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Fretting Advice

Total Topics: 24
Total Posts: 113
I'm close to fretting my neck, and was hoping I could get the voice of experience from a few of you.

I've heard that a pair of nippers are good to cut the frets, then I've heard that a small hacksaw is better. Is there a real difference or is this personal opinion.

I've seen files shaped to form a fret after leveling, then I've heard others say just to grind down the edges of a triangular file and use it. Thoughts?

As a newbie, I'm trying to find the right balance betwen cost and simplicity... any advice is appreciated.


Jul 10, 06 | 4:04 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Hi Ed, Here is how I do it. I got the concept from Master guitar repair person Don Teeter.

I'll get a drawing a of a really neat DIY fret file/dresser on my site asap. A small triangular file with the edges ground down works very good for reshaping the crown. Jonathan Kinkead's book has a great section regarding fret dressing and leveling etc. The problem with nippers is you risk pulling the fret out of the slot at the edge --- worst place to be loose and difficult to bend back to shape.

Ken ----- Kenneth Michael Guitars

Jul 10, 06 | 4:32 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Ed -- If you do use nippers (which I do and haven't had problems myself) clip the frets with the nipper cutting edges perpendicular to the fretboard, not parallel to the fretboard. That way, if you push too much on one handle or the other, you only push the fret sideways and you won't risk pushing the fretwire up out of the slot. Use only sharp nippers and don't wiggle them; just cut. If the cut doesn't go all the way through, set the nippers down and break off the fet end with your fingers; it will be almost off at that point and hardly any pressure is required.

Another idea is to start your fretting at the bottom of the fretbaord, not the top. That way, if you make a mistake on of of the first few, it will be at the end you almost never touch instead of the end you always use.


Jul 11, 06 | 6:38 am

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676

I've been 'collecting' material for a year or so and found a copy of the Stew-Mac/Erlewine book named Fretwork on the bay. There is no 'one' right way to do most of this stuff. I think that it is a matter of finding a resource, learning a good technique and going with it. There are some good online resources, such as Have fun, expect to make a few mistakes (I surely have!) and let your hands learn.


Jul 11, 06 | 4:29 pm

Total Topics: 25
Total Posts: 113
Thanks, guys! What a great resource this forum is!


Jul 11, 06 | 4:42 pm
Bill Greene

Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 7
Also, consider going to the Official Luthier's Forum, and look under the "Tools and Tips" section for Tim McKnight's series on fretting. Very thorough.

Jul 12, 06 | 2:18 pm

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676
I'd second the OLF. It is another really good online resource with people who are happy to share tips on the trade. I still pretty much just lurk there, but have learned lots.

Jul 13, 06 | 3:37 pm

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