Can someone enlighten me? In my woeful ignorance, I've been doing fret jobs and setups for over 30 years WITHOUT a neck jig! Despite the fact that I have never had a dissatisfied customer, I have been told that I cannot perform a PERFECT fret job without paying Stew-Mac £230 + postage for four bits of wood, a few screws and a couple of dial gauges ....and a further £60 to British Customs, which I would bitterly resent! I know William Cumpiano is slightly scathing about neck jigs, I don't know what Frank Ford uses, but I don't think I have seen it mentioned in his pages.
The only advantage I can see is the "WOW!" factor, when the customer walks in the shop and thinks. "this guy's really hi-tec!". It pays to generate mystique!
Anyone care to set me straight?

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I guess I have one last thought for this discussion. We're all coming from our own, individual circumstances I'm talking access to various resources, customer demands as well as personal psychological characteristics. I suppose these all combine to set the parameters for our work and working methods.

It's taken me years to develop my working methods, not just for fretwork but bone component fabrication, neck reset techniques, etc... Frankly, once I've developed working methods for a particular task that get the results I'm looking for in a time frame that is acceptable, the last thing I want to do is significantly alter those working methods. Don't get me wrong, I'm constantly tweaking my methods to speed things up or improve cosmetics where possible but getting a neck jig could be viewed as a pretty big change of working methods.

All the veterans here know that there are no magic bullets. Mr. Suits, for example, has what sounds like an efficient and accurate method for doing fretwork. I wouldn't advocate that he buy a neck jig because his working methods are meeting all of his needs.

Frankly, we could be having this discussion about crowning files vs. cant saw files or steel wool vs. sandpaper, etc... From my perspective, what matters is that we're able to consistently do good work, that we're proud of and our customer's value, in a timely fashion. After all, these tools are just a means to an end, aren't they?
"From my perspective, what matters is that we're able to consistently do good work, that we're proud of and our customer's value, in a timely fashion. After all, these tools are just a means to an end, aren't they?"

Yep. Well said.
I saw frank do a refret while attending Roberto-Venn a couple years back. He doesn't use a neck jig. For that matter he didn't check them with a straightedge. He just knew that if he got the board prepped properly first, and made sure the frets were all seated properly, the good ol' jack plane body would accurately level the tops of the frets. And guess what? The job came out great! What was really impressive was how fast he did it, all while teaching the steps to a room full of greenhorn guitar repairmen.
I personally don't have quite as much confidence yet, so I use a straightedge and a piece of paper to check for accuracy. The small piece of paper should drag until you get to the drop off over the body. I check in 5 places across the board. Works for me.
In my experience, the fret jig just tells you what you already know, if you know how to sight a neck. We had a plek at Wechter Guitars, and while it saved a lot of labor, it was not by any means "buzz free". Unless you're refretting, you're working with what someone else gave you, and its often imperfect. If you can't see high spots, I have from time to time used the marker on the frets technique, then ran a straightedge with sandpaper over them to see the subtle high spots that a fret rocker might miss. And yeah, different necks flex differently, but I don't believe they twist much when strung up.
I sight a neck while strung, and make a mental note of the trouble spots. Strings off, loosen rod (to get back to how it looked under tension), go to town. Save your money. By the way, the aluminum radius cauls from stumac are awesome for fretting with. I use them for clamping frets in with epoxy (no compression on the board) after sanding the fretboard Straight with a capital S. Hardly any leveling to be done afterwords.
Hello - I'm interested in your epoxy method of fretting. I've thought about it a lot but haven't yet had the stones to try it. A couple of questions please: I haven't paid any attention to StewMac's alum radius cauls; how long are they and how many frets will one cover? When you say no compression on the board, I'm assuming you mean as in no jig, correct? How much epozy do you use, how do you deal with squeeze out, etc? I guess really if you would just give me an overview if the process with the pitfalls that would be best - and I will be grateful for your time.
Many thanks!
I've used epoxy a few times for really rotten necks where the wood wouldn't hold a fret using normal methods. I used the StewMac wooden sanding blocks, but with a piece of spring steel sheet cut to fit, to use between the wood and the frets. You can cover about a third of the frets with the long wooden sanding blocks, if you use 5-min epoxy you can unclamp after 10 mins to be on the safe side, and do the next batch.
I found it's best to generously wax the fretboard with paste wax before you glue, and then you can gently chisel the glue pressout off after it's set. It doesn't stick to the 'board due to the wax. Trying to remove all the glue pressout before you clamp up is not a good idea (don't ask me how I know this)
I must say though, I'm not a fan of this fret method unless I have no other option. If it's at all possible, I like to refret the old-fashioned low-tech way: without any kind of adhesive at all and using a fretting hammer, but that's just me. I have been known to wick thin CA under frets occasionally if they're being difficult, but I always feel I've done better job when it works without an kind of adhesive.

...Strings off, loosen rod (to get back to how it looked under tension), go to to town ...

yes, but that's the whole rationale of the neck jig, "straight" with the strings on and tensioned is a different "straight" from with the strings off and the truss rod loosened.
I also read somewhere that the earth is round!! Can you believe it?
It's not actually perfectly round, but somewhat pear-shaped.... (ducks and runs away :-) )


There definitely a place for a neck jig IMO. I have a 64 Rickenbacker 300 Series in for a re-fret and with the dual-rod slackened, it has back-bow. Without a jig I wouldn't be able to re-fret this. I'm out this weekend to collect the parts for the Matt Vinson jig. It will cost me around £100.00 [GBP] which is about $150.00 and is a massive saving on the Stewmac one I considered buying (until I got the shipping/import tax quote taking me over £400.00)...


This thread has been dead for over 5 years.

In situations like this (responding to threads over a month or two old), it's generally better to start a new thread, if information is requested or you have something significant to add. It gives you a 'fresh chance' to get current advice.

Good luck on getting that Rik back into shape. :)

There are guys making knock-offs of the wooden Erlewine neck jig. Can't find the guy who sold them on eBay but Twanger is displaying them on Facebook.


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