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Pressing frets

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Rip Topaz, Nov 25, 2010.


  1. Quick question on fret press arbors. How strong of a press would be needed for installing frets? While shopping for an arbor press, I'm getting quickly confused as to how much pressure is needed to properly seat the frets. There are 1/2 ton all the way up to 10 ton pneumatic presses.
    What's the minimum required for the job? I don't wanna buy something that is totally overkill but also want to make sure I'm doing the job right. Lots of info out there, but no specifics on what is needed.
    Anyone?
     
  2. BassBilodeau

    BassBilodeau

    Apr 2, 2007
    Sherbrooke, Qc, Canada
    Builder of Bilodeau Basses
    I'm using my drill-press to put frets. I just remove the strap to disable the mecanism and I made myself a fret press caul with a long bold and a piece of bloodwood.

    I adjust the fret with a fret hammer.

    so, yo answer your question, pressure should not be very high. Here is a picture of my drill press:

    22588-delta-drill-presses-1.

    Voilà!
     
  3. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    as I noted in the other thread, the added tonnage will allow you to work in the 'comfort' portion of the stroke and not right at the far end of what a press can do. look for one that is physically large enough to have ample room for the heel end of the widest neck you'll make ... and then make sure it'll handle something even wider :D

    I use a 2 ton press, and the leverage allows me to press a fret tightly without working hard or crusing the neck. I also included a link for it in the other thread

    I've used the StewMac press, and while it gets the job done it always felt like I had to work it to get there on the heel of a 6-string bass neck. not so with my 2 ton press

    p.s. I used to use my drill press for this, but it actually was inferior to the StewMac press on even a 5-string bass neck

    all the best,

    R
     
  4. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Banned

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    A press is nice, but you should focus on getting a drill press so that you will have two tools for your shop. Even a budget DP will be good enough for a fret press.
     
  5. That's what I hoped to hear. Still weighing all my options, and the stewmac press seems great, but awful expensive for a tool with one purpose.
    Thanks for all the great info. Looks like I'll be going the DP route, so Mikey, yes I'll be interested if your offer still stands.
     
  6. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    A drill press will get you by, for pressing frets. I have done so, but did not like it, in comparison to an arbor press, i'm of the belief that you can get slightly more pressure with an arbor press. If you want to start with a fret hammer, there's nothing wrong with that, helps you get the "skills". Besides that, a drill press is not exactly designed to press frets (IMO, IME).
     
  7. I considered just going the hammering route, but everything I've read says that pressing is alot more accurate and there is less chance of damaging the neck.
     
  8. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Nonsense, anyone that can wield a fret hammer correctly can fret just as good as a press, believe it. Fret pressing is a much easier way to install frets, in one pass.
     
  9. Sorry if I'm being annoying about this. Just trying to make sure I don't waste money on something that is gonna make things more difficult than they need to be.

    Found a drill press that looks like it'll do everything I need, so it looks like I'll be picking that up after the weekend. No way I'm shopping on Black Friday!!

    Been holding off on buying a DP cuz my shop space is very limited, but I found a benchtop model that seems to not be junk (I love Grizzly tools!!), so I'm gonna go for it.
     
  10. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    I used to hammer them until I tried a friends caul on my drill press, I would never go back to the hammer, great and fast and solid with minimal pressure. Also works very well on longer 6 string fan fret installs.
    Dirk
     
  11. That was another concern too. I forget who said it (sorry), but they said the stewmac press was pretty much made for guitars, so they had trouble when fretting basses with more than five strings. I don't want to limit myself from the start, kinda want to make sure I get what can handle any job thats thrown at me.
     
  12. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Banned

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    You can make/have made larger radius cauls. The holder is the most useful part.

    And I have no idea what you other guys are talking about. Once the fret is pressed against the wood you're done. You're not pressing the fret through the wood, just to it. A little glue keeps it secure. A drill press is perfect for this. There is no more stress on the tool than using a 1" forstner.
     
  13. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    mike, i'm not saying a drill press won't work........ c'mon, you know plenty about speciality tools, what am I talking about?
     
  14. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Banned

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    I agree that a press just for fretting is a luxury, but Rip is just starting tooling up and a drill press will serve many of his early needs.

    My drill press still does all of my pressing after all these years.
     
  15. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    yes, in that case a drill press will work.
     
  16. Thanks. That's my thinking. I would love to buy both a drill press and a separate station for pressing frets, but the cost of both plus the space it'll take is leading me more in the direction of one tool than can be used for more than one purpose.
     
  17. Just for the purpose of closure, this morning I ordered a benchtop drill press from grizzly and the pressing caul from stewmac.

    Now to practice.
     
  18. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Another helpful set of "next tools", would be a fret tang nipper, some crowning files and the fret beveling block isn't a bad thing to have either. Also radius blocks (double duty, fretboard radius and fret leveler)
     
  19. On the list for next purchase. I'm at the mercy of the wife. I've bought ALOT of tools lately, and all she sees is a playground with no returns. Gotta sell a bass before I can go much further.
     
  20. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    It's all an "Investment", first mistake is seeing it as a playground with no return. If it really was like this, nobody would be doing it. It just takes some time to accumulate all the proper tools needed, that's all....

    First accomplish, then there's accomplishments....... ;)
     

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