Learn About Guitar and Instrument Fretting + Fretwork

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Trade Secrets! Issue 49 November 29, 2007
Binding and fretting a Red Diamond mandolin fingerboard
Don MacRostie shows us his methods for fingerboard binding and fretting on a Red Diamond vintage model mandolin.
Trade Secrets! Issue 91 July 09, 2009
Cleaning up after sloppy fretwork: fixing chips in the fingerboard
Erick Coleman's got a neck to fix, including a broken peghead. One thing leads to another, and it turns out the toughest job is hiding the fretboard chips left by the last repairman to work on this guitar.
Trade Secrets! Issue 139 May 12, 2011
Dan Erlewine's Facebook fretless bass
Dan Erlewine's been posting photos on Facebook, creating this photo story on how to convert a fretted bass to fretless. It's a Trade Secrets story and it's on Facebook too!
Product Instructions I-4915
Dual Fret Scale Template Instructions
How to determine where to cut fret slots using the Dual Fret Scale Templates.
Trade Secrets! Issue 74 November 13, 2008
eBay mandolin: fret work and using JB Weld to rebuild a truss rod nut
Dan Erlewine's customer got a deal on eBay. Whether it was a good or a bad deal depends on how much it takes to make it playable. Dan fixes fret buzz and a warped neck, then rebuilds the truss rod nut using JB Weld repair epoxy.
Trade Secrets! Issue 132 February 03, 2011
Fine tuning a bolt-on replacement neck
Erick Coleman pulls his old Strat out of mothballs and gives it a new neck. He shows what's needed to get a replacement neck ready to play.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 258 March 24, 2016
Fixing fret buzz: seating a popped-up fret
Matt Brooker has a neck with some buzzing frets. He traces the problem to some poorly seated frets and shows two ways to clamp them down. Matt shows why seating the frets is the first thing to do before taking a file to your fretboard.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 232 December 18, 2014
Fixing fret buzz: spot leveling and re-crowning
Dan Erlewine found a 1935 May Bell and fell in love with her. She has some fret buzz due to worn frets that are flat and wide. Dan shows how a little leveling and filing got her playing again.
Trade Secrets! Issue 13 January 18, 2007
Fixing fret ends that stick out in dry weather
This week, Erick Coleman answers a wintertime question: What to do about fret ends that stick out of the sides of the neck?

