I have always done the old pick, saw, and/or knife cleaning. I am considering checking out the dremel method with the 1/32" bit. I have dremels, a foredom, and a router base. From what I gather reading stuff on the web it seems rather straight forward. Looking for finer points on using this method or any helpful info is much appreciated. My Les Paul needs frets and seems like the perfect candidate.

Thanks. Tom.

Views: 6224

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I get around 15-30 fret jobs per bit. I clean the goo and glue off if it builds up after each pass. It takes 4-8 seconds, with practice, so your work speed is not slowed down. The bits eventually become more difficult to pull through the slot; that's when I reach for a new one, but I keep the old ones (they're easy to store).

There is no heat issue at all with binding; the cutter wil simply pass right through it! So be careful!

The best advice I can give is to cut at at slowest rotary speed the dremel is capable of, while pulling the tool through the slot relatively quickly and with authority. 

Excellent resources. Thanks Mark.


Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with the Dremel and fret slots.  I have a question for you regarding the flute 2 bits:  Does the shape of the cutter allow for a clean entry, or will the bit potentially widen the end of the slot if you're not careful.


Practice makes perfect, but honestly I've never found it to be an issue. If in doubt, I'll simply drop the cutter in the slot just to the inside of the edge of the neck, then move it slowly to the outside. Its similar to the way I insert the bit when dealing with bound necks.

Danny - My two cents: As someone that is new to the process (completed three jobs: two Strats and a Les Paul), I practiced on a couple of old necks first and did some freehand wandering. With the lowest Dremel setting it really does guide well in the slots. However, it can wander slightly, BUT only it you are not paying attention or make Major 'jerky' moves. While practicing I purposely tried to make mistakes and even then it did not create a 'disaster'. Certainly not desirable, but rather repairable as-in nothing worse than a bad chip out while pulling frets. I have had no problems grossly widening the slots. A light pre-cleaning of the loose gunk from the slots helps keep the bit free of gunk.

Thank you Mark and Thomas for your remarks.  I will certainly take a few pass on a practice neck before starting on a client's guitar.  

I like to use my DMT diamond fret levelers that I've made to cut the excess fret wire (after they've been clipped) until they lightly start to cut into the finish.  I then move to the fine DMT file to slow the cutting and to remove scratches from the course file (which is like a Stew Mac fine diamond file).   From there I'll use Tropical Shine fingernail buffers and buff with the last two stages (the white and gray, approximately 3600 and 8000 micro mesh equivalent).  Then I'll hit it with some Mezerna purple-grey liquid buffing compound.  Within just a few minutes the edge of the board looks like it was fretted, then finished at the factory.  I would suspect any opening of the slot at the very end of the board would allow for buffing compound to build up.  I'm going to be careful when perfecting the entrance of the bit into the slot.

I use this same technique for adding shell dots to the sides of handmade classical guitars.  Using the LMI shell dots and their stainless brad point bits, the end result is undetectable, even with a thumbnail feeling for an imperfection


Hi Mark

What is the length of the cutting flute of your bits.  The longest flute that I can find on bits this size in the UK are around 0.047 (3/64") which won't quite cut the full slot depth.  Is that not a problem or do you sometimes make two passes?




 I'm only interested in cleaning out that area of the slot the fret will touch, plus a hair for good measure. The end mills I use have a flute length of at least .060". I don't reset the depth, ever. I simply choose a depth ~.010-015" deeper than the tang and the end mill does it's magic. It's one of those processes that makes sense the more one practices. 

Nice work Mark,

The use of a micro endmill is the bomb, what I referred to in my previous warning was the using the Stewmac spiral bits and other inlay bits which are touted for the fret cleaning job - they cut on the spiral edge and do not self guide.

You vid was excellent and much appreciated.


The micro-endmills ARE the bomb. I own the Stew Mac pick and use it on occasion, but I simply don't like the overall feel of it. It's too herky-jerky for my purposes. I don't care to fool around with picking the glue out of 22 fret slots for the half-hour or so that it takes to do the job thoroughly, plus I never really know if I've gotten all the junk out, or if I've gone deep enough to account for the tang depth. I could stop and take a series of measurements in each slot, but why bother when the dremel leaves no doubt?Working around binding with the pick can be hazardous as well, as I've pulled otherwise perfectly intact binding loose from the side of the neck more than once. I'm pretty darn careful and very detail oriented, so I've not been haphazard in my use of the pick in this regard. It's just that when that little hunk of hardened glue lets go, the tool is going to move beyond where you want it to, and in no time you've created a binding/finish job you can't charge for! Plus, the whole process just takes far more time than I've got. The dremel and endmills make the job a breeze, and I can be certain of the cleanliness of the slots as well as the depth in a fraction of the time it takes with the pick.

Spot on - the moment I saw the vid and your latest post it was obvious that the days of pulling the hook blade through the slot with all the attendant problems you note (and I experience) are done.   The time savings (money made),  control of the tool, standardization of the slot and clean curved,  conformal slot base are so desirable as to be essential.    I'm a convert, thanks bloke.


Yes! Many thanks Mark. This is why I started the thread. It seemed possible. One more question, if you would please indulge me. I am getting ready to push the button on several bits. The cutting length?  Your video mentions ~.080 as "length/depth of cut" at .022 width. When look at the web sites (I am doing because of the Paypal option), I see that my choice of sizes .022, .023, .024 have 'cutting lengths' of .066, .069, .072 respectively. I have a stock of StewMac fret wire where the slot depth exceeds these numbers in tang depth. Seems like I am a little short on the depth .. or am I missing the point? OR is the point on top of my head :)  Thanks for your time.  Tom


© 2024   Created by Frank Ford.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service