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View Full Version : Seating frets: My "Eureka!!" moment



curlykoa
12-08-2009, 03:19 PM
I searched for threads on seating frets here, but it doesn't seem to be a hot topic. My early experience trying to do it was TRYING to the extreme. Maybe no one else has been frustrated no end trying to get the frets in, but just in case, here is the technique that worked amazingly well for me:

TURN THE FRETBOARD face down on a couple layers of light cotton.

Cut the frets 1/2 inch longer than the fretboard is wide. Slip a fret under and position it beneath the first slot with tang up. The little fret ends on each side make this easy to do. Carefully lay a block over, and hammer with a large-headed hammer. I hit once a bit left of center, and then once right of center.

Only one fret failed to seat the first time and all the frets are nice and even.

Bradford
12-08-2009, 04:10 PM
Trust me, you are by no means alone in your frustration. There is a reason why many of us have bit the bullet and purchased expensive tools to press our frets in place. You will find that a method like yours will work perfectly for one type of wood and frets, but if you change anything you are back to square one. I have worked out a number of ways of seating frets depending on the fretboard material, the fretboard radius, the fret size and whether the board is bound or not. It is all part of the learning process and does get easier over time.

Brad

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-08-2009, 04:47 PM
Looks like you found a unique remedy that works for you.
I don't know what kind of wood you're fretting or the width of your tang or the kerf thickness, but there's a trick you can use for stubborn situations. Put some water in a shallow dish to which you've added a few drops of soap. Dip your finger into the soapy water and run your finger over the tang. Proceed pressing as you wish.
Someday you may want the fret press that StewMac sells. It's not that expensive and it's really worth the price. The downside to hammering frets in is the inability to seat them all with consistent, even pressure. Not so much an issue on ebony but it can be a problem on softer woods like rosewood that is easily crushed.
Good luck.

cornfedgroove
12-08-2009, 05:31 PM
http://www.cbgitty.com/mos/Frontpage/

that fret guide is inexpensive and about 35 pages on just fretting...it covers more than I need to know. Buy some fretwire and its cheaper

fromthee2me
12-08-2009, 06:52 PM
Looks like you found a unique remedy that works for you.
I don't know what kind of wood you're fretting or the width of your tang or the kerf thickness, but there's a trick you can use for stubborn situations. Put some water in a shallow dish to which you've added a few drops of soap. Dip your finger into the soapy water and run your finger over the tang. Proceed pressing as you wish.
Someday you may want the fret press that StewMac sells. It's not that expensive and it's really worth the price. The downside to hammering frets in is the inability to seat them all with consistent, even pressure. Not ootso much an issue on ebony but it can be a problem on softer woods like rosewood that is easily crushed.
Good luck.
Soap related reply.
That brings back memoriesMBU. My father built a 22f yacht out of plywood in our garage, and this was in the sixties. All the brass screws were dipped in softened green soap, before they were pushed in with a stanley pump screwdriver, which I now own. The cleats that i had to use to level my plywood floor in the attic of our garage, were also dipped in soap. Soap works in more then one way.

thistle3585
12-09-2009, 02:34 AM
I've seen pictures of people tapping in frets then clamping a bunch of boards between thick pieces of steel to seat them. While in the clamp they will wick cyano glue into the ends of the fret slots.

I like to "arch" my fret wire before I hammer it in. I will tap it down at each edge of the fretboard then work from one side to the other. As I hammer, the fret is pushed sideways a bit, when the arch is hammered flat, and the tang grabs a little bit better. Another way to tighten the fret up is to tap it sideways once its hammered in. I also file the slot just a bit with a tringular shaped file which I believe helps the fret go in cleaner.

I've been meaning to make a fret pressing mandrel for my drill press but haven't really committed to that process yet because I normally fret after the board is glued to the neck.

Vic D
12-09-2009, 07:22 AM
The first fretboard I did was an ebony one from the Stewmac soprano kit. I about lost my mind trying to seat them without messing up the board. At one point I was laying a piece of oak on top and that worked out for most of them. Finally what worked best was arching them a bit then pushing the fret wire down firmly into the ends then a couple of good blows with a ball ping hammer with several layers of blue painter's tape applied tightly to the face.
In the future I'll have the Stewmac system but till then I'm going to take a piece of "1/4 x "1 aluminum and with a round needle file carefully make a groove in the side to accept the fretwire, then put that in a slotted piece of oak, drill some holes through the oak and aluminum, push nails through said holes, cut end of and ping them into rivets. Then I'll drill a hole in the end of the oak and insert an oak dowel... then the whole thing will be put in my drill press. I might have to incorporate a swivel into the dowel, I'll figure that out when I get there. Dave G uses just a dowel in his drill press and that seems to work great... I might try that first. One thing though... I've read that doing this with your drill press might not be the best thing for it. I don't care though because my drill press is a real POS... I hope it breaks.

