I now switch from woodwork to metalwork to install and dress the fretwire. I have an arsenal of specialy tools to assist in this phase. A bound fretboard like Dan’s takes over twice the effort to fret because the fretwire does not extend to each end of the fretboard like it does in an unbound board. The part of the fretwire that is installed in the fret kerfs is called the tang. The tang must be cut to the total width of the opening and then the crown of the fretwire must extend to the ends of the fretboard, overhanging the binding.
The fretboard was radiused 14 degrees so the fretwire should also follow that radius. I built a little jig that gently bends the fretwire.
The fretboard was radiused 14 degrees so the fretwire should also follow that radius. I built a little jig that gentlly bends the fretwire.
I cut the fretwire to span the first fret kerf and nip off the tang to fit in the kerf.
I then run a bead of luthier’s glue on the bottom of the tang. The glue does not actually help much as an adhesive but the moisture in the glue slightly swells the Ebony in the kerf to help grip the tang.
I insert the fretwire in the kerf and use the copper end of the fret hammer to pound in the tang.
I repeat this process until all the frets are installed. Then I use the fret cutter to snip off the ends of each wire.
After the glue has had a day to set, I then angle the fretwire in about 35 degrees toward the center of the fretboard. I use a special fret file for this.
In order for the strings to intone correctly, the frets must be perfectly level or else two adjacent frets will play the same note or there will be excessive buzzing. I use the fret leveling file to run across the tops of the frets.
I use a fret rocker to test the middle fret between the two adjacent frets. If it rocks even slightly I need to file down the middle fret. I do this across the entire fret. This process takes between one and two hours.
Many of the frets are no longer crowned so I must re-crown them. I have two crowning files that re-shape the top of the fretwire.
All this filing has left the edges rough and sharp. I don’t think Dan will want to run his talented fingers over sharp frets to I must dress the frets. I have chosen a nice polo shirt and khaki pants for this. OK, OK – I’ll stop with the stupid jokes and stick to guitar building.
After the fret ends are smooth, I run sandpaper up and down the frets to remove the file marks and to polish the frets. I start with 150 grit, move to 220, 320, 400, 600, and end with 800. The frets look like new!