Fret Arbor Press System

  • 37 Reviews
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A fretting factory on your workbench! Our veteran fretting experts developed this unique system for speed and accuracy.

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Fret Arbor Press System

Item # 4481
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$183.83 $169.12

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Product Video

Fret press: arbor press for guitar fretting

Dan Erlewine demos our arbor press, which is specially adapted for fretting stringed instruments.


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Product Details

A fretting factory on your workbench! Our veteran fretting experts developed this unique system for speed and accuracy.

You won't find a more thoughtfully designed and efficient arbor-based system! It's far more versatile than generic tool catalog arbors. It can fret an entire unglued fingerboard, a bolt-on neck, and most of an attached neck, quickly and consistently.

Why press frets? Faster and more consistent than hammering (and a lot quieter!), arbor-press fretting is preferred by many guitarmakers. Pressed-in frets have fewer loose ends and more uniform heights, because there's none of the recoil produced by hammer blows.

The complete system includes:

  • Heavy-duty cast steel arbor press
  • Self-leveling pressing caul
  • Five radiused/grooved brass inserts for the caul
  • Table with fence attachment
  • Hardwood neck support
  • Instructions

Designed and refined by StewMac fretting experts. Four interchangeable 2-1/2" grooved brass inserts match standard fretwire radii (7.25", 9.5", 12" and 16"), and a special 6"-radius insert holds down the fret ends when you're using glue. Additional insert radii are available separately. The arbor has an adjustable steel pinion for firm pressure.

Built-in lever return spring. The pressing caul won't fall down and dent your work—makes fretting much easier and less cumbersome. A StewMac exclusive, this is the first half-ton arbor press to feature this innovative spring recoil.

Pinion locking screw. Locks the caul down for clamping a glued-in fret (a handy feature suggested by luthier Bryan Galloup).

Versatile table attachment. The system now includes our 24-3/8" x 3" table attachment with fence, for fretting unglued fingerboards. Adjustment screws move and rotate the table forward and back, to center the fingerboard and precisely align the frets beneath the pressing caul. A thumbscrew locks the table to the arbor.

Faster fretting for production work. The table fence has a retractable indexing pin that works with the notches in our Dual Fret Scale Templates. Attach a slotted unglued fingerboard to a matching template with double-stick tape, and the pin aligns each fret directly beneath the pressing caul. A real time-saver!

Fret glued-on fingerboards, too. Simply remove the table and use the contoured 12" x 2-3/4" x 1" cork-lined hardwood neck support included with the system. (Tip: it's also a handy lower clamping caul for gluing a fingerboard on a neck.)

Already using our Fret Press Caul in your drill press? The arbor press with table is available separately—save money and upgrade your shop.


Product Instructions

Stewart-MacDonald Fret Arbor Press

Setup instructions and useful tips for getting the most out of our Fret Arbor Press System.

Ratings & Reviews

Fret Arbor Press System

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  • GOOD PRODUCT
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  • Based on 37 Reviews
Displaying 3 of 4 1 2 3 4
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I like the press but the table needs work

By Beth Mayer from Tucson, AZ
(Customer's Reviews) Saturday, August 27, 2011


I fret unglued fingerboards so wanted to use the table. It is tapped with some bizzare, unmatchable thread where the hold-down screws in, so you can't just go to the hardware store and get a longer length of threaded stock to lengthen the reach of the holddown...it had to be retapped and then buy standard stock.

The table fixture doesn't stay in place well, so you need to tweak it between presses. The arbor itself is sturdy, though the tightening knob for vising glued frets is not strong enough to keep pressure on the fret, so don't rely on it for that.

Fret System

By Don Noonan from Easley, SC
(Customer's Reviews) Saturday, July 16, 2011


You know the fret is set. Easy to use.

Thanks God Someone Sells It!

By StewMike from Italia
(Customer's Reviews) Thursday, May 26, 2011


i think i would never, ever got into fretwork if i couldn't get a hold of an arbor press. i tried hammering frets once, and i swore myself i'll never do it again. just hate it! so i got myself the arbor press and now i'm definitely a refret guy. it's so easy, fast and accurate to refret with the arbor press. i think i'll also give a try to Jaws, too.

Fret Press

By Jerhico Guitars from Altona, NY
(Customer's Reviews) Saturday, May 07, 2011


Works good.

Best bang for your buck

By L.B from Canada
(Customer's Reviews) Saturday, April 16, 2011


Regardless of the few minor issues mentioned by other reviewers, this is the best value for so little investment that I have ever purchased, from any tool supplier. Anyone who is at all experienced with fret work should have the ability to set up this tool and get beyond the lack of fine details in the casting and paint job. I'm just thankful that it has been made available at such an affordable price. You may have to clean it , assemble it and maybe file down a spot or two but in the end it works great. I would give it six stars if possible.

Great, but needs work

By Moabman from Arvada, CO,
(Customer's Reviews) Sunday, April 10, 2011


I read the previous reviews and had some concerns about purchasing. I decided to buy the press mostly because there is nothing else out there like this press. When I received it, I noticed right away that the tool was dirty and grimy from the oil and machining process. As I started to clean it up, I realized a surface clean-up would not do.