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 259 April 07, 2016
Fixing fretboard chips on the Mike Bloomfield Tele
The rosewood fretboard on this 1963 Telecaster has some nasty chips from old fret jobs. Dan Erlewine uses three methods to fix fretboard chips, including some serious surgery for the worst cases: grafting in new rosewood!
Product Instructions I-4363
Fret Barber Instructions
The Fret Barber lets you "take a little off the sides" to adjust the width of the fret tang by removing metal from the barbs.
Product Instructions I-3760
Fret Beveling Files
Downloadable instructions for smoothing fret ends with Fret Beveling Files.
Product Instructions I-0800
Fret Scale Rule Instructions
Tips for using our fret scale rules for building and repairing guitars, mandolins, and banjos.
Product Instructions I-2230
Fret Slotting Miter Box Instructions
Easily cut accurate fret slots with the Miter Box and Fret Saw.
Product Instructions I-FRETCALC
How do I calculate a fret scale?
A link to our free, online Fret Scale Calculator for determining fret and bridge placements and saddle compensation.
Trade Secrets! Issue 131 January 20, 2011
How to bind a fretboard, Gibson-style
Erick Coleman's restoring a 1950s Les Paul, and returning the bound fretboard to its original condition. With small files and elbow grease, he shows how to create the fret-end "binding nibs" for that distinctive Gibson look.
Trade Secrets! Issue 21 March 15, 2007
How to choose a fret-crowning file
Erick Coleman answers an important tech-support question: What's the best fret-crowning file?
Product Instructions A-4895
How to hammer frets
Gene Imbody explains the basics of installing frets using a fretting hammer.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 250 October 08, 2015
How to shape frets with a 3-corner file
There’s a knack to using a StewMac 3-Corner Fret Dressing File, and Erick Coleman shows you what that’s about. He demonstrates the rolling motion that creates a nice rounded fret with an accurate “land” down the center.
Trade Secrets! Issue 41 August 09, 2007
How to use a Fret Hammer
A fret hammer was one of the first lutherie tools Erick Coleman ever bought, and it's still an essential in his shop. In this issue of Trade Secrets, he shows how to use it.
Product Instructions I-4380
Jaws Handheld Fret Press
An overview of and instructions for using the Jaws Handheld Fret Press.
Product Instructions I-4266
Jaws2 Fret Press Instructions
An overview of and instructions for using the Jaws2 Fret Press.
Product Instructions I-4272
Jaws3 Fret Press Instructions
An overview of and instructions for using the Jaws3 Fret Press.
Trade Secrets! Issue 72 October 16, 2008
Money talk: estimating prices for repair work
Dan Erlewine shows the steps of inspecting a customer's guitar, and gives advice on repair prices for the work required.
Trade Secrets! Issue 136 March 31, 2011
Moneytalk: an easy repair -- until it blew up in my hands!
Dan Erlewine started a simple, quick repair, but one unlucky hammer tap created a whole new problem to solve!
Trade Secrets! Issue 121 September 02, 2010
Preparing a guitar for a professional recording date
Erick Coleman gives The Business to Rontrose Heathman's Les Paul to get it ready for a recording date with L.A. legends, The Hangmen.
Product Instructions A-RADIUSBLOCKBASICS
Radius Block Basics
An explanation of the different uses of a radiused sanding block.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 260 April 21, 2016
Refretting the Mike Bloomfield Tele
Dan Erlewine just moved into a new shop! In this video he finishes work on the Mike Bloomfield Telecaster, a guitar with a lot of history. We’ve been following this guitar for several videos; now Dan wraps it up with an assist from Erick Coleman.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 256 February 25, 2016
Removing the frets on the Mike Bloomfield Tele
The Mike Bloomfield Tele is back in Dan’s shop. It's in for a refret, and that means working very carefully on this historic guitar. As Dan pulls all the frets, does he manage to avoid chipping the old rosewood fingerboard?
Product Instructions A-SCALELENGTH
Scale Length Explained
Finding your scale length, how it affects tone, and more.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 236 February 12, 2015
Short video: Making a guitar neck more comfortable to play
Making a beginner-friendly fingerboard: Dan Erlewine’s sister-in-law is learning to play, and her guitar has rough, sharp fret ends. The fingerboard edge is also too sharp, but Dan quickly makes this guitar more beginner-friendly.
Product Instructions I-4480
Stewart-MacDonald Fret Arbor Press
Setup instructions and useful tips for getting the most out of our Fret Arbor Press System.
Trade Secrets! Issue 43 September 06, 2007
Super glue your frets for better tone!
Erick Coleman shows why so many guitars need their frets fastened. Add a touch of water-thin superglue to lock down your already-installed frets, and get better tone, too!
Trade Secrets! Issue 23 March 29, 2007
Use a Fret Setter upside down for faster fretwork!
This week, Dan gets an email with a Trade Secret from luthier Jason Ingrodi. Jason's tip makes fret filing faster (this means a lot when you've got dozens of frets to file!)
Trade Secrets! Issue 115 June 10, 2010
Using fret polishing wheels on a flex shaft
Todd Sams shares his method for getting a mirror finish on newly-installed frets

Online video available
Using the Fret Puller on an Old Classical
Dan Erlewine demonstrates the StewMac Fret Puller on an old classical guitar fingerboard.
Trade Secrets! Issue 122 September 16, 2010
When dry air makes fret ends stick out, here's the fix
Years of hot dry storage caused the fret ends stick out on the sides of this banjo neck. Mark Hyatt found that it's easy to file them back into line!
Trade Secrets! Issue 62 May 29, 2008
When frets don't fit the slot, resize the fret tang
This week, Dan Erlewine's pumping iron (nickel steel, actually!) He's showing how to bulk up your skinny fretwire and slim down your fat fretwire.
Trade Secrets! Issue 30 May 17, 2007
Which super glue to use: thin, medium or thick?
Dan Erlewine uses photo examples to show when to choose thin, medium or thick super glue for instrument work.
Trade Secrets! Issue 155 January 05, 2012
Why use a household iron on a fretboard?
Erick Coleman uses his wife's clothes iron on a guitar: a simple solution to a problem fretboard.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 257 March 10, 2016
Yuck! Cleaning fret slot gunk from the Mike Bloomfield Tele
There was a load of glue and grunge under these frets. With scrapers, wipers and heat from an alcohol lamp, it’s amazing how much gunk Dan Erlewine extracted from Mike Bloomfield’s old fretboard!