Guitar Making Tip No. 624

Guitar Making Tip Number 624 is about fretting the neck. When you hammer your frets, especially as a beginner, lots of bad things can happen. Here is how you can still fret your neck and not worry about all the bad things.

Fretting the Neck as a Beginner

guitar making tip number 624In the beginning, fretting the neck is scary. It’s a completely new skill for most, and a lot depends on the fretboard being right.

This causes stress, and sometimes it can cause people to rush through the process. Rushing just makes it worse, and everything spirals out of control from there.

The biggest problem with fretting in the beginning is hammering. It really does take some skill and practice to hammer in the frets without damaging anything else. It also takes skill to seat them well.

With the alternative methods to fretting available to guitar makers, it’s a surprise that some people still use the hammer. Pressing frets into place with a caul is a much better method, and it alleviates a lot of the problems associated with hammering. Here is how…

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Hammering Frets Leads to Damaged Fretboards

If you are a beginner, and you are hammering your frets, be prepared to do some repairs on the fretboard when you are done. I promise that you will become a very skilled dent repairman before you ever become a skilled fret hammerer.

When I did my first guitar I just about wanted to cry. I spent a ton of time hammering and trying to take my time, but it seemed like every other fret had a dent for me to repair. It was awful. At that point, I knew that there had to be a better way.

To my disappointment, there were already several better ways that I could have used, but I didn’t even think to look before I started hammering away. One of these is pressing the frets in place, which is my favorite method.

Pressing Frets is Safer and Easier

There are a number of fret pressing options in the world. It’s a good idea to take a look at what is available and then buy something that matches the tools you already have. If you would like to make a fret seating caul, you can do that yourself as well.

Fret presses are sold for use on the drill press, and by hand with a locking pliers. The cauls are made with different radii which correspond to the fretboard radius. It’s a simple matter of pressing the fret into position rather than hammering.

If you want to make a fret caul yourself, all you need is a piece of hard wood about an inch square and three inches long. Carve the proper radius on one face, and then use that to hammer with. I seat all my frets like this, and it’s super easy, and cheap too.

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Guitar Making Tip No. 624 Wrap-Up

Fretting the guitar is already going to be one of the more stressful parts of the build, so there is no reason you should make it worse. Hammering in the frets is something that takes some practice, but pressing is just about as easy as it gets.

Look for a fret press that works with the tooling you already have, or make one yourself from a piece of hardwood. Either way you go, you will be seating your frets much better than before, and with much more accuracy.

If you have any questions on Guitar Making Tip No. 624, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy building.

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Tip No. 624 is from my book, 1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners, which has a thousand more great tips to get your first few builds on the right track. There is no secret to guitar making, just a lot of small things that you need to get right. These tips will help you.


  1. Hi, I enjoyed reading your comments re fretting, and looking into following your advice re pressing.

    Thanks very much.

    • Thank you Richard. Having done both, I definitely caused a lot less damage to my fretboard with the pressing method over the hammering method. Even the best of us miss once in a while, and it can put a lovely ding on an otherwise nice looking fretboard. Happy building, and thank you again.


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