#1
Throughout my apprenticeship here, I've tried to document a lot of the different skills I've learned. I've done loads of fret-related work, so I figured I would sort through some of my photos and try to make a good guide for fretwork. I'm hoping to update this continuously. Please let me know how I could make this a better thread, and I'll be happy to help with any questions. Thanks!
#2
Section 1: Fret Removal. Dying to turn that Squier laying around into a fretless? Maybe your #1 needs new frets? Removing frets is pretty simple. Here's how.

Things you'll need:


(Soldering iron, nippers, solder, and a guitar with frets)

First, spread solder across the fret. This transfers heat to the fretboard wood, releasing oils that will serve to lubricate the fret while you pull it out. Note that you can already see the oils bubbling up around the fret.



Once the fret is soldered and the board is heated up, carefully work the nippers along the fret, pinching between the fret and the fretboard in roughly 1/8" intervals.



Now you're left with this:



Work your way up the neck, fret by fret.



Once they're all pulled, you can move on to sanding the board. Make sure you have blocks corresponding with your fretboard radius.

Hope this will help someone! I know its basic and short, but I'll be back soon with some guides for cutting and prepping new frets, installing them, and leveling.
Last edited by Becker Guitars at May 13, 2011,
#3
dude this is awesome
thank you for putting the effort in doing this. I was going to unfret my guitar after I get an upgrade
#4
Section 2: Prepping new frets

Things you'll need:

Nippers
Fret tang cutter (if it's a guitar with fretboard binding)
Small file
Fretwire (we use Dunlop)
Something to hold prepped frets (in this case, a board with 24 holes drilled and labeled)

First, lay the wire over the fret slot. Using the nippers, cut the wire so that maybe 1/8-1/16" hangs over the edge of the fretboard. Although this nip appears flush with the edge of the board, we haven't trimmed down the binding yet so it is actually properly oversized.





Cut all the frets to size before moving on.



Next, grab those tang cutters. They're a great tool for the job as they cut only the tang while leaving fret to hang over the binding.



Cut back the tang until it is slightly (1/16"-1/32" on each side) undersized for the slot. This is important because when the fret is installed it will flatten out and the tangs will extend a little further. Do this for each fret as well.





Once all the tang ends are cut, it's time to file back any rough surface left from the nippers. This is done on both sides as well.



Here's a shot the fret ends filed smooth.



Lay the fret over the slot to double check your work, and then file down the other 20-23 frets.



All done! Installation is next.

Last edited by Becker Guitars at May 13, 2011,
#5
Quote by felakutihimself
dude this is awesome
thank you for putting the effort in doing this. I was going to unfret my guitar after I get an upgrade


Thanks man! No problem. I'm itching to pull the frets on my old yamaha acoustic too! (once I dig it out of the closet)
#6
Ok I have a question, if I wanted to turn my guitar from a fretted to a fretless, should I do this in a different way or same method. How do you prepare the fretboard and set it up for fretless playing.
#7
Quote by felakutihimself
Ok I have a question, if I wanted to turn my guitar from a fretted to a fretless, should I do this in a different way or same method. How do you prepare the fretboard and set it up for fretless playing.


Pull them the same way. You probably will want to fill all the old slots so its nice and level. For this, the best way would probably be veneer strips glued in place and sanded, but I've heard of people using wood fillers and sawdust/glue mixes as well. You'll definitely want to sand the fingerboard down afterwards, make sure you have a correctly radiused sanding block to do so. Start with a coarse grit and finish with 280+ and steel wool. You want to make sure there are no dips, humps, scratches, etc. Setup is pretty much the same as on a fretted instrument, except that your string height can be lower since you don't have any frets.
#8
How can you minimise the chipping when pulling old frets out. Is is unavoidable? I usually end up pressing the chips down, sanding a bit and hoping the new frets cover any holes.
#9
Quote by matt154
How can you minimise the chipping when pulling old frets out. Is is unavoidable? I usually end up pressing the chips down, sanding a bit and hoping the new frets cover any holes.


If I'm working on a "chippy" board, I always spend a little extra time heating the frets and pull them slowly and in small increments. Chipping will happen from time to time, and when it does just make sure that you glue any pieces back that you possibly can and fill any remaining divots. Hope that helps.
#10
Sorry for the delay folks, but here's my next installment as promised. Fret leveling 101.

Things you'll need:



Using the sharpie, mark the tops of the frets.


Starting with the more aggressive file, run the file up and down the fretboard. You want to follow the radius accross the board as well. You want to make sure you're covering the whole board evenly, and you can keep track of how much you're removing by looking at your (disappearing) sharpie marks.


Using your fret rockers, check all the frets in groups of 3 for level-ness (assuming that is even a word). You want to check them at different areas of the fret as well. I usually check treble side, middle of the fret, and bass side for level to make sure its consistent.



If they're level, move up to a less aggressive file and repeat. Again, double check for level once you're done.




Once your sharpie marks are gone from the tops of the frets and everything is level, its time to crown. Mark those puppies up one more time.


