FRETS.NET

I seem to remember having read about this A while back, but I can't find the thread any more.

I'm an amateur of course, but I really enjoy tinkering with my guitars and I am a very careful and precise worker. Which I can't say for every repairshop around here... So I've tried a couple of refrets already, starting on cheap and non-essential guitars. I got a Stewmac starter kit and drill press cauls. Got fretwire and the fret saw from LMII. I've tried hammering, but the frets kept popping back out, so I'm sticking with the press. Being in Europe we don't have much of a shooting culture, I wouldn't know where to find a bag of buckshot... Sand didn't work well.

But, overall I'm pretty happy with the refrets I've done. I even did SS-frets on my #2, which I'm very satisfied with, I think SS isn't that much harder to work than nickel. Except:

What seems to happen each time is that the frets end up loose in the slots. Not popping up as much, just loose. I run the file over it for levelling and many just rattle.

What I've done is just pull the frets and level the board, then checked the depth of the slots with a piece of the fretwire I am going to use (with the barbs filed down, careful to not thin the tang), then used the fret saw to deepen the slots. I got the saw together with the fretwire from LMII.

The saw often (well, most) times needs to widen the slots to get to the bottom. I am very careful to keep it straight but I don't have a miter box. When checking afterwards with the piece of fretwire, the tang is usually only moving through with some resistance from the sides, not wiggleable, It's not like it has oodles of space to float in...

Is it normal to have frets rattle after installing? Anything I can do to prevent it? Aside from getting a $165 or $180 box or an $80,- fret fitter... I plan on doing two or three more refrets... Maybe four... But I'm not making a business of it. Since I should be playing more than woodworking...

I've taken to superglueing all frets but to me it feels like cheating. I don't mind glueing to fill holes ro cavities, but not to make up for too wide slots.

Suddenly this got a bit more urgent because my #1 guitar has been developing a wide hump in the board at the 5th fret for a while, stretching from the 3d to the 8th (Warmoth Birdseye/Ebony, !compound radius!!! about 20yrs old) but some weather change suddenly made it go into a backbow that the trussrod won't relax out of anymore.

I've been thinking for a while about going for SS frets on this one too, as I did to my #2 already, So I guess this will have to be the nudge I need.

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Gert asked: Is it normal to have frets rattle after installing?

No - loose frets are not a desirable outcome.

Fretting is an art and many repair folks pride themselves on their fret work and ability to solve difficult problems with some necks.  Creative fret work can belay, for a while..., the need for a neck reset.  With compression fretting such as what we typically see on Martins pre-truss rod days understanding the principals of fret work can straighten an overly bowed neck with too much or add relief for a neck with not enough relief too.  It's all in the plan of the repair person made after observing the issues and formulating a master plan for how to approach the fret work on a specific instrument.

In my experience stainless frets are less forgiving and require very good technique that even has a huge dependency on the initial radius of the fret wire prior to fretting.

Hammering is a one-shot deal in so much as a poorly hammered fret can enlarge the slot making decent contact for the fret ends to stay down far more difficult.  I hammer sometimes and press most of the time.

Glue is not cheating and many of us use glue.  Some use glue to lubricate the fret slot and others, such as I use glue to ensure that our frets stay firmly attached to the board and the ends stay down.

Dan Earlywine @ Stew-Mac has an excellent book "Fretwork" step by step that I would recommend if you have more fret jobs to do.  He covers a great deal of material and most of it IMHO would be helpful to any one learning proper fret work.

Prior to any fret dress I'm on the hunt for loose frets.  I take my engineer's scale and tap every fret in the middle and at the ends.  When the sound changes to a hollow, muted sound you have a loose, spongy fret that needs to be glued down in firm contact prior to any dressing or it will simply be pushed down during dressing and pop back up when you are done ruining your level set in the fret dress.

Regarding your #1 - pictures please?

Awesome! Thanks for your reply. I have the Fretwork book, it came with the Stewmac fretwork starter kit. Read and used it diligently. But still the frets rattled. It doesn't cover the intimate details of the fret saw...

Strange is that the saw's teeth are actually thinner than the fret's tangs. But still they're rattling. I guess I'll have to be even more careful next time. Any artist needs to start somewhere!

I took care to radius the SS wire beforehand. It wasn't the problem that they popped out, it was that they rattled sideways. Just too much play in the slots, I need to saw them without widening. Maybe the previous fretwire had wider tangs.

About my #1, I have the distinct impression the neck's even warped. Which would explain why it's affecting the low E and A more than the rest. The truss is completely loosed and it still has some backbow and a definite hump t the 5th. Hard to photograph. At least with my compact.

