I have always done the old pick, saw, and/or knife cleaning. I am considering checking out the dremel method with the 1/32" bit. I have dremels, a foredom, and a router base. From what I gather reading stuff on the web it seems rather straight forward. Looking for finer points on using this method or any helpful info is much appreciated. My Les Paul needs frets and seems like the perfect candidate.

Thanks. Tom.

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Hi Thomas,

Last time I looked 1/32" is around .030, whereas fret tangs are typically .020 + a bit.   The Dremmel isn't famous for its bearing and bit stability and this coupled with skinny bit run-out seem like a recipe for disaster (unless you intend to use the full glue in fret "Teeter" method).   Maybe I missed something - anybody?


Thank you Rusty. That is exactly my concern.

I am with Rusty

Thanks. Not willing to go the full 'Teeter' as I don't want damage the fretboard for the future. Back to the slow pick.

Hi Tom.

I agree, the Dremel is too sloppy.

I make custom fret slot cleaning devices out of feeler gauges. You can pick your thickness & create the correct shape & edge using the Dremel.  They're plenty 'accurate' for that.

BTW: A livestock rancher friend of mine told me that the curved fret cleaning blades Stew-Mac sells are simply pig castration device blades available at most farm supply stores dirt cheap. If you need extras or some to customize, there's your source. I have no info (on purpose) on the dreaded device they're used in.

Best of luck :)

Recently, I dremeled teeth into some feeler gauges, a la the unlamented, "Norman's Nutfiles", to clean out fretslots one ten thou at a time.  This worked spectacularly well!  Don't pull all the way through, to keep from getting chipouts.

I'm thinking that these could be mounted in handles of some sort, to act as a depthstop.

I'd include a photo, but my shop's been moved, and needs unpacking...

I do have a Foredom tool, but either way I guess the extra wide .0313 1/32" slot is not what I am after considering standard fret tang sizes as Rusty mentioned. I like the feeler gauge ideas. I did serrate one after seeing those 'nut files' on eBay a while back. It does make a crude little saw. I will try that in the slots. I would love see a photo Jeffrey when you get settled. Thanks for the input everyone. My hands are getting older, and I guess shortcuts are looking like younger women. 

Thomas I just use a Stanly knife  (the hollow handle one) with a normal blade ground into a hook configuration with the Dremmel sanding sleeve 1/2 inch variety to give the inside part of the hook.  The pointy end and blade edge is ground flat so it doesn't cut into the bottom of the slot. The width is just right for most used fret slots.   The full size handle gives good control and for bound guitars its easy to work from close to each edge inwards so as to not damage the binding with a slip.   

The pig castration blades (that makes me shiver to even write it) that Paul mentioned are best use for "nut" slots (just kidding)..........


LOL. I had to wish that pig knife out of my mind. Looks like I'll do some tool making. Thanks to all!

As Rusty said, experiment with utility knife blades, there are all sorts of shapes and thicknesses. I like the upholstery cutter as it is hook-shaped, it only needs a light pass on the belt sander to get to correct thickness.

I always use my slot cutting saw on unbound boards. I would take a junior hacksaw blade and cut it to piece and glue it to a long piece of dowel and use that on bound boards. Make some test cuts with various blades that are available to you. Either the butchers hackblade or junior hacksaw blades are app .020'' kerf.

As for the slot width whenever I see the frets were glued with CA, I cannot really tell what's the real slot width was as CA tends to coat the sides and narrows the slot quite a bit.

The dremel works great but like any other technique requires practice, as well as the correct bits. What you need are micro endmills. I buy them 15-20 at a time in sizes from .018 through .025". They are available on the web starting at around $12-15 each. I buy the carbide 2 flute, with a cut length of ~.080". 

I do a LOT of refretting and this method offers repeatable, consistent accuracy and speed. I use the dremel for almost every fret job I do, excluding (but sometimes including) compression refrets on old Martins. I've used the same dremel and Stew-Mac base since 1991 or so, with satisfactory results consistently (49 refrets this year so far, since opening my new shop in late February) The much-talked about runout is a non-issue, but the key is practice and developing the feel for the tool. Here is a video I made for the 2011 Martin Repair Summit.


Great video. I am going give that a shot. Could you provide your source for the end mills? Roughly how long do the bits last? Also, have you had any issues with heat melting the binding? Thanks. Tom


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