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Fretting - Press/hammer Vs Overslotted & Glued


demonx
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I was having a discussion the other day with a real luthier and one of the subjects we touched on was different companies methods of fretting.

One that surprised me, but kind of makes sense is "Maton guitars", apparently they do not press or hammer their frets. I'd never heard of this before!

I was told that they cut over wide slots so the frets sit in there and then are glued. What type of glue I dont know, but apparently they have great success with this method. It seats perfect every time, cuts down on labor etc etc.

I did a couple trial frets using simply PVA however I reckon in reality it'd have to be some sort of epoxy glue or similar. They are clamped as I type and I won't know the results for quite some time. I can tell you it seemed "too easy". After I bent the fret, they just sat in the slot perfect. Even unglued they seemed to seat in the perfect position. So I glued and clamped.

I was wondering what opinions other had on this method, if anyone has tried it or has knowledge of other companies doing this.

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Interesting idea. Not sure I'd agree that Maton overslot and glue, the frets on my EMC525 definitely look like they've been seated using more traditional methods - I can see a couple of spots on the edge of the fretboard where the fret barb has visibly "bitten" into the timber.

Curious to see how your experiment turns out.

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Parker is even MORE cheap lol. They dont slot at all, they just glue the frets directly on the board!

edit : that said, Id love to know what kind of glue they use lol

I feel sorry for that guy who does the refret. I cant imagine how someone could glue the frets on accurately enough. must be real messy too..

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I knew a guy here in Ireland that did that. He used to use a slightly over sized slot. The frets were tapped in on one side of the board initialy, just to position them. Then a long press pushed down the whole lot. one side of the neck was then taped up & a realy thin epoxy injected with a syringe into the open side. then left on its side over night & finished up the next day.

All together the process for getting the frets in took less than 10 mins, including taping & gluing.

With the glue, you would need to heat the frets to get them back out. But if no glue was applied you could prize thm back out with your fingers.

That was a good 10-12 years ago. He left to work with an Asian manufacturer. Last I heard he was building for a whole bunch of brands out of the same facility.

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Let me preface by saying I've never done the glue the frets in thing. However, in some respects, I think that a more "traditional" is easier: you don't have to worry about glue mess, refrets are easier, you don't have to be as careful with how much you over radius the wire (I know you can with the oversized slots, but then you have to have good clamping pressure all along the fret). Are there advantages to the oversized slots? I think so, I just don't think that they are enough (for me) to outweigh the method I currently use in my situation and how I build guitars. Others will want to and will have great success, and that's great. As far as glue, I have heard of some using CA. Depending on how oversized the slots are, you may need a thicker viscosity.

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I know Dan Erlwine touches on this method in his fretting book. There is the whole tone voodoo of gluing the frets in, but I won't go into that. There are a lot of advantages to gluing the frets in, and it is not necessarily a bad way to do it. I've seen of people that use this method only and they will put glue into each slot and then place the fret and use a long radiused caul to clamp all of the frets at one time. Definitely faster than hammering and pressing. For a refret the repairmen should be heating the fret anyway to lessen chipping when he pulls the frets out. This method is really handy if fretting a large inlay, no chance of chipping the inlay while pressing the fret. You also eliminate the chance of adding a backbow to the neck from the accumulated pressure of the frets, so you have a flat board after fretting. From what I've seen hide glue, super glue, and PVA all seem to be common glues.

The downsides I see are that you have to be a lot more careful of you radius in the fret wire and that the slots are not too far oversized. If too large your fret could be out of position.

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For the record, always glue and hammer my frets.

I have the stewmac cauls and I HAD a press but it only got used once and I went back to hammering. I still use the cauls as radius guages

I just thought I'd mention this over slotting technique as it seemed way different than the norm.

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Practicality all the way. I would hate to have to try and refret a guitar I epoxied frets into twenty years down the line when the frets are shot. For one, it would be an instrument I built twenty years ago and it would break my heart putting myself into that risky situation. Even if the frets came out of the epoxy, cleaning it up to get new wire in there reliably also presents issues.

If you can't see what it is fixing or improving, then more than likely it is doing neither. As for the "tonal" difference....refret a guitar and just epoxy ONE fret and then ask somebody to figure out which one it is. I bet that would be amusing. Cue egg on face. :D

Edited by Prostheta
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Instead of oversizing the fret slots, how about compressing the frets themselves? Would that work?

Stewmac sells a tool which allows you to narrow the fret tang width. You could then just glue the frets into the regularly sized slots with ca glue. Might be easier than messing around with oversized slots and potentially getting the placement wrong.

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For me, gluing frets has up to now only been used for tricky repairs/refrets, ie not over sizing the fret slots on purpose, rahter using glue to hold frets in already over sized slots. My main reason is that I have never had any issues with the traditional way of doing things and thus "if it isn't broken, dont fix it". However I have recently ordered Papeter Stone to try out as an ebony substitute (inspired by Scott French Eco guitar) and that material might need a different fretting method. For new materials and methods I think gluing is a valid alternative. But for plain ole' wood... the traditional ways have always worked for me.

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IMO, if you are cutting the right slot for the tang there is no need for glue. That is why frets are built that way ie. with a barbed edge to hold them into the wood. Back in the 1800's many guitars and banjos had glued-in frets. The frets were just square rods resting in a shallow slot. They built the modern fret to get away from that because they kept falling out! And now you guys wanna slap the glue back in there! :D

Edited by Southpa
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Well look,we all know that frets tend to pop up a hair here and there over time if you don't glue the ends,so all this talk of "doing it right" seems disingenuous because IMO "the right way" is to glue the ends after install.

I would not glue the entire thing though..

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