Your saw is full length ?  There's a reason some guys use a very short blade to deepen existing fret slots. A long blade can "wallow" in the slot. 

Tang crimping tool doesn't have to be hard to make. You don't need to go all OCD like I did with mine.

Gert, I'm sorry to say,  but if you had glued the frets in, you would not be having a problem. The way that you cleaned the fretslots is quite likely the reason for this headach you are having, and, just so you don't feel alone, many of us here did the same thing in the first ten or so refrets that we did.

There are SO many niggling details to doing refrets, that many of us even after having done 100 of them, will still find something new. And here you are going 'whole hog' and doing  a Stainless steel refret!? Man, you got babblones! I have not had the guts yet to try one! 

 So as how to go forward with this axe right now, you  need to be pulling up all the frets and starting anew.  If you just spot glue,  ( if your neck has any flex at all,)  I will just about guarantee other frets will be coming loose and frustrating you in the future. Spot fixing would not be good enough if this was a customer's guitar, so you should not be doing it for yourself either. 

  Also, I am firmly in the camp that uses white LePages glue for this job, and not crazyglue. Even after reading all the threads and posts about it here on the Forum, I have not been convinced that it is any better, and it is easy-peasy to clean up, and any drip accidents can be cleaned up later with nothing more than water... 

Thanks! But the photo's are not the guitar I refretted. This is my #1 which has never been refretted yet since leaving Warmoth. I'm a bit hesitant pulling the frets from an Ebony board. Word is it chips easily. A guy from Warmoth actually recommended pulling the frets sideways. That you really can't find a youtube of...

My #2 which I did the SS on is fine. Just I shaved a tiny bit too much off the bevels which ate into the fretboard leaving it a tiny bit narrow. Not much, like 1/2mm total. Still very well playable. It's mostly an uneasy feeling that it's a bit close to the edge. I glued in all the frets with CA. I tried Titebond, but that went pretty messy. Since I pressed the frets in one at a time and then left them in the press until they set, CA was faster and cleaner.

And, even worse: I transformed the #2's fretboard from a 12" straight radius to a 10-16 Compound. That's a job I won't try again... I think the advantage isn't that big anyway.

Until now I've done three refrets, only for myself, so I'm nowhere near experienced. But, I could not detect much difference between working Nickel frets and SS frets. Maybe I'm not experienced enough to notice the difference. The SS frets are very well workable. I was afraid of doing it too, but I figured if it goes well I'll never have to do it again. :)   I got the highest SS frets lmii has, that would give me room to file if it goes wrong. I only had one or tow frets significantly higher, so I guess I did alright in that regard. Man these frets are high! I need to lighten my touch to avoid the .010 E-string to cut into my flesh too much.

All my files are still in fine shape after two SSs. I think there's too much fear and horror stories going around about SS frets.

A couple of things I've learned is
* make a checklist,
* make sure the fret slots are deep enough,
* clean the slots well and blow out with compressed air,
* make sure the radius is well formed by checking with radius guage,
* wear an optivisor when checking depth, cleanliness of slots, radius, fret seating, etc., and
* be careful tapping down fret ends prior to clipping like Erlewine and Galloup. Kinking is easy and will keep fret ends from seating well.

Great! Got all of that.

As for your list item #2: All I was wondering about was how to deepen the slots without widening them any more than necessary. Which appears to happen, hence the rattling. I gather that more people encounter that

From the above I think it's just a matter of being more careful and holding the saw better perpendicular and... just glue the whole thing down.

I measure the fret slots with a set of feeler gauges and then use the appropriate StewMac refret saw. They come in .015, .020 and .025. Use the one that is tight without binding.  It's hard, for example, to hold a .015 saw in a .023 slot without wobbling (and widening). Go slowly and carefully. Try to size your fret tang to your actual slot width. StewMac doesn't list tang depth and width and its natural to assume they are standardized, but they aren't. Email them and they'll send you the specs.  I have them but can't seem to lay my hands on them at the moment.  If a fret "rattles" then pull the fret, use the fret fitters and/or hold down the fret end and wick some superglue from the fret end.  I suggest superglue on all the frets as it also makes the neck stiffer, enhancing tone.

Properly prep the FB for radius and level, prep the slots with a fret slotting saw, back off the truss rod nut so there is no tension (or some relief if a two way truss rod). That should make pressing/hammering the frets go as smoothly as possible.

If you don't have a press then you can make clamping cauls for holding the frets down after applying the thin ca. Here is my routine for gluing loose frets sans arbor/drill press:

http://fingerlakesguitarrepair.com/loose-frets/

Have cauls, will press. It seems more dependable and controllable than hammering. Nice page there.

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