Fret seating problem

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Richardl
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Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:06 pm

Hi all

I have had a bit of a disaster on the fretting front on my second build :cry: . I didn't notice till it was too late so just kept going which was, in hindsight, a mistake. Obviously, from the pic, they are not seating properly. Most are fairly similar, some slightly better than others. I'm not sure if the slots were too narrow (they were pretty tight) or not deep enough - it was a pre-slotted board so I guess I assumed it would work. Apart from heating the frets with a soldering iron to melt the titebond and yanking them out - risking ruining the fret board, are there any other remedies for a newby? I read that a bead of superglue could be run under the fret http://fingerlakesguitarrepair.com/repa ... -fretwork/ to improve things without pulling them out or should i just leave them for now and see how it plays? They are fairly well lined up and I can file and crown them so, apart from high spots and potential for buzz, what are the other main problems with this poor seating?

Thanks

Richard
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56nortondomy
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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by 56nortondomy » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:35 pm

Try a clamp on 1 to see if it seats properly, if it doesn't the slots probably aren't deep enough, if it does you might be able to use CA to remedy the problem. Wayne

Richardl
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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:09 pm

Thanks, do you mean if it doesn't clamp down, try CA? I'd be surprised if it does clamp down but can give it a go.

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Richard

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kiwigeo
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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by kiwigeo » Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:51 pm

When I cut my fret slots I have a piece of fret wire with tangs filed off that I run through the fret to check that the slot is deep enough.

The solution to your issues - it sounds like the slot depth (or possibly width) is the issue so a fret pull is really the only fix. My method of pulling frets:

1. Run a soldering iron or your wife's clothing iron over the fret to soften glue (if glue has been used).
2. Walk the fret out using a fret pulling tool. To minimize chip out work slowly and steadily and if you can, slip two thin metal rulers under the fret so that the fret puller jaws are levering against the ruler. When I install frets I bevel the slot to also minimize tear out during a fret pull.

Look at the positives....youre going to have to pull frets at some stage in your career so you might as well get started now! :mrgreen:
Martin

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:17 am

Good idea on the tang-less fret wire. I guess i assumed, being professionally slotted, it would be correct for the wire provided. Lesson learned. I had really hoped to avoid pulling the wire before the thing even gets finished, but i suppose if there is no-other way...dammit. This build has been a bit fraught with problems, I suppose you either learn from them for the next one or give up...not sure which way I'll go!

Cheers
Richard

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by kiwigeo » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:28 am

Looking at the bottom photo and in particular the side of the fretboard there appears to be a gap between the bottom of the fret tang and the bottom of the slot. is this actually the case? If so then slot width could be the problem. Regardless recutting the slot is IMO the best option. Jamming frets into undersized slots can potentially have the effect of inducing back bow in the neck.
Richardl wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:17 am
Good idea on the tang-less fret wire. I guess i assumed, being professionally slotted, it would be correct for the wire provided. Lesson learned. I had really hoped to avoid pulling the wire before the thing even gets finished, but i suppose if there is no-other way...dammit. This build has been a bit fraught with problems, I suppose you either learn from them for the next one or give up...not sure which way I'll go!

Cheers
Richard
Martin

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:05 am

I don't think there is much of a gap under the frets, if any, but the slots may be too narrow as well as you point out. Only having fretted one instrument means I haven't got much of a reference point to know if it is too tight or not, but that one went perfectly and I have had no trouble at all with that instrument. This lot took a bit of hammering and as a consequence, I'm a bit nervous about trying to get them out! It has introduced a very slight back bow as you say, maybe 1 mm. I thought that might be compensated for by the string tension (and could be fixed with the truss rod).

How hot do the frets have to be to soften titebond? I might try one and see what happens. If I can't get them out without major issues, what is the downside in terms of playability if all the frets are leveled and crowned to the same height, but not completely seated? I guess the frets will have a higher profile overall.

Cheers
Richard

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by kiwigeo » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:16 am

Richardl wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:05 am
How hot do the frets have to be to soften titebond? I might try one and see what happens. If I can't get them out without major issues, what is the downside in terms of playability if all the frets are leveled and crowned to the same height, but not completely seated? I guess the frets will have a higher profile overall.

Cheers
Richard
You should only have to hold the iron on the frets for a couple of minutes to soften up the glue. You'll get the frets out if you just work carefully and slowly and "walk" the fret out rather than trying to simply yank it out bodily. I'd really recommend a pair of fret pullers...the jaws are specifically designed to get under the fret head. Failing that you can grind the face flush on a set of fret nippers and use those for the pull job.

This video shows how it's done: https://youtu.be/VjIC3t2FO9Q
Martin

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by blackalex1952 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:30 pm

These drawing guards are good for protecting the fingerboard against chipping when pulling frets-commonly available from a graphics supply or art store.
If the frets don't seat properly, the string can loose energy when fretted which affects the sound. Gluing the frets in increases stability of the frets and seals the fingerboard from moisture uptake via the fret slots. Glue also helps with bound fingerboards where the tang is removed at each end of the fret. Cheers! Ross
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"Everything I say on the topic is based solely upon inexperience and assumption!"

