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Fretting mysteries?


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I always read posts of people on this forum complaining how difficult it is to do a good fret job. I did not fret much necks, but I am interested in what the problem is. I think if you use a fret press or the "jaws" toold from stewmac, there is not much you can do wrong. Are these people talking bout hammering in frets, or do I just not realize how bad my fret jobs are?

Greets,

MK!

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Have you actually played on the neck yet? This is the the only test as to how good a job you did. Even fretwork which looks good can need vicious levelling to tame all the buzzes.

If you've played on it, and it looks good and plays nicely - Good work! The jaws tool is supposed to make the process infinietly easier, but it's still a big investment for many home builders...

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the leveling, etc. is another thing....I was just asking about putting the frets in....if the people talk about the difficulty of levelling, etc. then I completely understand that, but pressing the frets in with a jaws or a fret press seems no big deal to me and as long as the fingerboard is very level and cleanly radius one souldn't have to do that much leveling in the end anyway....

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although i check the depth of all my slots, i still end up with 1 or 2 high frets that always have to be leveled down, no biggy, i've got a couple of straightedges, the neck it's self is straight before leveing, i'm using the right size saw, and the depth for every slot is exactly the same... i just wish i knew where it was coming from, cause if i push any harder on those frets with my press they'll go right thru the neck lol...

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the leveling, etc. is another thing....I was just asking about putting the frets in....if the people talk about the difficulty of levelling, etc. then I completely understand that, but pressing the frets in with a jaws or a fret press seems no big deal to me and as long as the fingerboard is very level and cleanly radius one souldn't have to do that much leveling in the end anyway....

Ah, now it makes sense. You have to view the process as a whole - it isn't hard to put the frets in (provided your prep is good) but it *is* hard to put them in level and even. How well you perform the first step directly affects how hard the levelling and dressing will be, and even how long the fretjob will last. Much like anything else, it isn't the process that is hard, but achieving a good result. Any fool can fire a gun, but it takes skill and practice to hit a target.

Also, the difficulty of fretting can be affected by the materials you use. Ebony is less forgiving than Rosewood if you're slots are not perfectly sized. Jumbo frets are more troublesome if your slots aren't 100% prependicular to the surface of the board. It's good that you found the initial process easy, but don't count your chickens until you've actually got the guitar strung up and in your hot little hands :D

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so am i trying to use a rocket launcher when i should be using a revolver? (am i pressing the frets in TO hard?, anyone encounter what i'm talking about?)

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Krazy.. just curious.. Did you bevel the slots with a file before you pressed them in. I find that it makes all the difference in the world. The bottom of a fret where it lays on the fretboard isn't flat it's curved some. Just wondering.. I agree with Setch, it looks real easy until you string it up and play it. Then you find out how good you did. My first fretting job looked great, or at least till I tried it out and let me tell you.. I noticed real quick that fretting was something that I was gonna have to study more and that I was gonna need better tools. And yes pressing the frets in are alot better than hammering, and much more accurate. If you did a good job leveling the fretboard first, you'll have a much easier time leveling the frets after they are pressed in. Borrow your friends guitars and practice on them.. lol.. Then if you mess up you won't have too much to worry about.. :D LOL.. only slightly kidding..

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Are your slots *exactly* as deep as the fret tang? This could be your problem - I think it's easier to fill the end of a slightly over deep slot than to try and get 24 slots perfect accross their whole length. If you're having to press really hard something is wrong, and you risk 'sinking' the fret below the surface of the fretboard. Frenzy's bevelling recomendation is bang on too - really helps.

The only time I've had real trouble seating frets was on an ebony board where I cut the slots too narrow. The ebony doesn't compress at all to accomodate the barbs, and I'd already bound the board, to I ended up grinding the barbs off every fret, and gluing them. B):D

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yup, i round over the edges of the slots with a mini file, and the slots are just a tad deeper then the length of the tang so that i can get a medical sering in there to put super glue in the slot.... i was possitive every slot was clean to, but the only explination left is that there was something left in the slot..... unless you guys can think of something? cause it's always around the 8-12th fret wherethe high fret seems to be.... i'm really stumped

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When you say 8 - 12 do you mean all these frets, or always in this range? If they all appear high that sounds like backbow in the centre of the neck. This can be caused by over tight frets, or waterbased glue introducing bow when you glue on the fretboard. Some makers use epoxy to glue the board to avoid this issue. Do you adjust the neck to be dead flat before levelling the frets?

If you mean you usually get 1 or 2 high frets in this area, it's probably coincidence. Funnily enough I often get a slightly higher fret around the 12th... go figure :D

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Yeah sounds like the barbs are too big. What Setch is saying is a great way to do those frets. File down the barbs some or all and glue them in. That's much better than having a big backbow in the neck. Glad your beveling the tops of the slots, and cleaning the slots. I know that the Stew Mac fret slot cleaner cost quite a bit, but they do work great. BTW, what kinda fretboard is it rosewood or ebony? Also in what order did you fret the guitar?

