Kenneth Michael Guitars est.1978
Manual fretting requires an area where there is
room for a stool, a very solid bench and good
lighting. The board must be clamped to the
bench, move the clamps as you progress.
Trying to fret a moving board is futile. I use a
99 cent hammer – it is polished a little. A brass
hammer will damage fret wire almost as bad,
so I do not see the need to spend the extra
$$$. A brass hammer will certainly work fine. A
mis-directed blow is doing the damage not the
hammer. BUT, to get the beauty and playability
the frets will have to be completely leveled,
crowned and dressed. I pre-cut my frets to
length, do not skimp --- cut them about ½ too
long it may cost a few extra cents but you will
not be sorry, in the long run it makes things
Start on the edge farthest away, make
sure the wire is in perfect alignment with
the slot than tap in the end
Work across toward yourself tapping the wire
into the slot – do not hammer! Strike down with
no recoil. Keep the wire centered in the slot
and it will seat as you progress. Do a re-tap
working from the center out to the edges.
When you have the wire seated tap
the ends of the wire at a slight
Notice how much the wire overhangs.
To use my method you will need to
fabricate a backer board. Mine is an old
defective fret board. You can cut a piece
of ¼ inch Masonite or plywood the same
size as the fingerboard. Next epoxy two
pieces of 1/8 “ brass rod to the edges of
the board. That’s it --- this board allows
you to apply pressure to the outside ends
of the fret wire. When a fret lifts it is
almost always at the ends. We are going
to take that out of the equation.
Clamp the backer to the fret board
aligning the edges.
Clamp the whole thing in a vise. I like to sit
down for this part of the operation.
You are going to need a small bottle of CA
(super glue thin) I get mine from Tower
Hobbies. And a fine applicator tip.
Skipping this step is gambling -- like not taking
preventive medications. Plus it adds to the
sonic integrity to the instrument.
Apply a tiny drop of CA at each fret slot
-- both FB edges.
The CA will dry pretty quick --- but
make sure. Using a fine blade razor
saw trim each fret wire flush to the
edge of the fingerboard. Wire nippers
are tempting but do not use them.
(The voice of bad experience)
This device is a shooting board. Simply a 12
X 30 inch piece of MDF with a 1 ½ inch
board screwed to the edge. Glue a piece of
150 grit sand paper to the 1 ½ inch board
before assembly. This tool can even be
used to joint tops and backs before gluing
Last step is to sand the fret ends flush to the
fingerboard, glide the fingerboard back and
forth along the sand paper until the CA
residue is gone. That will indicate that the
frets are absolutely flush
The taper is laid out from the center-line
use a white pencil, 1 11/16" at the nut and
2 1/8" at the 12th fret of course the board
can be wider -- make it symmetrical adding
the same amount to both edges. A standard
board with bindings is usually cut 1/8"
under-size 1/16" each side. And a bound FB
can be made wider just by gluing the binding
to a standard width board
The taper waste material is cut off using a
band-saw or other saw leaving the line.
The edge is cleaned up using a straight
edge covered with abrasive or a shooting
board like the one shown below.
Do not install the second fret and the thirteen fret if the neck is attached at the 14th fret
Do not install the second fret and the eleventh fret if the neck is attached at the 12th fret
These fret slots are left open so locating pins can be installed. You will install
these two frets after the fingerboard is glued to the neck.