I am doing my third refret right now. I just got the Jaws2 from StewMac (the Bessey clamp fret press), and am using it for the first time on this guitar (an Eastman OM). I hammered previously.
My question: If I slide the corner of a .002" piece of receipt paper along the lower edge of the fret crown where it should rest on the fingerboard, and it occasionally slides under in some spots, is this a big deal? I also have been sliding a thicker .005" piece of paper along the frets and it almost never fits under the crown.
I'm running thin superglue under all frets after pressing, trying to get the press back on them as soon as I can after the glue goes in, and leaving it for 20 minutes or so.
The other two guitars I have refretted play well, but I want to improve wherever possible.
I'm not a frequent poster, so if I've broken any protocol, please don't hesitate to let me know! I did a quick search for "seating frets" before posting this. I appreciate any help you guys can give!
Taj, with out putting too fine a point on it, we manufacture our own fret boards from billet for our custom and retail guitars which are sold both nationally and internationally. Our end to end accuracy on boards is precise and our radiuses are spindle shaper cut. As far as fret work goes we demand an accuracy far in excess of what traditional hammering and filing provides. Our fret slots are cut on jig either 23 or 25 thou depending on the fingerboard wood and such is our accuracy, no over-bending is either dialed in or required.
We glue in our frets during the seating process (pre-insert) to ensure maximum wetting and some squeeze out which I believe provides a superior level of security, although I have used the PRS gluing method from time to time which appears sound and is still better than wicking in CA after the fret is pressed.
Our repair section uses a similar approach and we carry all manner of sizes of frets and tang widths and depths to accomodate fret slot variances. We seldom need to resort to fret tang expanding and prefer to rebuild slots and glue in accurately pre-radiused frets rather than give a fret a predisposition to move by dialing in over bending tension and then attempt to mechanically secure the fret against that tension. As far as fret end gaps goes: the problem with getting a good seat at the fret end is often in the crap tools and methods used to flush cut the fret end cut. We have purpose built stainless steel cutting nippers for that purpose and grind our own set for getting in close and personal up at the top of the board or over the body and not requiring multiple attempts to cut of ends, thereby minimising stress at that part of the fret join.
We use feeler gauges to measure fret slot widths and then match up the fret tang width with verniers: often this is moot because of the paucity of choice of dimension of frets in this area but its a good way to get a feel for what you need to do regarding the slot to fret tang relationship.
Anyway, what I am putting is that hammering is quaint, been around for a long time and cheap but we don't use it because of its inherit inaccuracy, stress on the fret and slot, need to reradius and recrown and overall cost effectiveness, especially when the luthier has modern, more accurate system available.
We put a lot of time and effort into developing a superior system which stands up to QA and I'm not sure that leaning to use a hammer is the way forward for us.
Hi Rusty. This discussion has been a great read. Since I'm still in the beginning stages of my repair education, I've wondered about how to deal with fret slots that are too wide. In your third paragraph above you say you prefer to rebuild slots. Would you mind describing what you mean by rebuilding? Is it filling the slot with wood the same as the fretboard and reslotting? And how do you do rebuild a fret slot with a bound board?
Looking forward to your reply,
From our perspective we don't see a lot of fret slots that require fret mashing or rebuilding, however, in the general repair community especially with very old and worn instruments it's going to happen. My professional philosophy is that frets will stay put if everything is done to relieve the stresses which cause frets to move.
Traditionally you can map a fretted board and literally see where the hammer blows were directed against a fingerboard that was done with a plane or by hand. Fret ends lifted because of the final whack on the center of the fret to belt down the over-radiused fret on an inconsistent radiused board were/are all too common.
Given that frets don't have too tough a time if they have no stress and only need to be accurately installed/located and glued well to do their job (which is now obvious with the major brands seldom having major fret problems due to their accuracy and QA processes) my approach is to just make sure the fret is well fixed to the board.
You can do this by expanding the fret tang - which doesn't actually replicate a larger cleat/barb, it just make the fret tang zig zag to stop it wobbling and actually has little hold down power until it is glued in place. Alternatively, my fave is to use a fret slot dam (a strip of 20 thou silicon sheet) in the oversized or irregular slot, back fill it with ebony/rosewood (or whatever) dust and CA it in in a couple of steps to get a good CA soak and build. This works well with bound boards as well to answer your question. Remove the strip and then press in a identically radiused fret with another helping of CA. The fret remains in place if there is no forces acting on it to make it move.
A bit of neck relief/compression or the force of a two step bend by a knuckle dragger is not a force that will make a fret move - they move because they are plain straight worn through, badly installed, rotted or mechanically (verbally won't do it) abused, or something like that.
Now, there is much more to it than this and this is simply my take on the issue.
All the guys here will have had difficult days with frets and have come up with many ingenious ways to solve problems relating to bad slots which they may like to share. Probably better if they don't share the stories about the ones that went bad (I can name a few that reduced me to tears) - it's just so amazing how important these tiny little pieces of metal are to all the rest of the guitar.
Hello again Rusty. Thanks for taking the time to reply! Great information and very helpful in understanding this craft. It's all starting to come clear in how to think and implement.
Rusty, I didn't know you work at Ibanez. :)
My reply was going to the original poster, who's name is also Russell. :)
I wanted to add that about a year ago I checked out Rusty's guitars and really, really liked what I saw. Even the concept of the offerings is my kind of ax. Rusty clearly understands that guitars are tools for musicians and not an enabler for over compensating for being a lousy player...;)
If I ever buy another guitar that I don't make myself it's going to be one of Rusty's! Great cases too I'll add.
Me too, Hesh.
I am absolutely "Jones'in" for an S2 or S4.
Does anyone have $4K they're willing to give me? ;)
Take care, buddy :)
What? My desire for an S2 or S4? ;)
I completely misinterpreted your post, Tad. Emphasis on COMPLETELY.
My bad. My fault.
You have my apology.