FRETS.NET

A customer asked me to do a refret with a stainless wire on a compound radius Warmoth neck (10''-16''). I have done quite a few stainless refrets, so I know how to handle the material, and compounds alone aren't that much of trouble.

But because he wanted stainless wire and the neck has compound radius, my only option was pressing. With NS wire I would just hammer them in and voila.

I gave it a lot of thought over the weekend. First, I knew I had to combine different cauls for doing the "in-between" radiuses (like 10'' and 12'' caul on a theoretical 11'' area). Saw that one years ago in one of Erlewine's videos where he used the same method with two pairs of Jaw vice grips, but only to keep the center of a stubborn fret down. 

I have spent a whole weekend thinking about how I could change cauls quickly. Bear in mind I put gel CA into the slot beforehand, so I need to move quickly. Then it struck me - when I was designing and machining my homemade fret press attachment, I had the slot milled so that I could fit a 6mm thick pressing caul in it. But most of my cauls are 3mm now and I put a shim between the caul and the set-screw.

What I did is just stacking two different cauls side-by-side and put both in my press. Here's the end result, a double-loaded fret press:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BC-khYomIez

I think this one is pretty much self-explanatory. :) I used a corresponding caul with an adjacent being always slightly flatter. That way I could really drive the center home, without having to actually press with a single caul and either getting a gap in the middle or frets end sticking up. It only took three different caul combinations. Time-wise it maybe took 5 minutes longer than usual refrets on my press.

What do you guys think?

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That's some good "out-of-the-box" thinking.  My experience with CA gel (as opposed to the water-thin variety) is that there's usually a pretty wide window of working time but, even then, your idea of doubling-up is a definitely a time-saver.  

Nice work and thanks for sharing :)

"I have spent a whole weekend thinking about how I could change cauls quickly."

Dang! That's my disease! Amazing how much time I've wasted trying to get more efficient.

I like your solution. I've seen a few versions of a self adjusting 4 point caul. I always wanted to give it a try but right now I'm way too busy to save time. Nate Clark I think made one.

That self adjusting/articulating caul was the first thing I thought of reading this, but I couldnt remember where I saw it. That would be worth the time to draw up and take to a machinist. My main qualm with pressing frets is dealing with radiuses that fall in between the cauls I have, and/or dealing with compound radiuses.

Andrew, my solution actually solves the in-between radii, but it does not incorporate any custom cauls. For example, if you need to do a 13'' radius (or anything between 12.1''-13.9'' for that matter), you would use a 12'' caul to get the ends flush and most of the center down first, then switch to a 14'' caul to press down the center without touching the fret ends. They will remain seated without any support as long as you don't over-radius the fretwire too much. With this method your literally force the fretwire to follow the actual freatboard radius and not the radius of your caul.

It can also be used on a fixed radius board. Some might have a non-standard radius. Then some of us like to compound the upper registers on Fenders slightly. Or maybe you don't have a 10'' inch caul, but you have 9.5'' and 12''. The list goes on. :)

This is kinda the theory of hammer fretting, adopted to pressing - two strokes on the sides and a final blow in the middle.

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