1. Remove the guitar strings.
2. Removing the frets:
A. I remove the frets by heating the fret with a
soldering iron that has been modified with a
grove in the tip so the tip of the soldering iron
won't slip off the fret while being heated.
I use a 50 watt soldering iron being very careful
not to scorch the fret board.
B. Using a special tool purchased on line from a
guitar supply store, while the fret is hot,
carefully slip the teeth of the tool under the fret
by placing the tools teeth flat against the fret
board and carefully squeezing and rocking backing
forth, if necessary. Once the teeth of the tool
has slipped under the fret move it along the fret
in the same manner until the fret has dislodged
from the fret slot. Continue until all the frets
have been removed.
C. After the frets have been removed I clean out
the fret slots, check the fret slot depths, and
clean the fret board. Fret board cleaner can be
bought from a number of guitar supply sites or
your local guitar supply store.
D. If the fret board needs a slight sanding I do it at
this is the time using a radius block the same
radius as the fret board.
I don't sand if it's not necessary. It is important
to check the radius of the fret board with a radius
gage before sanding and use the appropriate
radius block for sanding.
C. At this point, if your not using any type of neck
jig as I use (see below Installing the frets 4D )
adjust the truss rod to make the neck as straight
as possible. Do this now if your not using a neck
jig. See my Truss Rod Adjustment instructions.
Note: Before continuing to the next step be certain
you have the fret type you need to install.
3. Preparing the frets for installation:
A. Using a fret bending tool (pictured) I bend the fret
slightly more than the radius of the fret board.
Then cut the frets slightly wider than the fret
board slot it'll be installed into. I usually leave
about 1/16th over each edge.
B. I place the fret into an index to keep the frets
organized until I'm ready to install them.
C. At this point if the guitar neck has binding the
fret tangs need to be nipped at each end to fit
in between the binding.
D. Measuring how much needs to be removed, nip the
tang flush to the bottom of the fret using a fret
4. Installing the frets:
A. I use two methods of installing the fret into the
finger board. I either press them in or hammer
them in using a fret hammer. I actually prefer
hammering because I feel I have more control
over the fret being inserted. Great care must
be taken when hammering so not to over
hammer damaging the fret board. There are
times when pressing in the frets is desirable.
I usually determine that on a case by case basis.
B. Using a little hot glue pore a bead into the fret slot
starting on one side and going to the other so the
entire length of the fret slot has glue in it. A small
amount is enough. Be careful not to over do it.
Hide glue can be used, preferred by some. I've read
that some people use Tightbond, I wouldn't
C. Once the glue is put into the fret slot press the fret
into place or carefully tap the fret into place with the
fret hammer. After installing the fret make sure the
fret is in contact with the fret board the entire length
of the fret. I use a .001 to a .0015 feeler gauge to
check between the fret and the finger board running
the feeler gauge along the fret board and the edge of
fret. If the feeler gauge slips under the fret tap the
fret down carefully to close the gap. Do this before the
Note: If you decide to hammer the frets into place
Be sure you have a solid padded radiused base
under the neck and do not over hammer you could
damage the finger board or the neck. Please read
this article on Stewart MacDonald's web site.
D. Trim the ends of the frets by cutting the ends of the
frets, using a fret cutter, as close to the finger board
as possible with out damaging the fret board.
E. Using a file, bevel the ends of the frets 30 -
the file along the edge of the fret board holding the file
at the 35° angle until the frets are flush with the side
of the fret board. Using a beveling file makes this
operation much easier. The edge of the finger board
should be smooth when you run your finger up or down
the finger board. You should not feel any sharp edges
of the frets hanging over the edge of the finger board.
5. Leveling the frets:
A. Check the neck and make sure it's straight. You can
check it with a special straight edge notched for the
frets or by sighting down the length of the neck. Don't
use the frets to check if the neck is straight. It is very
important to make sure the neck is straight to perform
the next step.
Tape the neck off as shown in the illustration on this
page to protect the finger board, finger board edges
B. Using the appropriate radius block with 150 -
grit sand paper sand the frets moving up and down
parallel to the neck. Make certain you keep the
center of the block aligned to the center of the neck,
until the top side along the length of each fret has
been touched by the sand paper.
Note: You can use a higher grit if you choose not to be
so aggressive removing material. I use Porter Cable,
Norton or 3M sticky back paper on a 6 or a 12 inch long
C. Check the flatness of the frets, using a straight edge,
along the radius of the frets, from one side to the
other. The straight edge should not rock over any fret
in any position along the radius of the frets. If you've
touched the tops of each fret while leveling, the frets
should be level at this point. It is best to check with
a short straight edge across each set of three frets
down the length of the finger board, then check with
the longer straight edge across the entire finger board.
This insures that you didn't missed a low fret.
D. Some frets may have larger flat spots than others.
This is OK as long as it's not excessive. As your
sanding check the flat spots on the frets. If the flat
spots appear to be larger in the center of the neck the
neck may not be straight. You may have a back bow
in your neck. Excessive flats spots will show at each
end of the fret board if the neck has a forward bow.
Sight down the neck again and straighten it before
A. At this point tape off the finger board between each
fret the entire length of the board. I use Scotch 3M
Blue Painters Tape for delicate surfaces.
B. First, make sure you are using the correct recrowning
file. Start by placing the file on the frets closest point
to you rolling the file across the entire length of the
fret until you reach the opposite side. Repeat this
process until the flats on the frets created by the
leveling process have been removed
C. Using the same radiused recrowning file, roll the file
over each end of each fret to slightly round the ends
of each fret. It's important to round each end slightly
and to keep the round consistent between each fret.
Then using a 3-
edges of each fret so there are no sharp edges at the
edge of the fret board. Run your finger up and down
the edge of the finger board to ensure there are no
D. Once the frets have been dressed to your satisfaction
using a small square piece of 400 sand paper sand
The any file marks out of the frets. Do this carefully
so not to sand through the protection tape on the fret
board especially on the edges.
Hint: I usually double tape the fret board so this
Repeat this sanding of each with 600 sandpaper.
Then buff with 0000 or 000 steel wool. You can
substitute the steel wool with a piece of clothe and
E. Remove the tape set the neck relief, restring and
enjoy your new fret job. See Adjusting the Neck
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