Newbie: Seating Frets to Consistent Height; Using cant file correctly.

I just finished my second refretting -  Jazz Bass neck. My first refret was a Danelectro 1445 with just about every neck problem imaginable: slight twist, s-shape with 3 humps, .026" wide fret slots, etc.

I had to remove a lot of rosewood on the Dan'O which I figured was appropriate considering its problems. After I hammered in the frets (crimping the heck out of them with the SM tool) I found that the neck was still straight but the frets were very uneven. There were some shadow lines on some frets so I think maybe I needed to deepen the frets slots more than I did. In any case, I had to take a lot of metal off the frets and was left with some very wide flats that took a considerable amount of time to round.

I assumed that my hammering technique had something to do with my inconsistent fret seating so I decided to use a arbor press for the JB neck. I tried Erlewine's method of using a 6" radius for the ends and a 9.25" for the actual insertion. The frets all seated cleanly.  I was chagrined to find that, once again, I had fret height variation prior to leveling that I considered beyond acceptable tolerances. This meant, of course, that I once again had to take off a lot of metal and leaving me with wide flats to deal with (keep in mind I'm a newbie with high standards, but no one to tell me when I achieve what may be an average result).

It occurred to me that inconsistent pressure applied to the arbor press arm could be to blame. Too bad the arbor press doesn't have a dial that reads force applied (could be a useful mod to the SM arbor press)!

To add insult to injury, when I crowned the files I forgot to tape up the fretboard. I used my new SM cant file for the first time. I assumed that since the bottom vee had been "safed" that I could rest it on the fretboard as I made strokes. Now I have slight grooves pressed into the wood parallel to the frets. Both of the fret jobs look pretty good except for two problems: the fretboard grooves and some slightly twisted fret ends.

I plan to yank the frets on the JB and start over as soon as new fretwire arrives.

I have some questions, but any and all advice is welcome.

Q1: Is there a secret to consistent fret seating other than lots of practice?

As for the twisted fret ends. I'm thinking this is happening either when I'm bending the frets or when I'm clipping off the fret ends. I'm using a homemade fret-bender to over-radius the frets and Dan Erlewine's method for clipping fret ends using a SM clipper.

Q2: Is it more likely my fret-bender is twisting the fretwire or that I'm twisting the wire as I make the cut? Is twisting a problem with pro fret benders?

Q3: As for the fretboard marks, does masking tape provide enough protection to rest the cant file on the fretboard or is this a general no-no?  I do have the metal fret guards but had forgotten about them.


Tags: cant, dents, file, fret, fretboard, seating

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I found the photo:


That looks like a good way to press in a wavy fret to me. Did he press in the ends and hammer down the center?

From what I recall, its a universal fret ends press.

Universal Radius Caul.png

Those are actually a couple of straight pieces, that I made for that project.

I really like the adjustable caul, above!  I think that could be made from UHMW, too.


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