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installing frets

Total Topics: 25
Total Posts: 58
what you using? i made a fret hammer out of an old large hear body hammer.
the head weighs about 6 to 8 ounces.
i was also thinking about using the drill press?
Make a radius head out of aluminun or brass to mount in the drill press.
any one tried this?
Thanks Dave

Jun 02, 07 | 6:25 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Dave -- The only requirement for the fretting hammer is that it should not mar the frets. A flat face (just slightly crowned) will work well.

The technique ... if you need it ... 5 raps and it's in.

Hold the fretwire upright in the slot
rap it sharply, firmly, not heavily, on one end (1/5)
rap it on the other end (2/5)
(This raises the center of the fret and embeds the end tangs for the next step)

Rap it in the middle (3/5) to press the middle down and spread the end tangs sideways into the fibers of the wood -- little or no glue will ever be needed if you do it this way (though some use glue -- I don't)

Rap it at the remaining 2/5 and 4/5 points between the ends and the middle.

A drill press would work if you have the curved caul to press the fret, but the hammer method actually is more secure once you learn it.

Also -- start with the highest frets first -- errors on those will never be seen or felt.


Jun 02, 07 | 7:07 am

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 567
I have one of those hammers with rubber on one side and hard yellow plastic on the other. I also have a small jewelers hammer but I don't use it as it is too light. If you use a standard metal hammer, be really careful not to hit too hard, or in a glancing blow kind of way. The metal is fairly soft and will mar easily. The technique Bill layed out is how I do it, but I am not good enough to get them only with 5 hits. After the initial 5 hits, I usually need to tap the ends down again and then tack them in with water thin superglue.

The biggest mistake you can make is letting the fret 'roll' to one side when you hit it. This will almost always take a chip out of the fingerboard on the slot edge. Believe me, it is very easy to have happen too! A lot of builders will actually bevel the edges of the slot a tiny bit to help keep this from happening. If you have a piece of practice fingerboard, (stewmac includes a small piece for you to practice on) I suggest you use it to get the feel of how they go in. Once you do a couple, it is pretty easy.

Good luck!

My Blog

Jun 02, 07 | 2:42 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Another approach --- I get a lot of thank you's regarding this method.


Jun 02, 07 | 5:05 pm

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676

Nice tutorial! The backer fretboard is a great idea.


Jun 03, 07 | 9:32 am

Total Topics: 25
Total Posts: 58
thanks, Looks like i will try the hammer first.
ken you make it look so easy.

Jun 04, 07 | 11:50 am

Total Topics: 11
Total Posts: 27

Could your method be adapted for use on a fingerboard going on a bound neck?

I'm just getting started and haven't yet researched the differences for such a situation.

-- Channing

Jun 09, 07 | 5:42 am

Total Topics: 11
Total Posts: 27
Hmmmm. You can't edit your post once made. Something to remember!

Anyway, can anyone see why Ken's technique wouldn't work for a bound neck once you nipped the end of the fret to clear the binding?

Jun 09, 07 | 5:46 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
A bound fingerboard is a little different and there is less room for error. For bound boards I do find using a press a better choice than a hammer since the tangs created for the over hang are so fragile and easily bent. Having the fret wire pre-bent to the exact FB radius is also more important when installing the wire to a bound FB. Also, using a tiny dropof CA under tang overhang is a little added insurance that they will not lift and cause the nasty occurance of the "E" string getting caught.


Jun 09, 07 | 6:21 am

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