StewMac tools

Fretting Tediousness

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Fretting Tediousness

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Mon Aug 08, 2016 10:56 pm

I just spent the better part of 4 -5 hours installing frets in a maple bound fret board.
I find this job one of the more tedious in the whole process of building a guitar.
I think my method is fairly standard, but I am wondering if there is any way to streamline it a bit.

My method is like this.
1. Bend the fret wire in my fret bender.
2. Measure and cut the fret a bit longer than necessary.
3. Trim the fret tang to the correct length for the slot.
4. File the bottom of the fret end flat. (this part is the worst part for me)
5. Apply glue and press the fret in to the slot.

Do any of you have a better, easier, faster method?
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Peter Wilcox » Mon Aug 08, 2016 11:17 pm

Gordon Bellerose wrote:Do any of you have a better, easier, faster method?

Yeah - I don't bind the fret board. :lol:
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Aug 08, 2016 11:43 pm

No experience of fretting yet (the neck is profiled radiused & slotted), but are you hand-filing for #4? I'd be likely to try a Dremel or Foredom with a small grinding bit. Still tedious, but might go a bit faster.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Bryan Bear » Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:24 am

Nope, you pretty much summed up my method. And yes, it is a bit tedious. Filing away the left over tang is a real drag. I'd love to see a tip posted here to make it faster.

I'm sure you know, but when prepping your frets for a bound board, start at the wide side of the board. That way if you mess up and get one too short, you can move it up to a shorter slot.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Eric Knapp » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:02 am

I'm new to this and have not done a lot of fret work. Do the fret tang nippers sold by places like stewmac make this easier? When you say you trim the tang how are you doing it? Do the nippers leave a bit of tang that has to be filed?

Thanks,

-Eric -- Certified Newbie
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:33 am

I think some do and some don't Eric - I note that there is a really expensive set available from Allparts that claims they don't need the filing, although one reviewer states that they leave "almost no tang to file off". That "almost" would worry me... ;)
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby David King » Tue Aug 09, 2016 12:25 pm

I think having the right file would probably help you speed the thing up. I have a small (4") pair of shop ground, flush-cut end nippers that I use to trim the tang and it leaves a tiny ridge that one or two strokes of the file remove. I have a little anvil rest that helps hold the fret while I file, you might find that helpful or just holding the fret in a pair of pliers with your left hand or vis-versa. An ignition file (if they still make such a thing) works pretty well.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Barry Daniels » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:16 pm

If find the Stew-Mac nippers to leave no tang and no filing required.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Eric Knapp » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:24 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:If find the Stew-Mac nippers to leave no tang and no filing required.

Sweet! Thanks, that would save a lot of time I suspect.

-Eric
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Eric Baack » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:25 pm

I tried to grind my own nippers but they wore out pretty quickly.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:42 pm

I haven't tried them yet, but I have a pair of "nibblers" for cutting sheet metal that I understand some have used as fret tang nippers. If I can get down in the shop sometime in the next 24 I'll give 'em a try and report back how well they work. They were cheap, and probably wouldn't do stainless, but I have some nickel and EVO fret wire I could try 'em on...
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Jim McConkey » Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:41 pm

The nibblers will work, but work best if there is a quarter-round hollow ground out for the side of the fret. We have some instructions on building your own in the Library.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Aug 09, 2016 4:41 pm

Jim McConkey wrote:The nibblers will work, but work best if there is a quarter-round hollow ground out for the side of the fret. We have some instructions on building your own in the Library.

Found that - it shows the same nibbler I have, and it would seem that a couple of passes with a Dremel cut-off wheel might create the requisite notch.

Funny, it seems that this is the only area that anyone can find to optimize in the OP's original complaint. Sorry, Gordon - but you DID admit this was the worst part of the routine for you! :)
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Jason Rodgers » Tue Aug 09, 2016 5:04 pm

Over at the OLF, this guy posted a cool little dremel jig for grinding off the tang on the end of the fret. http://www.luthiersforum.com/forum/view ... ng#p633712
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Tue Aug 09, 2016 5:49 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:If find the Stew-Mac nippers to leave no tang and no filing required.

Did you have to modify the tool at all to get it working that well?
If that is true, then they would be worth the extra cost. NO FILING AT ALL?? :o :D
I think a pair of those will be on my wish list.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Tue Aug 09, 2016 6:25 pm

David King wrote:I think having the right file would probably help you speed the thing up. I have a small (4") pair of shop ground, flush-cut end nippers that I use to trim the tang and it leaves a tiny ridge that one or two strokes of the file remove. I have a little anvil rest that helps hold the fret while I file, you might find that helpful or just holding the fret in a pair of pliers with your left hand or vis-versa. An ignition file (if they still make such a thing) works pretty well.

I have a set of small diamond files. There is a flat one that is just the right size.
I could probably get a bit more inventive in the "holding" while filing department.
And, I just ordered a set of the fret tang nippers from Stewmac. 85.00 Canadian, plus 15 shipping. I hope they're worth it.
Going on Barry's post, saying no filing required.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Dan Smith » Tue Aug 09, 2016 7:16 pm

My fret cutter deforms the fret where I make a cut.
The tang nibbler was useless in this case.
What I do is mark where I want the nibbles on a full length of fret wire, then nibble them out.
Then I cut the individual frets between the nibbles.
I have the SM nibbler, and there is always just a tad to file away.
I filed a rounded channel into a hunk of wood to help hold the fret when filing.
I can usually cut, File, and press in the frets in under an hour.
Ever-body was kung fu fight-in,
Them kids was fast as light-nin.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Barry Daniels » Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:21 pm

Gordon Bellerose wrote:
Barry Daniels wrote:If find the Stew-Mac nippers to leave no tang and no filing required.

Did you have to modify the tool at all to get it working that well?
If that is true, then they would be worth the extra cost. NO FILING AT ALL?? :o :D
I think a pair of those will be on my wish list.


No modifications necessary. I have used mine for over 50 fret jobs and see no degradation in the cut. However, I have not used them for stainless steel or EVO frets yet.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Dan Smith » Tue Aug 09, 2016 9:24 pm

There was a thread about the "old" versus "new" SM nibblers.
Seems the old design had a different shaped channel to hold the fret.
I got the new version.
I just finished nipping and cutting a set of frets. I had to do 2-3 swipes with a file to remove the remaining material. No big deal.
I've seen fellers using dremels and grinding wheels to cut frets. I tried it, but became impatient waiting for the fret to cool off so I could touch it.
Ever-body was kung fu fight-in,
Them kids was fast as light-nin.
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Re: Fretting Tediousness

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Wed Aug 10, 2016 12:33 am

By all the different responses to this thread, I would say fretting a bound board is a common lament.
Thanks for all the interest, and all the different methods.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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