1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

I am considering getting into fretting and need to know about the tools needed

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tjclem, Nov 11, 2004.

  1. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I have the fret saw............That is it. I want to get the bare minium in tools what should I get? And from where. Thanks .........Tom
  2. Tom, I invested in StewMacs fret saw and fret mitre box assembly with the indexed bass scale template. This gives me 34" and 35" scales. That, along with a small brass hammer, was all that I needed to add to my large assortment of files, leveling bars, etc. Since you've been building awhile, you probably have lots of this stuff too. If you need a list, go to the StewMac website and look at their tech help pages. They list the minimum tools (theirs) needed for fretting. I bought a nibbler from Harbor Freight and modified it according to a tip I got over on the MIMF so that it can cut off the ends of frets without distorting them. Total cost - $5. I've built my own tool to press the frets in the neck so there wasn't any expense there.

    All in all, I think I probably have just under $100 in my tools.
  3. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    If you're looking to do fret work on a regular basis, then here is what I would recommend.

    - Fret Press (buy the Stewmac one or make your own....) with the necessary arbors that are curved to the same radius as your fingerboard. I prefer pressing the frets in vs. pounding them in with a hammer, espcially for the stabilzed fingerboards which can be a slight bit more susceptible to chipping than a non-stabilized fingerboard

    - Fretboard levelling block. The long flat bar that you use for levelling the fingerboard and then the frets after pressing them in

    - Radius sanding blocks. I use these after the flat levelling block above on both the fingerboard and the frets themselves.

    - A bevelling file. Used for the ends of the frets after installation. Again, buy one or make your own.

    - A small "V" shaped need file. I run it lightly across each fret slot just a bit to put a bit of a bevel on the top of each fret slot. This helps when pressing the frets in, and will greatly help to prevent tear out several years down the road when the instrumnet needs to be refretted, or if you goof up putting a fret in and need to pull it right back out and replace it (it does happen every now and then even to the best of us)

    - Fret cutters, fret pullers, and the little tool that StewMac sells for bending frets by hand. I use the hand bender to pre-bend the ends of the frets over a bit to help keep them from popping up when pressing or hammering them in.

    - That goofy little file for rounding over then sharp ends of the frets.

    - Tube of superglue. Yeup, superglue. After all the frets are in, run a small drop of superglue in the end of each fret slot from both sides. It will wick down into the slot and fill in the majority of small gaps between the fret and the slot. Many feel that this also helps with sustain and overall sound (read books by Dan Erlewine, Rick Turner, and others on this.). This also greatly helps prevent frets from popping out in the future (very soon after putting them in or years down the road...). In the future refretting is simply accomplished by heating each fret with a soldering iron before pulling to loosen the superglue

    I don't use a special polishing tool for each individual fret, I prefer to polish by starting out with the flat levelling block and something around 150 grit adhesive sandpaper. I'll then follow up with the flat sanding block with 240, then I'll switch over to the radius sanding block with 240 grit, and slowly work my way all the way up to 2000 grit wet/dry paper. I find that this polishes them up very nicely and ensures a nice, uniform "plane" along the top of the frets for no buzzing at low action, etc.

    When doing all the polishing and sanding of the frets, I cover the fingerboard with two layers of masking tape to keep from scratching it. Also, using a sharpie or other type of marker, color the top of all the frets between each step so you can see where you're taking off metal and where you're not. This will help identify where there might be high and low areas.

  4. Mark Chandler

    Mark Chandler

    Aug 25, 2004
    Houston TX
    If you have a grinder or a huge forearm, you can grind down a 10$ pair of nippers from home depot so they cut flush like the more expensive pair from stewmac.

    Also, If have access to a table saw, or are very accurate with a handsaw, you can make a beveling file pretty easily.


    You will be pretty happy when you saved 50 bucks just by making a few cuts and buying a 10 dollar file.

    Also, if you have a drill press, buy the fret caul stew mac sells. Makes life way easier.
  5. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass