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Fret Arbor Press System

  • 42 Reviews
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Fret Arbor Press System

Item # 4481
In stock, ready to ship!

List Price $189.45
Your Price $174.29

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Fret Arbor Press System

About This Item

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.

Customer Reviews

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  • 4.02 average rating from 42 reviews
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It works

(Customer's Reviews)

It does work and it's accurate. It sure is not a high quality piece. It looks like my 5 th grader machined the base.


Save the chase

(Customer's Reviews)

After reading other reviews on here about the press I was reluctant to invest.
Since most of the complaints are cosmetic and not functional, and most all of the poor reviews where from 2011 I took the chance that things have been worked out. Over all I'd say they have been. Once I cleaned up the press of the machining oil and made a base for it, I found a few sharp edges and filed them lightly. No real issue with paint as described.

My first fret job took about 45 minutes (less dressing) on a brand new fretboard, uninstalled.
Several weeks later after completing the guitar I'm working on I go to set it up, and the fretboard is perfect. Not a single buzz anywhere. I've never experienced this as a builder hammering frets. This has fully eliminated the chase the buzz from fret to fret. Well worth the money if this is the out come.
Not to mention the frets are shinny and flawless, not a single mark. What a time saver.


GREAT tool but be ready for some setup out of the box

(Customer's Reviews)

I just completed a fret job using the Stew Mac Fret Press. It actually works great and I definitely get better seated frets than with just a fret hammer but YMMV. The press itself comes with the fret caul and 6 different radius brass inserts. It also comes with a table for routing unmounted fretboards and a cork lined neck cradle for use with bolt-on necks. I have a jig that I made but it is too tall for the press with the caul installed so I had to make another one to support the neck cradle at the extreme ends of the neck. All in all it's a decent outfit but the quality overall is pretty rough. It needs some cleanup and whatnot out of the box to remove the packing grease and machining slag, and also to smooth out some of the roughly machined edges. As others have said the paint chips pretty easily but that's no big deal. I took the whole thing apart, cleaned and setup and back together in about 30 minutes. Afterwards everything works as designed and the only thing I am not happy with is the hold down screw for the press. As Dan shows in his demo video this is used to lock the press in the down position for gluing etc. Well the screw does not grab the rail hard enough to hold it under pressure and even after I tried various "fixes" I never did get it to work like I want. the only other thing is it's kind of shallow but there is plenty of room for 6 strings. I think if you had something like an 8 string you might be a little challenged for space, plus you would need to make your own wider inserts. At the end of the day I am very happy to have this tool. It works well and helps me do a nice job of getting the frets seated properly. It's very easy to use and it builds up those arm muscles too! BTW the self-centering caul is pure genius and it would be a major PITA if it didn't have this feature. So there you go my fret wielding brethren. I recommend this as a highly useful tool that will make your life a little easier and it doesn't cast a truck load of $$. Have fun and God bless! -Frank


Quicker fret installations, cheap arbor press

(Customer's Reviews)

After fretting with a hammer for quite awhile, I was not as impressed with the "precision" in which the arbor operates.

It isn't anymore or less accurate than propely weidled hammer.

However, it does save time by pressing and gluing into place simultaneously!

The arbor is really cheaply made, so I deducted a point.

Even after cleaning, lubing and dressing the threads, I have to use a tool to tighten the nut that holds the press in place for gluing.


if you use it once, it will pay for itself

(Customer's Reviews)

saves time at very minimal cost...easy set up and very easy to use. I'll never hammer another fret!


Great tool. but ...

(Customer's Reviews)

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. 

(Customer's Reviews)

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

(Customer's Reviews)

@ 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

(Customer's Reviews)

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

(Customer's Reviews)

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.

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