucks by only buying the Radius cauls you need. The cauls have a round recess so the fret wire seats in the center and will not slip off. It does not flatten the wire like hammering. Your results should look more professional from the first fret you seat.

The Bad: The arbor I got with mine could have been taller (most smart people by the arbor press elsewhere to save money). Some cauls I have not used yet. The length of the cauls may not fit a six string bass's upper frets (too short), but I have not tried this yet so maybe someone can add a comment to this theory.

If you look through this forum you can see several variations of this tool made by PG members. The body itself is not a hard tool to make and I believe with a Table saw and a piece of Aluminum you can recreate the body of this tool and adapt it to your needs. I have enclosed a few Pict's with a ruler to help you on your way. However the Cauls are hard to make and I would bite the bullet here and buy them.

As I am often confronted with building or buying a tool this tool is well within most budgets and should last a lifetime.

SM construction notes

The Cauls are 1/8 inch brass and the caul set crew is drilled at the same angle as the holders taper (see pictures). The rest is self explanatory except to mention it must pivot off the shaft or connection point, it cannot be fixed.



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You can also get a more complete set of the interchangeable brass cauls from John Watkins at CNC Guitar Parts, especially nice for fretting compound-radius boards.

Fret Press Inserts

Thanks. another link for my collection. Nice set but pricey. Do you know the length since its not listed?

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I made one of these because stewmac didn't have them in stock when I was buying stuff. All I needed was the insert a broken spade bit a nail and a block of maple. I use a router to rout a slot for the insert and I routed the other side for the spade bit and I put some cardboard shims in because it was too wide. The spade bit has a hole in it and I found a nail that would fit in it and drilled a hole for it to go through in the maple so there's enough room to pivot. It looks like crap but I've fretted 2 necks with it and am doing a 3rd tomorrow, it works great. So if anyone's trying to make one it doesn't have to be anything fancy at all.

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this is my favorite tool in my shop (minus my band saw) since when it comes to leveling frets im not the most skillful the consistancy that i get from this system (and a router sled to do my radius) allows me to do minimal leveling

i happened to get the arbor that stewmac sold, its good but the design could have been much better, since if your doing a set neck (or refretting a set or thruneck) you have no access to the upper frets. again this is remedied by using a drill press

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It's definitely good to mention as already stated you can buy the arbor press outside of Stewmac for cheap. I believe I got mine for under $30 at Harbor Freight and it's totally solid. The only adjust needed to make it work is to drill the post of the arbor press to accept the arbor from stewmac. The way the shank is designed on the stewmac arbor allows you to also drill a second hole to add a set screw to hold the arbor in place. It was a fairly painless process, just drilled out the metal post, which took a little bit of effort, then the set screw hole, tapped that and put it all together, works flawlessly and saved a good $90+ or something ridiculous especially when you add in shipping. Just make sure you have a decent drill press with a moveable and rotatable table so you can drill the arbor press' post to accept the arbor or take it to someone who can. Either way you'll save a good amount of money. Plus with a decent drill press you can use the tool on set necks and neck throughs as pointed out above, unless you fret first, then it doesn't matter.

PS: Good review and definitely a good tool to have.

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As far as creating a fret press body I would go with Aluminum. Its easy to cut on a table saw and if you use 1/8" blades as I do a single cut creates a perfect channel for the inserts. You should use a piece at least 6" long so you don't kill yourself, but you will have more than one body when your done. You can use wood or plastic but I think in the long term the pivot point will be an issue unless its reinforced with a wear sleeve or you use it only occasionally. The shaft can be made from any rod, SM's uses a 3/8" shaft and that is a good reference point for a sturdy shaft, also fits in most drill press chucks.

Here is another blog post from Setch and his hand fret press. This is an excellent homemade fret press, I believe he uses a soft nylon for the body, easy to cut on a table saw.

Setch's homemade fret press Blog, but he also has a post on the tool on PG in the tools section but with less detail. I have been thinking about this tool and got excited when I saw his version as I have everything I need to make a similar one.

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