Part 2 coming in just 1 sec
#11
Grab that crowning file pictured earlier and make sure you're using the wider side. Run the file across the fret, and you will see it lose the flatness from filing and start to take a nice rounded shape. They'll lose sharpie markings from the side, but there should still be a thin sharpie line along the top of the fret. This remaining line is that part that the string contacts, so you want it nice and even and thin. Hit every fret, and again, check for level when you're done.



Once you've got your frets crowned, you need to polish them. I like to use micro mesh for this, ranging in grit from 1500 to 12000. This part is pretty simple, just grab a foam block and run the micro mesh up and down the board. You want to remove the filing and crowning scratches and make those frets nice and shiny. When the bigger scratches disappear, move up to a finer grit, and so on until they're finished.


Finally, hit the whole board with some 0000 steel wool. Before you string it back up, check for level one last time with those rockers. String it up and set it up and you're ready to go.
#12
thanks for posting this

but just so you know, all the images up until fret levelling/dressing are broken links because they've been moved from one album to another or deleted
#13
Good stuff. I'm midway through crowning a fretboard and its nice to have a thread like this.

On the bad side though, all the photos from part 1 are gone
Was lacking a decent sig. Still is.
#15
I have one question. I've got a few guitars and basses that need levelling but I wonder that the divits from the strings are too low. What would you say is the absolute shortest a fret height can be?
#16
Okay, tonight I'm going to walk through how we install frets on the guitars we make. There are many different ways to install frets, the most common being using a large press, using a hand press, or hammering. The frets on our builds are pressed on a large drill press, fitted with a fret press caul. Make sure the radius of the insert matches that of the fretboard. Our press is fitted with a sliding jig that secures the guitar with the fretboard level. The whole clamped guitar can slide along the jig so you can fret a whole neck without messing with the positioning or securing of the guitar. You could build up a similar kind of jig fairly easily, as long as it keeps the fretboard level and the neck, body, and headstock supported, as the pressing exerts a lot of downward pressure on the neck. Be careful that you have everything lined up properly before trying to press. Here's our setup:



Up close, you can see the fret caul that's chucked in the drill press and the radiused fitting.



I did one fret before I started taking pics, so the guide will start on the second fret. No worries, the process is the same for every fret.



Fill the slot with wood glue, wipe clean with a damp paper towel.





Take the intended fret and gently tap it into its slot with your fretting hammer.



Line up the fret with the radiused caul insert and press the fret down into the slot. Start gently and add pressure until the fret is in and seated flat.



Now, this is how you would do it fet-by-fret. I prefer to glue and hammer every fret and then press down the neck one fret after another. Don't worry about the glue drying while you're fretting, it is wood glue and will take about a day to fully dry. Here's a pic several frets later, I didn't finish the neck today.



I'm going to put up the finished photo tomorrow. I know people will have questions about hammering frets and hand pressing frets, so I will do guides the neck time I do each of those projects. Thanks for reading!
#17
This is the most amazing ****ing thread I have ever seen, such simple stuff, but no one covers it in depth like this. Thank you so much


Quick question, I just got a hold of a squier strat with some fret issues, they kind of extend out past the edge of the fretboard, how do I file these ends down without tearing up the fretboard?

My things:
Bowes SLx7
Washburn WG587
Washburn X40Pro
Washburn X50
Washburn HM24
Washburn WR150
Laguna LE200s
Arietta Acoustic
First Act
Valveking 112
VHT Deliverance

#18
This is Amazing. This is one of the few things stopping me from building a guitar with my grandfather.


I also don't live that far from you guys, and I'll be visiting Attelboro frequently to visit a friend.
You belong in a museum.

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#19
Quote by valennic
This is the most amazing ****ing thread I have ever seen, such simple stuff, but no one covers it in depth like this. Thank you so much


Quick question, I just got a hold of a squier strat with some fret issues, they kind of extend out past the edge of the fretboard, how do I file these ends down without tearing up the fretboard?


Thanks! Take a medium file and run it along the fret ends at an angle so that you're only removing fret material and not actually touching the wood. If you're in a dry area some humidity may help the neck and board as well, as fretboards can shrink slightly when they get too dry which will leave fret ends sticking out.

Quote by Sinister Waffle
This is Amazing. This is one of the few things stopping me from building a guitar with my grandfather.


I also don't live that far from you guys, and I'll be visiting Attelboro frequently to visit a friend.


Awesome Waffle! Come by next time you're in town!
#21
so for making a fretless, after you pull the frets off, all you have to do is sand the whole fret board down? or do you fill the slots with some epoxy-saw dust mix or something?
"It's not about who has the biggest stick, it's about how hard you can swing it"
#22
^I believe most people fill it up. Either with an epoxy/glue and wood dust mixture, or with thin strips of contrasting wood.
#23
Nipping the excess frets - make sure you aren't pulling up when you nip, it can lift the fret out of its slot. Apply a little downward pressure as you nip the fret to ensure that the remaining fret stays seated and doesn't bend.



More frets in.



A random pic I took after a fret level a few days ago.

#24
Quote by Becker Guitars



Awesome Waffle! Come by next time you're in town!



I shall, I'd love to check out the process of this stuff. Its something I've always wanted to learn.
You belong in a museum.

Do you Enjoy Forza, and wish to be in an in game Club?! Look no further! Please, join.. there is no one else!