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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Quantity: 20


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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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 Fret 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

  • Based on 37 Reviews
Displaying 1 of 4 1 2 3 4
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Great tool. but ...

By Luis Farinha from Portugal
(Customer's Reviews) Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Its a great tool to use, I don't want to do the job faster, I wanted to do it better, and with the hammer I was not able to do so. The arbor is made in China. Not the prime quality tool that i expected.

Great features tailor for luthiers. 

By John, Bluesman Vintage Guitars from Nashville tn
(Customer's Reviews) Friday, February 07, 2014

The day I received my press I did two fret jobs. The first one by hammering in he frets which took about 30 mins to get everything seated. And one with the press which seated all the frets the first time and in less than five minutes. (Minus dressing of course). That alone makes it worth it's weight in gold. The amount of time saved is tremendous!!! The press is built just fine I don't understand people's complaints of paint chipping or the packing grease, ect. Sure it takes a few minutes to set it up, but so does every other tool you purchase. The Spring return is a great feature as well as the lock feature for gluing frets. If some of these guys would get back to work instead of writing reviews about how much a tool disappointed them they'd see how useful this fret press is!!!

Must have tool

By 4 seasons pickups from Netherlands
(Customer's Reviews) Monday, January 06, 2014

@ 4seasonspickups we use one and we are very happy with it after the 1nd time you use it you've made your money back.

Poorly Made

By Retro Guitars from Hilliard, Ohio
(Customer's Reviews) Thursday, October 17, 2013

Save your money, Buy the cauls and use a drill press, or real arbor press. The press included is basically a cheapo special...... Not what you would expect for such an expensive price.

Disappointing quality for an Essential tool

By Midnight Luthiery from USA
(Customer's Reviews) Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I consider the Fret Press an essential tool and at 168 USD a long term investment, so this is an in depth review. I used the older ôgreyö unit in my own home shop and high end production shop to happily fret several hundred instruments with it. I bought this to replace my personal unit I traded away some years ago.
As other reviewers have pointed out, there are fit and finish issues with the current units. I contacted Stew-Mac before the purchase and asked if my unit could be inspected to insure there were no issues. It was even noted on my invoice. However I still encountered uneven feet that needed filing to rest flat on a bench and an arbor recess clogged with garbage I needed to scrape clear to insert the caul. Whatever inspection was done clearly made no attempt to actually test the unit. This is on top of grease and a poor chipping paint job
On the design, I donÆt care for the spring return. This seems like more upsell bells & whistles. I had no problem with the non-return design. The spring return is tricky to setup and must be adjusted if you change between necks that sit at a different height in reference to the tool. This wastes time. Worst of all, the spring return changes the feel of the arbor. ItÆs difficult to gauge how much force youÆre applying at the bottom of the travel when the spring starts working.
Finally I resent being forced to purchase the table with fence. To each his own, however I subscribe to the practice of installing frets last after the fretboard is glued to the neck and all shaping is done. If anyone wants the table, you can have it for the cost of shipping.
My conclusion. If youÆre work is limited to bolt on necks, I would seriously recommend using the arbor cauls with a drill press and saving your money.

Its Pretty Good

By TisDale Custom Guitars from Renton, WA, USA
(Customer's Reviews) Sunday, April 14, 2013

I had a hard time getting to set high enough for set neck guitars. It would work great for bolt ons. Some of the parts on the one i got were stuck so bad that when i went to lossen the nuts to adjust it, they bent and wanted to strip out. I just use the cauls on my drill press, seems to work better that way

Not the Quality I Expected

By Dominator from Roseville, CA
(Customer's Reviews) Sunday, March 24, 2013

I have to say, this is my first disappointment when purchasing from StewMac. I donÆt know if this makes any difference but in the pictures and videos the lock-down screw is shown in the bottom hole but mine is in the top hole. Every single nut on the unit was loose and needed to be tightened. I was not able to install the fret press caul on the first attempt. When the Ram was tapped and threaded for the set screw it left a larger bur on the inside that prevented the press caul from going in far enough. I had to drill it out and then I was able to install the press caul. Not a huge deal but I would think standard QC would make sure the caul would fit prior to boxing it up for shipment. My other beef is with the fretboard table. The directions say ôto retract the pin out of the way, simply back out the Allen screw on the other side of the fence.ö Well there is no allen screw. The pin is a solid piece which is held in place by a machine screw threaded into the back of the plastic fence. The screw head is just barely large enough to hold the pin in place. IÆm not using the fret scale templates so I donÆt need the pin but this is very hokey at best. Just not the quality I would have expected from StewMac. All this being said however, I used it to install frets on a tenor ukulele neck and it did seat the frets much better than when I was using the press caul in my drill press. I have a guitar repair vise coming this week and IÆm hoping the quality is much better on it.


By Fleer from Imperial, Mo.
(Customer's Reviews) Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The quality is good enough. This tool will not solve all of your challenges. Be aware of back bow and be prepared to deal with it.

Fretting made easy...

By Nymphadora from West of Phoenix, AZ
(Customer's Reviews) Saturday, March 02, 2013

This is so much better than pounding frets with a hammer. Some initial setup is required and making a 1 1/2" base made it very portable. This does require a little thought and inventiveness. If you can't do this, I'm not sure one should be fretting at all. Other reviewers complaints were paint chipping...mine isn't chipping and I don't care if it did. Made in China...yes, it is. I priced USA made and it was over $400, without the StewMac mods and accesories. The StewMac metal label had to be stuck back on and it's still there. One does have to clean cosmoline off the ram, removing the front plate to do so, and then adjust, and reassemble. This is not hard for someone that builds guitars. I highly recomend this unit but don't expect to lift it out of the box and throw ebony into its jaws. Learn to set up and use it just like you did with your table saw and spray equipment. Hugs....

Disappointed: crude workmanship, not up to Stew-Mac standards, not what I expected

By Joe B. from New York, NY
(Customer's Reviews) Sunday, August 12, 2012

Before I go any further, I suggest you read the review left on 3-15-2011 by Smokie in IL; that review pretty much nails my overall opinion of this Arbor Press.

I would add that I had high expectations- not only based on all my previous purchases with Stew-Mac, but also based on my experiences with an older Stew-Mac Arbor Press at a repair shop I worked at in the past. I am now on my own, slowly building up my own supply of specialty tools. This current Stew-Mac Arbor Press is a newer/updated version with a few nice additions, such as the spring-loaded arm and fretboard table attachment. However, the overall build quality it not even close to the older Stew-Mac press. Again- read Smokie's review for more detail. This is my first, and hopefully only, disappointing Stew-Mac experience.


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