Here's my advice if you buy this press: When you receive it, disassemble it. This includes taking off the front plate that houses the gear drive. You will need to clean the body thoroughly. I do a lot of work on bicycles, so I used a degreaser that I use on my chain rings and chain drive. Once the body is cleaned, take off all of the grease and oil on the gear drive assembly. I found the gear drive had a lot of rough spots from the machining. I took the time to grind off the rough spots with a Dremel tool. Once that was polished up, I then used a tap to clean out all the machining gunk in the threads on the body. They're rough and need cleaning. If you don't have tap tools, take a cotton-tipped ear cleaner and clean the threads well. I then degreased and cleaned up every screw. When I put it back together, I used a high quality grease to grease the gear drive. I also used a slight amount on the screw threads so they can easily be removed if need be in the future without fear of rust or corrosion.



When I was putting everything back together, I was able to precisely set the set screws that hold in place the internal gear bar. This significantly stabilized the gear and the arm worked the gear smoothly.



I found the casting to be rough. The machining was rough, too, and I took some extra time to lap the rough machining on the plate where the fretboard table rests. It's work that you don't necessarily have to do, but it really cleans up the machine and creates a flat surface for the table.



The paint is poor. The paint will just fall off the machine. I suppose if one was really bothered by this, you could have it stripped, then powder coated. That would be very nice. Expect the red paint to come off. It looks like crap, but the machine works.



Once it's all cleaned up and greased properly, you should be ready to go. I gave this three stars because although the tool quality isn't the best (rough castings, gears, paint, etc), it's the right idea and works fine once tuned up. I would go with five stars if the basics of tool quality were improved.



If by chance you can cast and properly machine with quality, you've got an opportunity here to make a quality machine that many would purchase and use for a lifetime. If not, if you buy this one, expect to put some work in to it to get it working as well as can be expected.

Great Tool

By JVan from Granger,IN
(Customer's Reviews) Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Fretting made simple. Great machine and easy to use and all frets are seated right the first time! This is a must have if you plan to build any style guitar period.

why did I have to wait so long ?

By Softlad from Ireland
(Customer's Reviews) Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I had decided that this was going to be my Christmas present for 2010,so knowing how good StewMac are for deliveries I left it until the last minute to order, oh the disappointment, it was on back order, anyway Christmas came in February by then I had two boards to fret and the press worked just like I expected,it's a brilliant piece of kit and I would recommend it to anyone building or repairing Guitars.

THE Tool For Fretting

By Michael Magedanz from Seattle, WA
(Customer's Reviews) Tuesday, March 29, 2011


After reading the poor review from 3/15, I was a little leery about buying this press. But, I decided to simply ask that Stew Mac inspect the press before they send it to me, and they did.

10 years ago, I bought the Stew Mac fret press cauls and tried using them with my drill press. At the time I wasn't thrilled with the results. I put the cauls away in a drawer, and went back to hammering in frets. Recently, after watching a video on advanced fretting (love Dan's videos!) and seeing how well an arbor press works on frets, I decided to buy one.


After fretting 1 neck, I wish I had bought a press years ago! This is THE way to fret necks, quickly, precisely, and consistently.


The press itself is not ready for use right out of the box, but what fun is a tool that doesn't need to be set up!? Just follow the instructions, and you will be fine. It may take a number of attempts before you get the arm in the ideal position relative to the ram, and the spring set perfectly, but you'll get there, I did. The paint is not the best, but it does not adversely affect performance, so I can live with it.


I have no trouble recommending this press to anyone. It's a time saver, and ultimately improves the quality of your work. Regarding the included support table, I can't offer a review. I didn't set it up because I fret necks, not fingerboards by themselves.

Fret Arbor Press System

By smokie from IL,
(Customer's Reviews) Tuesday, March 15, 2011


First i give it 2 stars for the Idea, Great Idea Awefull Execution!


I Would like Stewmac to understand that this is a direct representation of their quality of work I don't care if you have it made somewhere else!


the press: ok as soon as i pulled it out of the box i could something wasn't right,after a few seconds i noticed the face plate of the ram that holds the guide and lock down was upside down,the face would not sit flush on all 4 sides, after flipping over and seeing that's what was wrong i noticed the paint drips now go up! "NICE". I'm not going to even get in to all the red paint chips i have. Thats right it looses paint like a dog shedding hair, the knob that house's the spring looks like someone grabbed it with pliers!


The Table: Total P.O.S. screws not countersunk even,oil spots everywhere,the item was just dirty it looks like it has been in use for years!!!! Missing parts the arm was missing the screw that holds the press arm. With in 20 minutes of cleaning and setting it up the Stewart macdonald Emblem fell off, just fell off tink tink that was probably the only justice i got out of this. Could i have called stew/mac yes! but i chose to write this instead.


This item looks like someone got a new one and they sent me there used one honest to god that's why i am writing this. Stew/mac need to be more reliable with there equipment, bottom line when i spend 200 Bones on equipment BRAND NEW Equipment I'm going to be the one to scratch and dent it, not the pathetic quality control in ChinA. I have found similar Arbor press's on Ebay for 40$, Stew/Mac I spent 250$ last week and 250$ this week if you dont want me to go somewhere else i suggest YOU LOOK AT YOUR PRODUCT! You are not the only guitar Co. out there nor are you the most affordable. You might have it made in china but its still your PRODUCT

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