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Making Luthier's Tools - Fret wire Bender & Fret end file

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by suraj, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    Recently I made some fretting tools for my first build, and I thought that the Luthier's Corner would find it interesting on how I went about to make my own tools ! Here I am going to show a series of pictures of how the tools are assembled. These tools are for a fellow TB-er :bassist:

    I used my computer skills in the design and drawings of the tools, a laser cutting machine using CAD drawings, a hardware store, and a skilled machinist for some custom components.

    The two tools that I came up with are the Fret Bender and the Fret End File. This post will cover the Fret Bender.

    My fret bender was designed and built due to the lack of an available fret wire un-bender. Hence I designed my tool to be able to bend and unbend wire precisely. Also the rollers of the tool are so close that minor adjustment to wire radius can also be made after a piece of fret is cut. This was extremely useful for me when fretting my fanned fretboard, which has a slightly different curve to each fret. The adjustment range of this tool is high enough to bend or unbend wire to and from a 3" radius.

    Starting with the Laser cutting -


    Then to drilling the hole for the height adjustment -


    That hole is drilled right into the moving piece of the height adjustment system. A bolt will later be inserted and threaded into it.

    Next up are assembly shots -

    The bare plate -


    The adjustment bolt threaded into the plexiglass height adjustment piece -


    The Brass adjustment knob -


    The different custom turned aluminium rollers -


    The top roller has a collar for the attachment of the crank handle. Each roller has a high quality bearing pressed into it for accurate and smooth rolling.

    The rollers get mounting bolts and spacers -


    The bottom two rollers mounted, while the top one gets a special spacer to help the height adjustment to be guided only in the up and down movement. This white spacer eliminates any unwanted play in the system -


    And all the rollers mounted -


    The top roller gets a spacer for the attachment of the crank handle. It is grub screwed into place.


    The handle with its cranking mechanism yet to be mounted -


    And here it is -


    I like this view where you can see all the reflections of the bolts and brass knob from the edge -


    I straightened some heavy gauge stainless wire to test it out -


    And here it is next to my older design. I made a few changes that aren't too noticeable visually but make a big difference in the performance of the tool -


    The Fret End File tool will be pictured tomorrow. Hope all you gearheads and tool freaks enjoy this post :D
  2. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    very cool. are you planning on selling them?
  3. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    Yes, as a matter of fact the tool in the pictures is going to be shipped out soon.
  4. chinjazz

    chinjazz Supporting Member

    Sep 11, 2002
    Atlantic Beach, FL
    Nice! Interested in your next post!
  5. kaoskater08


    Apr 1, 2011
    Very nice post. How much are you selling them for? I might be interested in purchasing one!!

    Also, do you have some pointers for someone who is looking into CAD? Never used it before.
  6. afiaowo


    Jan 9, 2006
    Gorgeous work!
  7. Hi.

    Nice work, thanks for sharing.

  8. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    Thanks for the compliments guys. I thought this may be of some interest in the LC as we all work to build instruments and instrument related things.

    CAD is actually really not that hard but it takes a bit of time and practice to quickly get around it. The best suggestion I can give you is get a famous 2d cad software that is free and watch youtube vids and introductory vids to get some knowledge. It might seem hard, it really just needs practice.

    About the selling price, you have a PM
  9. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Suraj strikes again!!!

    Your ingenuity always impresses me. Keep it going!
  10. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    That looks great. Money well spent :D
  11. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    Thank you ;)

    :) will ship the tools out to you tomorrow
  12. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    Tool #2, the Fret End File. The tool used for filing the fret ends flush to the fretboard after end nipping, and the same tool is used to file a 35 degree bevel into the fret ends. This too is for Hopkins.

    Same as above, lets see some assembly pictures, although I must admit that I didn't get to take many pictures while I was working, but since the tool is made of clear plexiglass, one can see all the nuts and bolts of how it may have been put together.

    First the main Piece, this one has two holes drilled that leads to the notches where the File will go. These holes will get threaded inserts -


    The same piece is repeated -


    Some bad pics showing the installation of the threaded inserts. Bolts going through these can be hand tightened to lock the mill file in place -



    And then it is magically put together -


    what you see here is acrylic and stainless steel. The inserts and the bolts in them are used to lock the mill file in place. The inserts make the bolt smooth to turn so hand tightening is easy and sufficient.

    And some other views -





    And again, a picture next to the older design, this one has improved ergonomics -


    That's it for this thread ;)
  13. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    Those look oustanding,

  14. chinjazz

    chinjazz Supporting Member

    Sep 11, 2002
    Atlantic Beach, FL
    That's amazing!!!
  15. Freakin.
  16. sprocket123


    Feb 15, 2012
    Great work & products . Keep them coming up !
  17. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Very interesting. Do you have a a way of getting repeatable results. with different radius. For instance knowing that x # of turns out from a bottoming the roller out will get you a 12 radius and 3 more will do a 16 or something like that? Hope you understand what I am saying? The Stew-Mac unit is pissing me off. :spit:
  18. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    Thanks for the kind words guys :)

    I actually put in a lot of thought into this, and I feel it can be very difficult to get repeatable results considering the different radiuses and fretwire sizes, materials and the elasticity of each wire. If you use the same kind and size of fretwire in different radiuses, then things can be much easier. You can dial in till you get to the exact radius on the wire and then put a marking on the brass adjustment wheel, and a corresponding mark on the bolt. This marking itself can be difficult to do. The down side with the stewmac tool is that if you overbend the wire, you can't unradius or flatten it (from their website). With this tool you can go back and forth till you feel you hit the right radius by checking it against the fretboard.

    When you put a flat wire into the tool set for a very slight radius, the wire bends as it goes through the tool. But if the amount of bend is within the elastic limit of the wire, it will come out the other side as flat ! Another example, if I set up the tool to give me a 16" radius theoretically, in reality the wire will spring back a little after it comes out and give a slightly flatter than desired radius. Multiply the elastic bending limits of different fretwire sizes and materials, and it is almost impossible to get an accurate scale on the tool to tell you the radius.

    I have an idea to make a scale on the tool itself that will show the radius with a pointer on a scale and the pointer itself will be adjustable/lockable for different fretwire types. You will have to go back and forth a few times to dial in the radius the first time, set the pointer to the right premark on the tool, and then you have a repeatable point to reach later.

    I also have an idea of the same tool without a crank handle but with an automated drive wheel. So you just flip a switch on, put in the wire and it will come out the other side, much like wood comes out of a thickness planer.

    Enough of my thesis on fretwire benders :p
  19. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Very cool you have a pm :D
  20. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    You need to clear your in box I can no longer private message you...Tom

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