Trade Secrets!

Use a Fret Setter upside down for faster fretwork!


Issue 23 March 29, 2007

Photo: Fret Setter idea
Thanks for sending this, Jason!

A simple tip to speed up fretwork in your shop

Here's a great Trade Secret e-mailed to us by Jason Ingrodi, a guitar repairman in Cumberland, Maryland. Jason uses the Fret Setter to hold a fret upside-down while he files the tang for bound fingerboards.

Dan Erlewine signature Dan Erlewine, March 29, 2007
Photo: Dan Erlewine
This little tip is a real time-saver!

Jason Ingrodi e-mailed his Trade Secret along with a shop photo:

Photo: Jason Ingrodi's shop
Dan, I want to share a trick, since you’ve shared so many with me.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to notch fret ends before the fret tang nipper came along, but even with it speeding things up, I still file the underside of each fret end to make it smooth. Holding the frets steady to file them was a wrestling match until I thought of this:

Photo: Filing in a Fret Setter
I clamp a fret setter upside down in my nut & saddle vise. The notched end gives me a groove to rest the fret crown in. This way, the fret stays put while I file it smooth. I can go through a whole neck’s-worth of frets much faster this way. It cuts my time in half!

I wanted to share this little trick with you, since you appreciate this sort of thing. Anyway, I can't thank you enough for all you've taught me through your books and videos!

Thanks,
Jason Ingrodi, Cumberland, MD














Photo: Fret Tang Nipper
Before the tang nipper came along, bound fingerboards meant at least two snips at each end of each fret, using a fret cutter as shown below.

Photo: Fret Cutter

Photo: using a Fret Cutter

This method does a good job, but it’s slow: making two cuts at each end of about two dozen frets adds up to around a hundred cuts.
Thanks, Jason!

Photo: Fret Tang Nipper
That's a great tip. And here’s some more on this idea: This picture from stewmac.com shows what the fret tang nipper does, quickly removing some of the tang from beneath the crown of the fret.
Photo: Fret Tang Nipper closeup
Here's a closeup of the business end of the nipper: that angled cutting blade pulls down and chops the tang out from under the fret.
Photo: Filing in a Nut & Saddle Vise
The nipper removes the tang instantly, but you’ll still want to lick it with a nut shaping file to make it really smooth. Clamping and unclampling each fret end in a vise this way isn't as fast as Jason’s idea.
Photo: Filing in a Fret Setter
Photo: Fret Setter

This idea is a lot faster.
Just lay the fret in the groove of an upturned fret setter, held in the vise. When you’re filing each end of 20-plus frets, you can see how this saves time. (In this picture, a tiny fret-end dressing file is cleaning up the fret tang.)

Jason, your tip is going out to lots of folks who appreciate ideas like this: Trade Secrets readers. And it’s going to save us all a lot of time.

Dan Erlewine signature

Problem-solving products mentioned above:
Photo: Fret Setter Photo: Fret Tang Nipper Photo: Nut and Saddle Vise
Fret Setter
Here's a simple little tool that can make your fret reseating jobs a lot quicker and easier!
Fret Tang Nipper
Special tools that quickly cut the tang out from under the crown of the fret for bound fingerboard fret jobs — a real time saver!
Nut and Saddle Vise
A better way to hold nuts and saddles for easier, faster shaping
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now
Photo: Nut and Saddle Shaping Files Photo: Fret End Dressing File Photo: Erlewine Neck Jig
Nut and Saddle Shaping Files
Specialty files for smoother, easier nut and saddle shaping
Fret End Dressing File
The perfect tool for dressing the ends of your frets for that professional look.
Erlewine Neck Jig
Allows complete control of a neck for the ultimate fret job.
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now

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