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ya, just in that range/area it's usualy only 1 or 2 frets that are noticebly higher then the others, not a back bow from what i can tell

Um... if that's the case then it does sound like you didn't get the fret slots completely clean. I'd use a good Xacto #11 blade and go back over the slots again, and make sure I used a shop vac to get the slots completely clean of loose dust.

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Sometimes fretwire is inconsistent. If you're getting pre-cuts in a package it can be more obvious. If you use rolls or straight wire, just make sure you cut them "in order." But springy frets are common, too. You can press or hammer 'till you compress the wood but the barbs make a groove on the way down. So sometimes the fret just wants to sit a little higher. You might not be able to see it, but it's higher. So when you press it down it just bounces back up. You can check for a flush fit by trying to slide the edge of some tissue paper under the fret. But if that's the case, then when you glue them it you're locking them in high. That's fine by the way. So long as you level them down they won't go anywhere. If that's your problem reducing the barbs would worsen it. If I get that I'll hold the fret down with a tool I made as I slip the CA in there, spritz the accellerator, and wait for it to dry. The fret isn't so strong that it can't be held down with the CA forever. If you have good ears, you can hear a loose fret when you go over them with a file. Its a high pitched whistle. If it's loose enough you can feel it if you touch it while going against it with the file. I find loose frets when I'm roughing in the edge angle, not when I'm leveling the tops. If I can see that it's seated right but just loose I'll get CA in there without holding it down. Otherwise I'll hold it down.

The "fretting is so hard" mantra is valid, in that excellent fretwork is very difficult. Manipulating compression to repair warped or twisted necks, for example, is very serious business. "Regular" fretting or fretting a new board is much easier, and most of the difference between a "master fretter" and a hobbyist comes out in the levelling process, so it's no big deal. I still play my first refret guitar from over a decade ago, and since I had done a lot of fret dressing work before that, it wasn't really a big deal. It turned out fine, and has had only one level since. But I can see all sorts of things I'm embarassed about, mostly in the seating. Plus the tangs were a little thinner so the truss rod has to work too hard. All rookie mistakes, based on ignorance. "Had I known......"

It's like golf I imagine. The better you get, the more you realize you need to improve! I imagine most newbies will be proud of their fretwork.

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There are a few small details to consider in properly seating frets. I found I get the best results by prebending them a tad more than the fretboard radius. This seats the ends in and then a little tapping around the middle does the rest. I've never had to resort to glue of any kind. Also, you can't go wrong if you use a permanent marker on the tops of the frets before levelling and again before crowning. I also make sure the board is fairly straight by adjusting truss rod and checking with a long straightedge beforehand. If I wind up with a backbow because fret tangs too big or slots too small then the bi-flex truss rod will fix that. But it hasn't happened yet, :D .

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Does anyone nip the tang off at the ends before pressing them in? I ended up getting the stewmac nipper since I have some inlay that I need to work around and saw that the ad for it mentions someone stating that they always nip the ends of the frets. It supposedly keeps the remaining portion from warping when the ends are cut. I haven't tried it myself yet.

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You could, but if there's no binding I see little need. My Stew-mac nipper puts a little bend in the tang right where it cuts. Fine with binding but if you're trying to cut them "just right" then the ends will look strange. But from your post I think I'll try nipping them to within 1mm, so when I trim the fret ends I don't have to cut through both. But I like the look of a cleanly filed and polished tang. I don't like the look of wood filler in the slot with just the crown. Plus, I just set up an Ibanez with the prestige neck. They are "hiding" the tangs now. So on this one, the fret ends stuck out just a little because of shrinkage. Well, the underside of that crown was like a razor blade! With the tang there, it would've been worse in that the whole tang probably would've been sticking out. But at least it wouldn't cut you. Plus everybody wants their ends to stay down. I would think that nipping the tang early could foster loose ends. Although it's not an epidemic in guitars with binding so maybe I'm wrong.

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Most people nip some of the tang nowdays mainly because of the wood's tendancy to expand or shrink some with climate changes. So basically if you just fret without nipping some ends off, when the climate changes you could end up with some fret ends sticking out that will hurt you when your playing. I haven't bought any fret nippers yet, but I do plan to buy some.

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.... when the climate changes you could end up with some fret ends sticking out that will hurt you when your playing....

i knew i had done a better job on my strat neck then what i see now, some of the tangs are sticking out now, and i'm up in eastern canada, we get some pretty dramatic humidity changes here so that might explain the tangs that are now sticking out a bit since it's a pretty dry winter.

The recoil effect you guys are talking about sounds like the culprite, when glueing all the frets with a sering i held them down with pretty strong clamps so some of the high spots went away

And the marker trick rules!!!!!

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