Guitar Making Tip Number 629 is about hammering frets. The floor is one of the best places to hammer frets, because it’s firm and does not give way with hammer blows. If you are using a fretting caul, the floor is the best and easiest way to set frets. Here is how you do it.
Using the Floor to Help Fret Your Fretboard
As you hammer, the surface is what absorbs the force, and helps you drive in the fret wire. If you use a weak surface, it will make the process very difficult.
Think about hammering frets with your board sitting in the top of a soccer ball. The surface is going to give back so much of the force from the hammer that it will be nearly impossible to hammer the frets into the wood.
Now, think about the opposite. What if you were to hammer your frets with the board sitting on top of a big piece of concrete. The concrete would absorb every bit of the force, and not bounce back at all. This would make fretting really easy. Thankfully, most of us have a surface like this right inside our shops…
Hammering Frets on The Floor
People sometimes laugh when I tell them, but I hammer my frets (using a caul) with the fretboard on the floor in the shop. The floor is concrete, so the energy from the hammer is transferred nearly 100% to the fret wire.
Since the process is so efficient, I don’t have to hammer as hard, and I seat each fret with a couple smacks. This reduces the amount of effort, and it also makes my fretting much more clean than before.
I do have a pretty nice bench, and it’s stable. However, it just does not have the weight that a few tons of concrete does. Even a good bench bounces back some of the force, but the concrete just absorbs everything.
Starting Off With Good Fret Slots
Another thing that can help you in the fretting process is to make sure that you have good fret slots to start with. My Fretboard Slotting Jig post shows you how to make a homemade fret slotting jig. Now, you can slot an entire board without measuring once.
If you start out with a good set of slots, that are fully cut, you will be in better shape when you start hammering. One of the worst things you can do is try to hammer a fret into a shallow slot.
As you saw your fret slots, make sure that you cut them to the full depth, plus a tiny pinch more for security. The tang of the fret can only go to the bottom of the slot. If you don’t saw it deep enough, all the hammering in the world will not seat it.
Guitar Making Tip No. 629 – Wrap Up
Fretting the fretboard can be a little stressful for the first time. However, if you do a couple things first, it will be easier. First, find a very stable surface to hammer against. In my shop, I use the concrete floor.
Next, make sure that you slot your frets all the way to the full depth. This way, the tangs on the frets have all the room they need to drive into the slot. Once you do that, you can be assured that the slot will not make your fretting job any harder than it is.
To do the job, simply bring the fretboard to the floor with your hammer and caul. Place the fret over the slot, and use the hammer and caul to seat it. The concrete will not give an inch, and all the force from the hammer will transfer to the fret.
1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners
Tip No. 629 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.