Fret Repair: Fret Tools You Will Be Required To Have For the Job


Fret Repair - Analysis & Tools Required - Part 2

Learn How To Analyze and Access Fret Conditions and Learn What Your Next Steps Are Going to Be

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Additional Fret Repair Options:
  • Replace a Few Frets: Replace the first 3 to 4 frets or so. As discussed, this will give you new frets in the lower register of the guitar, were it is most likely to be worn the worst. This fret repair job combined with a top dressing of the remainder of the existing frets will often give you many years of extended service from your frets.
  • Complete Fret Job: Replace all frets. This will allow you to level the fretboard if required and install completely new frets, basically bringing your fretboard back to a new playing condition (or better).
  • Fret Repair Required Tools:

    Tools Required for any type of fret repair job do not vary, just to the extent of their use. It is imperative that you posses the proper tools for this work and it will make the fret repair job quite simple and you will wind up with a perfect fret job.

    For all tools with the exception of the specialized jigs shown in this diagram, we have grouped all tools together in our Store. Just use the right-hand side navigation and go to Hand tools/Fretting Tools and they are all grouped together for your convenience.

    Neck Support Cradle

    Fret Repair - Neck Support Cradle Jig

    Neck Support Cradle Jig:
    This is a simple piece of wood that you can fashion to securely cradle the guitar neck while you set frets. This jig can also be used for a lot of other repair work such as nut adjustments, saddle adjustment and restringing your guitar. This jig also allows you to securely clamp down the guitar neck to a workbench when working on the guitar body.

    As the drawing above depicts, cut the jig from a 1-1/2" piece of Hard or Rock Maple so the fixture will last a life time.

    I always like to make my jigs in a manner that shows off my woodworking abilities so if you like, finish sand this jig, chamfer the edges slightly to minimize the possibility of damage to your guitar during use and place a nice finish on the jig. Line the portion that receives the neck with a good quality leather. Cut the leather to shape and use a good contact adhesive.

    Fret Hammer:
    This looks like a plastic tipped hammer. The best ones have brass on one end and plastic. I have used plastic headed hammers with great success, but the dual material headed hammers are better.

    Fret End Nippers:
    This is a variation on a wire end-nipper tool and is readily available at any well-stocked hardware store or online. You need to grind the outward facing of the jaws so you can easily grasp the existing frets.

    You will need to perform some modification to this tool by grinding down the outward facing jaws flush. This grinding is best performed on a stationary grinder, being careful not to let the tool heat up tool much and loosing it's temper. If you don't have a grinder you can use your stationary 48" belt sander or a disk sander, again being careful not to overheat the tool. Always wear eye protection when doing any of these operations.

    This end-nipper simplifies much of our re-fretting operations such as pulling existing frets, cutting new frets, bending new frets to conform to fretboard, cutting new frets to length after they are pressed or hammered into the fretboard.

    Fret End Dresser

    Fret Repair - Fret End Dressing Jig

    Fret Repair End Dressing Jig:
    This tool or jig is quite easy to make too. Just cut a piece of 1" high x 2 wide x 8" long hardwood - preferably hard maple and chamfer all the edges.

    Purchase a 10" long bastard file and snap off the tang in a vice with a hammer or saw off the tang. It is also a very good idea to chamfer all the butt edges of the file to minimize the possibility of damage to a guitar with misuse or accidental use.

    Now cut a slot into one edge of the jig at a 45 degree angle with a table saw. Make the slot only slightly larger than the file so the file has to be pushed in for a snug fit. Make sure you get a mill-cut bastard file so you have a fine cutting surface. Additionally secure the file to the jig by running a couple of screws or bolts through the wood and contacting the file.

    Make sure the screws are countersunk so the heads are not exposed. This will also allow you to change out the file if needed. If you have no intention of replacing the file you can secure the file in the slot with 2-part epoxy adhesive.

    12 inch Mill Bastard File - Fret Repair Leveling Tool:
    This is the easiest fret repair tool to make as it is just a minor modification to a purchased file. Look for a bastard file with fine cutting teeth. The file should be a minimum of 12" long. Snap off the tang or pointed end, down to the base of the file. Do this in a vice with a hammer.

    Or, if you prefer, grind it off. Also, on the butt ends of the file, grind a small chamfer on all edges to minimize any possible damage to your guitar.

    Fret Rounding File:
    This is a very specialized and very effective fret repair tool that allows you to round over flattened as a result of the leveling process of the frets.

    Wet/Dry Sandpaper and #000 and #0000 Steel Wool:
    The Wet/Dry sand paper will remove all file marks from the frets and the steel wool is used to polish the frets. Pickup Some #320 and #600. Note, this is technically called silicone carbide sandpaper.

    Fret Slot Cleaning Tool:
    This is usually a hook shaped blade that is used to clean out the old wood pieces and sometimes glue that was used on frets.

    fret Rocker

    Fret Rocker Shaped From A Scraper Blade

    Small Flat Straightedge AKA Fret Rocker:
    This fret repair tool is used to check for high or low frets. You should have the tool only span 3 frets at a time, if possible so you may have to make one or purchase a pre-made tool.

    I usually just make this type of tool from scraper blade you can purchase at any hardware store. You can have several lengths on hand as the spacing of the frets varies quite a bit as you progress down the neck.

    Make (4) separate sides to the tool, following the dimension given in the diagram. These should be 4", 3", 2", and 1 3/8". This will give you all the versatility you need to bridge any 3 frets.

    When you mill the edges, I usually do this on my 48" belt sander with a fine sandpaper belt on it to get the edges dead flat. I usually use belts that are somewhat worn out from woodworking for this purpose.

    These belts cut slower but you will quickly ruin a good belt by sanding tempered steel. Watch that you don't overheat things while doing this and be sure to wear eye protection.

    If you like you can carefully file the edges with the rocker securely fastened in a vice. Be sure to file the edge of the metal taking long smooth and light strokes so you do not form any dips or humps. I usually slightly round the pointed portions of the rocker to minimize any accidental damage - always a wise thing to do with fine, expensive instruments

    Fretboard Sanding Block or Leveling Blocks:
    This again is a very easy block to make in your shop. Just saw a 1" x 2" x 10" piece of Rock Maple. Run it through your drum sander to ensure a perfectly flat surface. I made 3 or 4 of these blocks and put a different grit of sandpaper on each one.

    Use feathering disc adhesive or self-adhesive sandpaper to ensure a tight bond. Also put a slight chamfer of all edges of the sanding boards. I usually place 100, 150 and 220 grit sandpaper on the sanding boards.