In my reading, I've seen that many luthiers prefer to install their frets with a press instead of a hammer.  They go in more evenly, seat better, and are less prone to coming loose later.

I've seen a few presses people use in some videos.  Some look like basic machine shop presses with special additions to cradle the neck and press the fret in with a die of the proper neck radius.  Some are more like a large pair of Vice-Grips with similar pieces to hold the neck and fret wire.

Since I use flat fretboards instead of radiused ones on my guitars, I figured building a press would be a good idea and not too complicated.  Has anyone here done it?  What does your press look like?  Anything you'd do differently if you did it again?



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Hi, yes I have used the one I built for some years now, I still prefer my dead blow hammer for many fret jobs. You can also modify a drillpress to do the same job. For my CBG fingerboards I use my dead blow hammer, I think it's quicker and with a narrow flat fingerboard ffrets fit perfect every time.


You can use a drill press as a fret press, only thing you’ll need to build is the caul?

Hmmm, that caul covers up too much of the job for me. Mine are brass and just the width of the fret, from Stumac. Any soft material would slowly compress and possibly input uneven pressure on the frets. 


I use a hammer myself, but the purpose was to show the diy possibilities?

Hi DC, you have obviously looked a few presses so would know how to go about making your own. The one I built was a bit complicated as I converted a small bench top portable drill press. I did however use the assorted brass "feet" from Stewmac. You would only need a flat one, and could make that out of a piece of brass plate with a groove for the fret to locate in. Stumac's is not expensive anyway.

The holder for the brass "foot" pivots in the centre so that the whole assembly is self levelling when it contacts the fret. You would want that contact area onto the fret to be visible so you can make sure the fret goes down into the slot and not kicks sideways, and to also to have room for your fingers to hold the fret at the start.

I found a photo of mine, no neck support shown

Cheers Taff

Interesting use of a drill press Brian. Mine is pretty cheap, I’m not sure it would handle the stress for very long.

Taffy, I was thinking along those lines but built in wood. A plywood base, a few 1x2s, etc. You make a good point though that I need a pivot for the caul so it self levels.

I use a hammer too, and though it works fine I like the idea of a quick and precise press to just drop it right in. I’m about to start in a guitar for a friend and I think I’d like to have this before I do the frets.

Thanks to both of you for the ideas.

If you;'re going to build it out of wood, plywood is stronger and more stable than 1x2's... that and you can make functional shapes with a band saw...  best of luck...

I would definitely use plywood if I had a bandsaw.  Mostly hand tools, lots of 1x2 scrap around.  What I have usually directs how I solve the problem.  I’d love to get a bandsaw but then I’d need a bigger house with a bigger garage, and that gets expensive fast ;)

Over the years I have seen homemade fret presses, and I believe it would be relatively easy to built one using scrap wood. I have seen a few on this site, in random pics. The factory made ones are known as an arbor press, and I thing at Harbor Freight they are around $60, and good bit cheaper than the one from Stew-mac.

I still set my frets with a carpenter's trim hammer and a small block of wood ( to avoid denting the frets )

Hi Jerry, If I may offer a bit of advice re tapping frets in, keep the word "tapping" in mind, cos that's what I find is all it should take. I read others on here refer to "pounding in" as what they do, but suspect/hope that is just a figure of speech.

I think that what contributes to damaged frets is: 1- slots not suited to the fret tang size, too small [ you can change either for a better fit]  2- Cheap soft fretwire or 3- Inaccurate contact of fretting hammer on fret crown.

In the photo of my fretting hammers both are dedicated to the job of fretting. The edges of the face is radiused slightly -to prevent dings should the hammer come down less than upright- and it is polished very smooth. I made the steel hammer a dead blow hammer -to prevent any bounce off the fret- by adding weight in the form of solder. That hammer has been in use since 1975. The neck or fingerboard sits on a very solid flat surface whilst being tapped home, and the hammer hits the fret not timber.


Taffy,, Thank you for the insight.,.,you are the master luthier here.,.,I am just a hobbyist.,I find using my stew-mac fretsaw that the slots are just right in hardwoods.,.,building CBG's I have also tried Poplar and Pine yardsticks for fretboards.,.,for Poplar the slots end up a little wider in soft woods, so usually with a Poplar fingerboard I cut the slots, then shellac the board and clean the slots with a razor saw.,that gives me a tighter fit.,.,without the shellac I can press the frets in with my thumb.,.,Pine yardsticks are even softer.,.,first I cut the slots.,then shellac the board and clean the slots.,.,and finally I use white glue in the slot.,.with good results.,and I am a tapper..,no beating or pounding in frets.,.,Cheers.,;^)

I use a block of wood too.  That way the hammer never gets near the wood of the fret board.  Also, it spreads the load across the whole fret.

I found the fret saw I got from Gitty was a bit too wide and some frets tended not to stay in place.  I got the same brand but a bit finer.  It is sometimes a challenge to get them started but they stay in place.  I saw the fellow from Crimson Guitars on YouTube creates a very slight V in the top of the slot with a triangle file before setting the frets.  I'll be trying that, looks to get them started and keep them upright quite well.



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