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demonx
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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by demonx » Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:26 pm

After skim reading the posts and looking at the pic I’d guess it’s either slots not deep enough or they haven’t been cleaned properly, or the frets simply weren’t hammered in enough, OR... what i suspect is the most likely the issue, most probably the neck wasn’t supported enough during the hammering, so the pressure wasn’t direct and the neck was just bouncing. This would explain why they’re all over the place as you describe. When you’re hammering a fret, you should move the rear support every time su it’s directmy underneath the fret you’re hammering on.

I also read that you used titebond on the frets? Titebond isn’t suitable for fretwork. It’ll adhere to the fingerboard but not the fret. It needs to be CA/superglue. Have acetone handy for cleanup too as you’ll need it.

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by kiwigeo » Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:29 pm

demonx wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:26 pm
I also read that you used titebond on the frets? Titebond isn’t suitable for fretwork. It’ll adhere to the fingerboard but not the fret. It needs to be CA/superglue. Have acetone handy for cleanup too as you’ll need it.
I take the view that the water from the Titebond swells the wood surrounding the slot and the glue prevents the wood returning to original state once water has dried off. I also run a bead of water into the slot prior to fretting.
Martin

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:09 pm

kiwigeo wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:29 pm
demonx wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:26 pm
I also read that you used titebond on the frets? Titebond isn’t suitable for fretwork. It’ll adhere to the fingerboard but not the fret. It needs to be CA/superglue. Have acetone handy for cleanup too as you’ll need it.
I take the view that the water from the Titebond swells the wood surrounding the slot and the glue prevents the wood returning to original state once water has dried off. I also run a bead of water into the slot prior to fretting.
Thanks all for your suggestions folks. I was a bit surprised about titebond but it's what is recommended in the book I'm following. As for support, I'd agree it might not have been adequate but for the frets closest to the body, they were well supported and still haven't seated very well. Maybe it's a combination of all of the above but in the end, none of the frets are really well seated like my first guitar which worked perfectly with no fuss. Of all the hand tool processes, having peined quite a few knives and dovetailed planes in my time, I'm fairly confident with a hammer, so I believe it's the slots depth and possibly width.

So, with titebond, would I still have to heat the fret before pulling it out?

Cheers
Richard

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demonx
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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by demonx » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:02 pm

Richardl wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:09 pm

So, with titebond, would I still have to heat the fret before pulling it out?

Cheers
Richard
No, the reason being is that titebond will never properly adhere to the fret. It’ll only fill up the space between the tang and the fret. It kind of defeats the purpose of glue in the first place.

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by demonx » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:08 pm

kiwigeo wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:29 pm


I take the view that the water from the Titebond swells the wood surrounding the slot and the glue prevents the wood returning to original state once water has dried off. I also run a bead of water into the slot prior to fretting.
That sounds pretty scary to me. My personal opinion is I’d not want water anywhere near it and as you suggested titebond is water based.

I know water is used in old school joinery to dampen rosettes and so forth to get a tight join, however frets aren’t timber, so its only going to work one side and then you run the risk of that swelling going back to its original position when it dries, unlike a rosette rwhich is all timber, the nickel fret won’t move with it.

My line of thinking would be to have a good slot, a clean fret insertion with just enough overbend that the fret ends hold themselves down, and then the superglue is simply a security measure. Out of the hundreds of guitars I’ve fretted I’ve never heard a complaint of the frets becoming unseated, so whatever I’m doing works.

I’m not saying I know everything, this is just my opinion and there’ll be a million more of them out there!

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by kiwigeo » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:27 pm

More thoughts on gluing in frets.

Are we actually gluing in the fret (ie a metal to wood bond) or just stiffening up the sides of the fret slot to improve the tang seat?
If fret slotting and fret fitting is done carefully then do we actually need glue?
Martin

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by demonx » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:50 pm

kiwigeo wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:27 pm
More thoughts on gluing in frets.

Are we actually gluing in the fret (ie a metal to wood bond) or just stiffening up the sides of the fret slot to improve the tang seat?
If fret slotting and fret fitting is done carefully then do we actually need glue?
If all you want to do is fill the fret slot, sure, use titebond.

The superglue does actually help the fret to stay seated, in addition to the tang being seated properly. There was a stage a few years back where I’ve went through a stage where I’ve not superglued and once I had to do a refret because of that (frets not seating down hard), I’ve never not glued since.

You’d be surprised the amount of factory guitars that I get come in to have frets reseated, none of them glued.

Superglue also helps keep the fret tangs in place on bound instruments where the tang is cut and filed. I’ve tried with and without and it’s much neater and more presentable with. Titebond would not achieve this either.

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:47 pm

So, just so I have it right as a beginner, as I have used a bit of titebond, I can just carefully pull out the frets - no heat as it won't really soften and doesn't adhere to the frets anyway. Is that the consensus?

