Four Fretting Tools

Nothing new here for most folks. Possibly some new tool modifications.

The following tool suggestions are to assist re-fretting a bound fret board. The problem with bound fret boards is the binding adhesive. It gets into the fret slots where the most troublesome part of the fret must seat completely down into the fret board. No doubt other luthiers have worked out better strategies than what I describe here. If so I sure would like to hear about those better techniques.

The tool below is one of a set of Stewmac gauged pulls saws. These are very handy little saws when re-fretting Harmony Sovereign guitars. The original fret slots are way too narrow for modern frets. Stewmac does not sell any wire that will fit vintage Harmony slots. Other fret wire sellers do carry wire with tangs down to .020 inch. Even with that wire, the slots must be widened. Widen the slots to desired with before installing fret board binding.

I am on my second set of gauged saws. So I modified several as follows. The image below shows the same saw with most of the blade cut away. Use this to start the job of cleaning out the slots. Use only in pull stroke mode. Note the little curve ground into the back of the 1/2 inch length of blade. This is handy for hooking out the last little bit of crud in the slot. Use the remaining saw blade to start slot cleaning. The hook part is used last part during the fret slot cleaning operation. The next tool is the second tool to use.

The image below shows the Stewmac fret cleaning tool. This is only useful for picking out glue and gunk close to the fret board binding. Not so great for cleaning the entire slot. The modified gauged saw is better for that. However, this hook tool excels at picking right up against the binding. For that hook point to work properly, it must be kept sharp. The little Dremel grinding stone is perfect for that. The steel of the hook is not very good, so frequent sharpening is needed. The hook is not sharpened like a knife, but like a .5mm wide chisel blade. I re-sharpen the hook 20-30 times during bound fret board re-fretting.

When all of the slots are clean, check for slot depth. The item below is an old automotive .022 feeler gauge. If the end of the gauge fits into the slot up the green tape, the slot is ready for a fret. In this case of the current fret board, I am installing frets having a tang width of .020. Some day I will put a handle on this thing so I can find it buried in the bench mess.

©2019 D.R. Hanna