I have a Taylor 314 in for a refret, and I wanted to see what people prefer for a fret buck.  I of course know of the Taylor buck, and I am a dealer, so I have access to one if I want to buy one.  What else is out there, or is there something simple enough that I can make it myself?  I've even heard of people just holding something heavy and dense inside while they hammer, like a piece of I beam or using the fingerboard extension iron and pulling up from underneath.  Also, being that the neck is removable, do most people take it off to make dressing over the body easier, or treat is as if it is any other guitar without the NT joint? 

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What is wrong with the new jaws 2 from STU. MAC.?????

I thought the Taylor Fret Buck was discontinued.

I might grab the Jaws 2 soon.  Luckily I got in last night and it only needs a partial refret.  I hadn't tried ordering Taylor's buck yet, maybe it is discontinued?

I have a Taylor Fretbuck (through Stew Mac 17 years ago) and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I use it on almost every refret of an acoustic guitar. It is heavy, simple in design and works perfectly. It has the advantage of freeing both hands for fretwork. I hammer about 80% of my frets these days, the balance often installed with the original Jaws, a tool I also love. But mainly, it's the hammer, shot bags for the neck, the FB, and a huge helping of practice and technique.

I also have the Jaws2 and it has collected dust for years. Different strokes, but I find the speed and accuracy of the hammer and the solidity afforded by the FB an unbeatable combination. I found I didn't care for the necessarily clumsy nature of the Jaws2. Where the original Jaws excels in what I would term "tool feel", Jaws2 is lacking. In the time it takes to "set up" one fret with it, I can pretty much fret the entire extension with the hammer and FB. I also leave the FB in the guitar while I'm fretting the rest of the neck. It stabilizes the guitar on the bench nicely while I wail away with the hammer down the neck.

I just emailed Rob Magargal at the Taylor Repair Shop about the Fret Buck and will let you know the status.

Here's a blog that says the Fret Buck is discontinued but I'd rather hear it from the horse's mouth:

Check out Elderly Instruments' combo Fret Buck and Jaws 2:

Fret Press

That's one smart looking tool.  Same setup time as the buck and its ready to press!  Is this something they sell or are looking to produce?

Mandolins, archtop guitars with cantilevered fingerboards, bouzoukis, dulcimers, you name it - I work on too many different kinds of things to get hooked on the Fret Buck.  It's a fine industrial tool, and we've had one in the shop for better than 20 years, but most of us use a regular simple dolly like the LMI sells.  Simply holding a heavy ballast like that directly under the fret gives support that's more solid than a neck rest under the outboard part of the neck.   Our fret dollies have handles, not to hold in use, but to avoid leaving the weight inside the guitar.  Once (thankfully, only once) early in my career, I picked up a guitar that had my heavy fretting ballast weight inside.  Added crack repair to that job. . .

Elderly's rig for pressing looks pretty neat, but since   I've never pressed frets,  I don't have much comment there.  We also have the full set of cauls and the arbor press. It has been in the corner basically unused since we got it a decade ago.  A couple of the guys have made electric guitar necks and pressed the frets, but I don't see them using the press at all these days.  Poor ol' Dan Erlewine has been trying forever to get me to try the "Jaws," to no avail.

My goal for fretting, and one that I try to encourage here at Gryphon, is to tap the frets and seat them with a plastic face hammer, getting them level enough that no filing is necessary - only a light pass with 600 grit and flat block.  

On my first trip to the Martin factory 30 years ago, I saw some really fine practitioners of our handcraft - pretty much using the same tools to do the same job as I did, but simply much better at it.  One was a fellow doing the most casual fretting I'd ever seen.  He tapped frets in with a  regular ball peen hammer while holding the neck loosely in his lap.  As I passed his work station, he handed me the neck and it looked as perfect as any I'd seen.  Others, whether scraping binding, or removing finish to glue bridges, inspired me then and there to go back home and sharpen my chisels and sharpen my skills.

Now when visiting factories, the image is that you "need" sophisticated tooling just to get the job done.  In fact, that's not true at all.  However, it's also just as clear that tooling and "systems" are what modern manufacturing is all about, so while skilled handcraft was the hallmark of volume guitar production in the old days, those days are gone forever, and assembling a highly trained skilled workforce no way to compete in a culture of "buy more, pay less."

Another choice is to make your own from commercial plans.  Mind you I have not personally vetted this design or what can result and I do have some reservations about it as well so this is not an endorsement but simply information.

My reservation about this shop-made wooden version of a Fret Buck is that it is substantially less massive than the Taylor Fret Buck.  By the very nature of how a Fret Buck works mass is in my view likely critical to absorbing and resisting the blows of a fretting hammer.  Big differences in a tool made of metal and a tool made of your choice of wood.

I know someone who built one and seemed to like it but I also am not sure that this person had much experience at the time when I read the review.  Not dissing anyone here, that's not my way, but I do think that mass is an important attribute of a Fret Buck.  Robbie is far more of a physics expert than I am and I would be happy to hear Robbie's thoughts about the shop-made, wooden Buck vs. the Taylor offering that I currently can't lift due to hernia restrictions.  We do have the Taylor version and it's great in all respects AND very heavy....

The Elderly Buck is a different animal too where frets are pressed instead of hammered.  Seems to me that if the underside of the board is supported well, and it looks like it most certainly is, that mass is not as critical on the Elderly design since the forces of pressing are countered by decent internal support AND there is no shock from momentary blows of a hammer.  It also looks like I could lift the sucker without hurting for a few days afterwards....

Fret Buck Plans

On the other hand you can hold a block of say lead in the right position and that is how it was done for decades.  I've done this too many times but prefer a bit more insurance when using a hammer on someone else's favorite guitar....  If using lead be sure to wash your hands well afterwards...  Sorry to be a nag too.... ;)

Also if one is considering a fret buck as a purchase and I can't remember how much these are/were but in my mind's eye I kind of recall at least a couple hundred dollars for one.  Anyway for less money the Stew-Mac Jaws II is fully capable of seating frets in ANY location on that Taylor neck with some shop-made, very simple mods and some thought before hand.

Leave the neck on, it's part of the fret plane and your accuracy as to the levelness of your resulting efforts would be negatively impacted by not addressing the neck in the environment that it lives - on the guitar.  I remove necks for fret work on instruments with removable necks AND no separate fret board extension assembly such as Fender necks and do them off the guitar and yes that is easier.  But on a Taylor acoustic I would leave the neck in place provided that you have addressed, if need be, any corrections to neck angle if required.

Fret Buck Availability:

I got an email back from Rob Magargal at Taylor and he said:

"The fret buck is now through Stu-Mac. We licensed it to them to sell. Same old fret buck just through them now."

They're not available on the StewMac site so I emailed them.   They replied:

"We will have those available in the future, but they are currently unavailable as the unit is being redesigned."


I'm guessing Frank used lead to make his ballast because it resists inertia better than, say, aerogel. In the case of the Fret Buck, I'm guessing it resists inertia primarily because of leverage and the heavy aluminum just adds rigidity. After all, aluminum has a density of 2.70 grams per cubic centimeter to lead's 11.34. If that is the case, then I would think a wooden fret buck would work if it used laminated wood to improve rigidity.

Question: What if you put a 1" bar of lead on the end of the wooden leverage bar?

I think the lead bar would improve the utility just as you suggest.  Then again, you could skip the entire structure and simply hold the lead bar up against the fingerboard.  Oops, already covered that. . .

Oops...that was worded poorly. I should have said lead (or a fret buck's arm) increases inertia.


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