I didn't mention but this fretboard is ebony not rosewood. Does that require a slightly wider blade kerf as its a bit harder? I don't actually have the right size saw anyway, the finest kerf I have is 0.8 mm. I have ground a hacksaw blade to 0.5 mm which might do at a pinch just to fractionally alter the existing slots. What is the kerf on a fretting saw?

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Richard

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by kiwigeo » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:25 pm

Richardl wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:47 pm
So, just so I have it right as a beginner, as I have used a bit of titebond, I can just carefully pull out the frets - no heat as it won't really soften and doesn't adhere to the frets anyway. Is that the consensus?

I didn't mention but this fretboard is ebony not rosewood. Does that require a slightly wider blade kerf as its a bit harder? I don't actually have the right size saw anyway, the finest kerf I have is 0.8 mm. I have ground a hacksaw blade to 0.5 mm which might do at a pinch just to fractionally alter the existing slots. What is the kerf on a fretting saw?

Cheers
Richard
I'd apply a bit of heat as it will help soften up any glue in the wood fibres and reduce tear out. The extra time taken to apply a bit of heat is minimal.

Most of my fret saws have a 0.023"/0.55mm kerf. This seems to be pretty much standard for normal fret wire. The modified hacksaw might work but I suggest you get your hands on a proper fret saw.
Martin

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by demonx » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:23 pm

kiwigeo wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:25 pm
[The modified hacksaw might work but I suggest you get your hands on a proper fret saw.
Yes, I suspect the additional information may also supply a possible culprit to the problem.

To answer the question, I use the same stewmac circular saw blade for all timber boards and all fretwire. It’s cut thousands of slots and is so blunt that these days it probably burns through the wood rather than cut, but it still works fine!

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:40 am

kiwigeo wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:25 pm
Richardl wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:47 pm
So, just so I have it right as a beginner, as I have used a bit of titebond, I can just carefully pull out the frets - no heat as it won't really soften and doesn't adhere to the frets anyway. Is that the consensus?

I didn't mention but this fretboard is ebony not rosewood. Does that require a slightly wider blade kerf as its a bit harder? I don't actually have the right size saw anyway, the finest kerf I have is 0.8 mm. I have ground a hacksaw blade to 0.5 mm which might do at a pinch just to fractionally alter the existing slots. What is the kerf on a fretting saw?

Cheers
Richard
I'd apply a bit of heat as it will help soften up any glue in the wood fibres and reduce tear out. The extra time taken to apply a bit of heat is minimal.

Most of my fret saws have a 0.023"/0.55mm kerf. This seems to be pretty much standard for normal fret wire. The modified hacksaw might work but I suggest you get your hands on a proper fret saw.
Thanks, yes, I suppose I should get a fret saw. By having it professionally cut by a luthier I had hoped to avoid all these issues. The hacksaw was just an idea to avoid spending yet another $100 on a tool I'll use infrequently. The only saw available seems to be the Pax one which is not so expensive in the UK (or from Stumac or even Carbatec in Australia), but by the time it gets to NZ... the price has doubled https://www.carbatec.co.nz/product/1556 ... r-fret-saw. I did a practice fret pull on some scrap. The Titebond sure makes a difference to locking the frets in place. I'll try the softening approach with a soldering iron tonight.

Cheers
Richard

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56nortondomy
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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by 56nortondomy » Wed Jan 09, 2019 5:10 pm

Definitely heat the frets before you pull them it'll soften the titebond no problem and make it a lot easier with less chance of tear out. Get a fret saw, that'll make life a lot easier too, I use the stewmac one, just remember whatever saw you buy it'll have a limited life span, maybe about 8 f/boards.
https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/T ... t_Saw.html
Wayne

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Wed Jan 09, 2019 7:53 pm

What do you think this one? Quite a bit cheaper than getting a Stumac or Pax one. https://www.guitarparts.co.nz/tools/saw ... -53mm.html

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Richard

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by 56nortondomy » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:37 pm

It'd probably do the job, it's a bit on the small side, as long as the kerf suits your fret wire is the main thing. I just bite the bullet and buy from stewmac I'm on my 4th saw now.
Wayne

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by Richardl » Sat Jan 12, 2019 10:11 am

Hi all

Just pulled out the frets using the approach recommended with a soldering iron and walking the iron and my old jewellery pliers (that are similar to fret pulling pliers) along the fret so the bit being pulled was hot. Worked perfectly with no major chip-out - the heat makes a big difference! Many thanks for the help and advice everyone. I was a bit apprehensive about the job but it was a lot easier than I expected. Also ordered a Pax fretting saw. :D

Cheers
Richard

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Re: Fret seating problem

Post by stepheneb » Wed Jan 16, 2019 5:18 pm

I have one of these small Irwin Japanese pull saws I bought years ago for less than $10 and it works great for cutting fret slots.

https://www.irwin.com/tools/handsaws/dovetaildetail-saw

Measured with feeler gauges an actual cut kerf in a fret board is 0.020" -- which seems to be just about perfect for the EVO Gold fret wire I use with an 0.023" tang.
Stephen Bannasch

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