FRETS.NET

Since Michael Fields asked about my own personal method for fretting with Super Glue (which he found in the archives, but has since disappeared) I thought I'd repost it, with a change or three I've made in the interim, chiefly consisting of a change from using the Super Tips (from Satellite City) to Stew Mac Whip Tips. I trim about 3/8" off the end to make an applicator that puts the glue in the slot with pinpoint accuracy.

Here is the updated version:

Super Glue (CA) is a wonderful glue for refretting. In fact, in my experience nothing else even comes close. The combination of its speed, tenacity, ease of application and easy cleanup make it a no brainer. Not a guitar leaves my shop with new frets that haven't been, in some form, glued with CA. I've been using CA for refrets for 23 years and never, EVER have a guitar returned with a fret that has moved, ever, NEVER. It simply doesn't happen. Let me reiterate:  it never happens. I cannot think of a single instance, seriously. Have I made the point?  Roughly 65% of my business is refrets. I've averaged about 150 a year for the past 16 years, so I've got this CA thing down. :)

Like any repair technique, it requires a thorough and complete understanding of all the variables in order to make it successful, as well as practice. I use only Satellite City CA, mainly the Super T, only occasionally, the Hot Stuff. The prepared frets are treated with accelerator before installation (7 at a time, as timing between CA and accelerator is key) and I use a Jaws fret press or the hammer and the Taylor Fretbuck, and often both. Squeeze out is rarely an issue and I use Super Solvent almost exclusively for cleanup in the event glue works its way out (I find that acetone doesn't break down the glue nearly as effectively). I make a custom needle applicator from a Stew Mac Whip Tip for every job (takes about 8-10 seconds per tip) that puts the glue IN the slot, not on it, or around it, or near it. The glue goes IN the slot. I apply 3 drops per slot typically, sometimes more, or less. I LOVE the speed of the glue setup, as I know instantly if the fret is going to stay where I want it to. I don't want to wait for Titebond or hide glue, because I'm busy!  Of course the slots and the board are prepped to the highest degree possible well before any of this takes place (I leave nothing to chance, if I can help it).

Click here for a video of how I clean out fret slots: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M2ozrt_OAg

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. The much-talked about runout is a non-issue, but the key is practice and developing the feel for the tool. 

http://www.microendmill.com/

http://www.american-carbide.com/MicroEndMills/MEStandardProducts.php

I get around 15-30 fret jobs per bit. I clean the goo and glue off if it builds up after each pass. It takes 4-8 seconds, with practice, so your work speed is not slowed down. The bits eventually become more difficult to pull through the slot; that's when I reach for a new one, but I keep the old ones (they're easy to store).

As for working around binding, the cutter will simply pass right through it! So be careful around binding!

The best advice I can give is to cut at at slowest rotary speed the dremel is capable of, while pulling the tool through the slot relatively quickly and with authority. 

Back to the fretting methodology:

If, during fretting, there is a problem with a fret I fix it immediately, before the next fret goes in. A problematic fret will come right out with a little heat, the slot is easily cleaned up, the problem is diagnosed, cured, and the fret is reseated. Bound, unbound, maple, rosewood, ebony, Micarta, Plexiglas, Lucite, whatever, it makes no difference.

I LOVE this technique:  it's fast, cleanup is no issue, and the frets don't move, EVER. It saves my customer the frustration and time of a return visit. It saves me any diminution of my hard-earned reputation for skillful and accurate fretting. Like anything else, it may not be for you, but you can't argue with my results. CA is completely, entirely and wholly appropriate for fretting. 

One last thing. With the recent discussion about neck jigs still rattling around in my skull I thought I'd throw a little gasoline onto the fire. I use a neck jig about 75% of the time, mainly as a holding fixture for when I'm sanding etc, but often for the more complex reasons Dan Erlewine designed his for, and for which he explains fully in his videos and books. I have a surrogate body for bolt-on necks, and I strap Martins directly to the jig. It, like any other tool, requires developing a feel for, and it's myriad uses are often not realized until one has used it for awhile. I can refret a guitar without it, but because it provides a stable platform on which to work, and more importantly, provides repeatable results I can go to the bank on, I choose to use it the majority of the time.

Your mileage may vary with any of this :) It's just what works for me.

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Thanks, Mark, that's some really helpful info. I don't get out toward Cary very often, but the next time I do, I'll try to stop by your shop.

Mike Fields

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