I've already got a 1-ton arbor press that I'd like to use for press-fitting frets. I was going to order Stew-Mac's arbor press caul, but noticed that there is a fitting on the bottom of the ram, which the caul attachment fits into and secures with a set-screw. I contacted Stew-Mac to see if they sold the fitting seperately, but they were zero help, saying their arbor press is custom made for them and their fitting won't work on other presses (total bulls**t I think, since every 1-ton press I've seen has a 1" ram like mine). I've looked at Grainger's and a couple of other industrial supply sites, hopin to find an off-the-shelf fix, but since I don't know the technical term for the fitting, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. Any ideas on where to find this fitting, or ideas on how to manufacture one, or possibly a work-around that wouldn't require a fitting at all? Any ideas are appreciated.

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Those are SUCH cool guitars. I can't believe that once upon a time I was stupid enough to think Kay were uncool. I was so terribly wrong. Wish I had a pair like that now!
I have a 1/2 ton arbor with the square ram. I just took it all apart and drilled a half-inch hole into the ram and stuck the Stew-mac shaft up into it. That much works fine.

But i have a bit of trouble holding the frets upright while the jig presses it all down. Seems like the fret wants to tip over as soon as I let go of it. I try to stick it into the slot a little bit by hand but as soon as I drop the jig onto it things tip over.

Any tips on how to maintain the fret vertically while the ram is dropped onto it?
Preradius the fret and tap each end into the fret slot with a brass hammer/ something soft and heavy - lower the caul gradually to engage the fret in the middle of the curved fret crown relief and ease it down - frets often tip over due to a very tight fret slot - you may wish to run a triangle file down the fret slot length to help introduce the bottom of the fret tang to the slot (I recall this tip from Trade Secrets, I think)
Dear Larry,
I don't remember the sizes off the top of my head, but you will find that the fitting is just in a length of rod with a hole bored into it, to accomodate the shaft of the caul, which is attached to the arbor shaft. The set screw is to keep the clamping caul in place when the arbor is raised.The only trick is the swivel (which makes some parts of your "set up" a little obnoxious, but it does help when doing the final "lining up" of the caul and the fret). There is a "collar" cut into the shaft of the clamping caul, and the set screw rides in that groove.
My partner ordered the system from Stew Mac, and a arbor press from Harbor Freight, right after I showed her how to do a traditional "hammered" fret job. LOL The system works particularly well with radiused fingerboards. We also found the clamp based caul holder to be very useful, in areas where the arbor system won't reach. Haven't tried the "vice grip" set up, yet. Stuart
Hey Guys. Thanks for the replies. I solved my problem of fitting the Stew-Mac caul to my arbor press by simply drilling the end of the press shaft to accept the caul's shaft, and another for a set screw. Got my brother-in law to do it for free too, a bonus! I always make sure my fret slots are deep enough (I like Stew-Mac's depth gauge), wide enough for easy tang insertion, well cleaned out, and, like Rusty suggests also, with a nice bevel at the top edge of the slot to help guide the tang in. I like to be able to stand the fret up on its own, through just thumb pressure, while carefulling lowering the caul into place and aligning it, and then applying final pressure. Frets go in like a charm and require very little leveling. I build with bolt-on necks, so I'm able to do the entire fingerboard with this set up. I use various size blocks to fully support the neck shaft (and fingerboard above the 12th fret). All this, and I don't have whack my guitar with a hammer at all!
I think I tend to make my slots too deep. I may try to tighten that up some. But I learned a cool trick from master repair guy rick McKee as to treating the fret slots, and I like it a lot: after radiusing the fretboard, I run a dremel with a (I think) 1008 burr through the slot. This makes a little T-shape in the slot. I have to adjust the length so that the T is right where the tang goes. (To accomplish this I cut off the burr's shaft). The result is twofold: there's a little pocket for the tang to pop into (you can almost hear it pop in) and that same pocket holds a bit more glue. Since the tang pops into place, you don't have to wait for the glue to dry. So you can fret the whole fingerboard in one pass.
I found a jeweler's punch press (i think) at a yard sale for $15.00. It is very sturdy, though made of thinner steel. It happened to have a 3/8 post sticking out of it and a trip to Ace turned it into a pretty awesome fret press. You might take a look around for one. It is small and stores easily.
I have the same thing, and I'm going to be dis-assembling the ram to have the end milled. I am planning two holes-- one for the fitting and the end,of course. The other will be a smaller hole for a set screw. I will tap/thread that hole and an allen-head capscrew will be installed in that.

Dave Fox
That is the way to go, drilling out the end of the ram. Make sure you drill it out to accomodate the entire length of the caul's shaft, as it can get to be a tight squeeze when you use it over the heel of a neck and you'll need every mm. of clearance you can get..

I had a machinist bore a hole in my arbor press to accommodate their caul, then he added a set screw to hold it in place. Works perfectly.

Here's what I did to the shaft on my cheap Harbor Freight arbor press to hold a StewMac caul.


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