View Full Version : Radius the frets before installation

01-05-2015, 01:19 PM
I was wondering if people radiused their frets prior to installation on a flat neck.
If you are knocking in the ends first and then seating them by tapping the middle would the side ways push from this help in fixing the frets in their slots better. Or are you using a radiused clamp which would force the ends in first, any way? I'm restricted to hammering the frets in atm so was curious on your thinking about this.


01-05-2015, 05:26 PM
I'm definitely not a fret-master and my attempts in the past have been like porcupines making love: Brief, violent with a lot of noise. Lately I've tried a gentler approach. Cut the wire so that the tangs are close to the edge about a 32nd" in and then gently tap them home with the plastic end of a fret hammer. Then I get all medieval and clamp the crap out of the fingerboard with a clamping caul on top against a perfectly flat piece of MDF plywood and use as many clamps as will fit. Then I put the thang on a shelf and forget about it for awhile. Never had a problem with lifting fret ends (yet) and I don't glue.

Not sure I understand your question though. Radiused frets go on radiused fingerboards and straight frets go on a flat fingerboard... Also you might search the UU forum for "hemi-semi-radiused frets" to see a real master of the trade put in and dress frets.

01-05-2015, 05:39 PM
Check the "Birth of a Mya Moe" series. In episode #50, Gordon demonstrates a very interesting installation technique. The frets appear "radiused". Maybe they're simply curved from the coil. This may be addressed in an earlier episode.

01-05-2015, 06:06 PM
Thanks people just curious how others approach this. My frets I purchased are flat and so is the fingerboard, I'll try the medieval approach when the time comes ;-)
Experience is what you get, when you don't get what you want!

Michael Smith
01-05-2015, 07:56 PM
I don't see why you would bend the wire on a flat board. Locking in the stress of the wire wants to come back to a curve seems like a poor plan.
On a radiused board I make sure I bend the fretwire to the radius prior to installing it on a radiused board. If you do not and just hammer or press it in it will come up in time at the ends and stab the player in the fingers.

01-06-2015, 10:53 PM
Yes your logic is sound, all I was thinking was that if the fret were radiused slightly and each end bedded in the fingerboard and clamping pressure applied in the frets centre it might then push the ends sideways and tang of course helping to hold them in better. Admittedly it was a thought exercise

01-07-2015, 12:36 AM
I have heard that theory too and because I buy my fretwire in coils it has a slight radius. I currently use a small homemade hardwood mallet rather than a formal fretting hammer. I follow the tap in either end and then in middle method. I have however never seen a fret fall out by itself so my advice would be make sure the fretboard is nice and flat, your fret slots are deep and a snug fit for the frets and try to get them in without mangling them or the fret board and they should be fine.
Personally I am a minimalist when it comes to dressing the ends of frets. I get them even with the edge, put a bevel on and give them a light rub with fine sandpaper to take the sharp edges off. I do this not because I do not appreciate sheer mastery apparent in perfectly semi hemispherical fret ends but because I am a lazy bugger and I do only enough to make the frets feel good in my hand and play well. I also put a drop of superglue on the ends of all the frets just to be sure.
Also check for flatness.

01-10-2015, 04:58 AM
This is a question rather than a reply, but it deals with the same topic of the building process for radiused fretwires and fingerboards so I thought it best to add it to this thread rather than start a new post.

I have installed straight fretwires into flat-bottomed, unradiused finger boards on the acoustic ukuleles I've built. I cut my fretwire slots using a template and crosscut sled on my table saw using the small, thin fret slot blade sold by Stewmac.com. I make sure the slot depth is no more than what is needed by the height of the fretwire tang. So far, I've tapped them in with a fretting hammer using both the plastic and brass end and have not added any super glue. No problems to date.

Now I am in the middle of building my first radiused fingerboard (for a solid body, mini-bass ukulele) and it will have a compound radius. (Probably 20" at headstock and 12" near the end of the fingerboard.) I have followed my regular process of cutting the slots on a squared stock of uniform thickness and now plan to radius the board then taper it before attaching it to the neck. My question (finally!) is:

After radiusing the fingerboard, the slots I have already cut into it will no longer be the same depth. The slots will be shallower at the edges of the fingerboard and deepest in the center. I would like the depth to be as close to uniform as possible across the entire width of the fingerboard. I know of no way to accomplish this other than by using a hand saw in combination with a depth gauge and manually redressing each fret slot to its desired depth.

Has anyone else addressed this problem or do you just cut the required depth on the edges and let the middle of each slot be deeper than what's needed?

Is there a jig or some process step to best accomplish "radiused fretwire slots" in the fingerboard?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-10-2015, 05:47 AM
On a radiused fretboard there is no reason to maintain a consistent depth. The little bit of space at the center of the fretboard under the tangs isn't anything to worry about. You should be more concerned about leveling your compound radius correctly.

01-10-2015, 08:30 AM
On a radiused fretboard there is no reason to maintain a consistent depth. The little bit of space at the center of the fretboard under the tangs isn't anything to worry about. You should be more concerned about leveling your compound radius correctly.

Thanks Chuck, I was hoping that any minute air space at the center of the fingerboard slot was of no concern but wasn't sure. If it doesn't matter then I guess the best course would have been to initially cut the slots to a depth that would leave them where they need to be after I radius the slotted board, unless someone else knows a better trick. The fingerboard I've started is thick enough that I can saw the slots deeper, but I do not want to try to resaw the same slots deeper on the table saw. (Too much likelihood of widening the slots too much.) I figured that I would resaw the edges of each slot with a handsaw to the proper depth and not worry about the center unless it measured too shallow also.

I'm hoping the radius jig I am building will satisfactorily address my leveling concerns wrt the compound radius. Hope I'm not in for surprises on that assumption!

Thanks again for the reply and alleviation of what I hoped was a needless concern. :)

01-10-2015, 10:32 AM
If you can cut the slots to the correct width and depth in one go, without any sloppy variations as the saw blade enters and exits the cut..the frets will press right in firmly with no bother...Easier said than done :)

01-11-2015, 08:27 PM
I always slightly radius the fret wire before installing on flat fretboards, and over radius a bit on radiused fretboards. Makes things a lot easier for me, especially if I'm hammering them in. I get the ends down first and then work toward the middle. With a press the same principle applies. I use an over radiused caul to seat the ends, and then the proper radius to finish. I just think that getting a flat fret started on a flat fretboard is a pain in the ass.