Step 6: Fretting Made Easy
If you have visited StewMac you may have noticed that what they feel is a essential set of specialized fretting tools should cost close to $200! I don't know about you but I certainly don't have that kind of money to throw around. I like to live by the particular logic that people have been building fretted string instruments for hundreds of years and they had to make due with even cruder hand-tools than what is available to us today. Thus is the premise behind my process. I apologize for the bit of theory but I hope you can sympathize with my view on the matter. Now Lets Get Started!!!
What's great about my method is you only need a handfull of tools
Fret Slots: Box Cutter, Craft Knife, Coping Saw (image 1)
Fret Shaping: Wire/Bolt Cutters, Rough File, Smooth File (image 2)
Cutting the Fret Slots
1. First lets prep the Fretboard. Using a straight edge and the Box Cutter, carefully score each line, that you made in the previous step, starting from the 19th fret down to the 1st. Then take some fine sandpaper and sand any high Fretdots and Pencils marks away. You will probably have to re-score your lines to remove any sawdust from sanding.
*Note: Starting from the 19th fret and working down is important. You typically don't play that high all the time and this gives you a good chance to practice and develop a rhythm. However, I do recommend testing my method out on a scrap piece of poplar first!
2. Using the Craft Saw I make a 1/8" cut following the score made in the previous step. When sawing make sure to keep the Saw LEVEL!
3. Using the the Coping Saw, I then make a 1/16" deep cut on top of the 1/8" cut. (image 3) Again STAY LEVEL when cutting!!!
The cut should resemble the shape of a Field Goal Post in American Football.
If you use the same Fretwire that I do, this should make the perfect slot
1. Using the Fretboard I lay the Fretwire along the slot and mark the length. Use the Wire/Bolt Cutters to cut the wire to length.
2. I then add a 45 degree angle to the Crown and the Tang ( making a "<======>" shape) with the Rough File. Next I smooth it all out with the Smooth File (duh) and add a little roundness to the Crown of the fret. (image 4)
1. Lay the Fretboard on a level sturdy surface (I used a concrete floor).
2. Set the prepared fret gently in the slot. Make sure it is not too long and is centered. Lay the scrap wood across the fret.
3. Using the Rubber Mallet tap the fret into the slot. Start with light taps, and then give it a couple good whacks to be sure it takes hold.
The Fret Tang should be fully immersed into the wood there should be no gap between the wood and the Crown. (image 4)
Repeat this process for all the frets. (image 5,6,7)
*Note: If you have any loose frets, don't worry after staining and finishing they should snug up.
If your Frets are falling out, you may be cutting too deep with the Coping Saw but this can be easily fixed with a dab of glue.