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how do you install your frets? tap? press? glue?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by wilser, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. Hi,
    I use the hammer in method and was inclined to experiment with the other methods used. I'm particularly intrigued by the oversized slot and fret held by epoxy. Anybody use this method or care to comment on their own?
  2. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I know that Dingwall uses an epoxy.

    I've only fretted one instrument and I cut the slot depth very close to exactly the correct depth (a tiny amount over). I tapped the frets in and then put a squirt of CA under each fret. I guess the depth must have been really good as the CA made all the way under the fret and came out the other side a little.

    My bass has a flat fretboard, so this wasn't an issue, but I'm curious about people pre-curving the frets to match the board. I've seen tools to do this, but I'm wondering if there are any good hack methods.
  3. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    I just use my thumbs (Ouch!) and give the wire slightly more curve than the board, so that the ends of the tang dig into the slot first. I pound 'em in with a hammer a la Hiscock; working in from the ends.
  4. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    I've epoxied a couple of fret jobs but not in an oversized slot. I don't do it anymore. Too much of a mess. I press them in now, hammer the ends down a little if they need it and use the CA glue tips from Stew-mac to feed CA glue into the ends of the fret slots if there's any slot that's visible before I trim the ends flush. I like the press method. It seems to do the job right the first time. I made my own fret bender.

    Feed and bend, feed and bend...works great.
  5. munkyboy


    Feb 1, 2004
    Actually Geoff, we use cyano with a .025" slot. Lakland and Sadowsky both used the wider slot/epoxy method at one point. I don't know if they still do.

    I've gone through clamping, hammering, pressing them, pneumatic vibrators, back to pressing, then hammering again and now finally pressing.

    I haven't tried the Stewmac Visegrip based fretpressing system, but I bet it would work pretty good if you took the time to dial in the right setting for each fret. Dialing in an arbor press for compound radius fingerboards is a real pain.

    The thing I don't like about hammering is that the hammer tends to put reverse bends in the fret. Try using a magnifying glass to get a close up view when someone else is fretting.

    I recently watched a Taylor Guitars video. Their frets were bent back incredibly when hammering in the frets, but they didn't seem to be popping back out so possibly a tighter fret slot would minimize this.
  6. I've been pondering about that stewmac arbor in my drill press. Anybody use this method?
  7. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I'd just remembered Sheldon saying something about the oil from the neck interfering with the epoxy curing when I had to have my Prima 6 refretted right after the 13th fret slid up. I guess I was mistaken.
  8. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I do. I glue them as they are being pressed using those little glue tips Bud is talking about. I used to hammer then clamp and glue. I like the result of that method but the fingerboard cleanup was too much work. With the press'n'glue method there's a lot less mess.
  9. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    That's what I use in my drill press. Get a bunch of the different size cauls though. For some reason their radii don't match up with mine.
  10. I use a 1/2 ton arbor press and my own homemade cauls. I design them on the computer and then have them cut on the router at work ;) Like you Bud, they don't match the radius precisely but this weekend, I found the solution to that.

    I went to the Roscoe shop this past weekend and they use a humongous arbor press - probably a 5 ton - and they used a homemade caul that had a rounded cross section and then glued a strip of hard leather to as the contact area. The frets had pressed a nice groove in the leather so there was no need to machine a groove in the aluminum caul.
  11. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    I wonder if that Friendly Plastic stuff Stew-mac sells would be good for lining fret cauls so you get a better fit. It's made for clamping and making cauls so it's got to be pretty strong when it hardens.