One of the frets on the first board I did just wouldn't go home, then I read a Post by Pete here that said for such problems file a slight v shaped groove in the fret slot and give it a smidge of crazy glue ( I think he said crazy glue, that's what I did anyway ). Worked like a charm. If I had known about the soap trick I would have done that too. I love this forum.

Flyfish57
12-09-2009, 09:49 AM
The first fretboard I did was an ebony one from the Stewmac soprano kit.
One of the frets on the first board I did just wouldn't go home, then I read a Post by Pete here that said for such problems file a slight v shaped groove in the fret slot and give it a smidge of crazy glue ( I think he said crazy glue, that's what I did anyway ). Worked like a charm. If I had known about the soap trick I would have done that too. I love this forum.

I built two of the Stewmac kits and I got rosewood fretboards--You must have the upgrade kit:)

I found touching the edge of the fret slot with the super glue will lubricate the slot to accept the fret easier( soap never occurred to me though and might make pulling a fret out later much easier) as well. I seat both sides of a radiused fret then tap in from one side to the next with a plastic faced hammer. A fret press would be nice, but this whole ukulele building has been draining the coffers!

I love this forum too! :D

Vic D
12-09-2009, 11:59 AM
I built two of the Stewmac kits and I got rosewood fretboards--You must have the upgrade kit:)

I found touching the edge of the fret slot with the super glue will lubricate the slot to accept the fret easier( soap never occurred to me though and might make pulling a fret out later much easier) as well. I seat both sides of a radiused fret then tap in from one side to the next with a plastic faced hammer. A fret press would be nice, but this whole ukulele building has been draining the coffers!

I love this forum too! :D

You're right, it's rosewood. I put it on a cigar box uke. Think I'll try the crazy glue next shot.

mzuch
12-09-2009, 12:46 PM
Other than the caul and radiused inserts, is there any difference between Stew-Mac's arbor press (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Pressing/Fret_Press_System.html?tab=Details#details) and this one (http://www.amazon.com/Palmgren-61051-2-Ton-Manual-Arbor/dp/B00068U7QS/ref=pd_cp_hi_1) at half the price?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-09-2009, 01:03 PM
It's the StewMac caul and insert that is key to the operation. Other than that, the presses are probably the same. If you already owned a drill press you could buy just the caul, as I believe it comes with the flat insert, for $40. For $11 more you get all the radiius inserts.

cornfedgroove
12-09-2009, 01:05 PM
I'm assuming all this fuss is over radiused fretboards right? Man, makes me glad that i dont bother right now...if I ever do, I'm making a window crank bender

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-09-2009, 01:36 PM
No, it's about pressing frets, flat or radiiused, that are fully seated, not over or under seated, fit snug in the slot and stay put, without marring the fret board or leaving any dents and dings on the frets and will leave you with level frets that need little further attention or dressing. For a professional looking ukulele, don't over look fretting. A good clean fret job is much harder to attain than it looks.

Steve vanPelt
12-09-2009, 03:01 PM
A good clean fret job is much harder to attain than it looks.

Amen to that. :o

Vic D
12-09-2009, 04:08 PM
Other than the caul and radiused inserts, is there any difference between Stew-Mac's arbor press (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Pressing/Fret_Press_System.html?tab=Details#details) and this one (http://www.amazon.com/Palmgren-61051-2-Ton-Manual-Arbor/dp/B00068U7QS/ref=pd_cp_hi_1) at half the price?

The arbor press Stewmac sells is modified to accept the caul and neck rest I believe. I saw a tutorial somewhere where a guy modified his own, I'd rather get the Stewmac one and know it's right.

Flyfish57
12-09-2009, 06:04 PM
Other than the caul and radiused inserts, is there any difference between Stew-Mac's arbor press (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Pressing/Fret_Press_System.html?tab=Details#details) and this one (http://www.amazon.com/Palmgren-61051-2-Ton-Manual-Arbor/dp/B00068U7QS/ref=pd_cp_hi_1) at half the price?

This is the way I plan on going as well. StewMac sells just the caul to "Use your own shop arbor press or drill press". You'd save about 60.00 too! I'll have one before I attempt a bound neck. I spend a long time on dressing my frets as they are not very consistant as well.