Fret Arbor Press only, with table

  • 39 Reviews
  • Write a review

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

Read more
Fret Arbor Press only, with table

Fret Arbor Press only, with table

Item # 4480
In stock, ready to ship!


Fret Arbor Press System

Fret Arbor Press System

Item # 4481
In stock, ready to ship!

$183.83 $169.12

Total: $0.00
Quantity: 20


Fret press: arbor press for guitar fretting

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

Subscribe to StewMac's channel on


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 only, with table

  • Based on 39 Reviews
Displaying 1 of 4 1 2 3 4
Write a review

Low Quality and does not function as expected

By Tarek S. from Plymouth Meeting
(Customer's Reviews) Sunday, November 30, 2014

This arbor press is a peace of junk. It will do the job but with a lot of effort and aggravation. Specifically:

1) The locking knob that is supposed to lock the press down in place atop the fret while the fret glue dries does not work. Basically, you will have to apply the pressure yourself for minutes at a time. I screwed in and turned the locking knob all the way in but it did not lock the press.

2) I think someone figured out that the above-referenced locking knob did not work, so they supplied another short locking threaded bar that us attached to a flat and thin metal piece at the end of it which you are supposed to hold between your fingers and turn it. I bent and broke that thin metal piece while turning it to screw the attached locking (threaded) bar all the way in. Again, the whole press is pure junk.

3) The mounting knob for the base looks nice in the picture. But what you get in the box is an ugly and dysfunctional locking threaded bar and a bunch of nuts/washer. Good luck using those to hold the base in place.

4) I have bought a ton of tools before, none of which came with so much grease on it like this press did. It was annoying to clean it off.

5) Overall, the build quality and paint finish are very poor.

My honest recommendation is to NOT buy this arbor press. There are better quality arbor presses for this kind of money on the market.

Great unit!

By \N from \N
(Customer's Reviews) Saturday, October 25, 2014

I was skeptical buying one after reading the reviews. I can only assume the quality control was tightened on the latest batches as this one works smoothly. It did have the cosmoline on it, but the paint was good and all the gears and screws work as they should.

The only issue I had was with the screw that locks the press in position for gluing in frets. The smooth metal on smooth metal made it so it didn't "grab" and maintain force. I slipped a 1/4" round piece of Delrin inside the hole and put the screw back in and now it works exactly like it should.

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.

Displaying 1 of 4
1 2 3 4

Shown on page 9 of our latest catalog.