Stewart-MacDonald Fret Arbor Press

Setup instructions and useful tips for getting the most out of our Fret Arbor Press System.



Unpack the arbor press and wipe off any excess oil or grease that may be on the housing. Install the arm stop and fret press caul into the ram.

Unpack the arbor press

Adjusting the ram

The height of the ram above the fretboard will vary depending on how you are using the press.

To change the height of the ram above the fretboard, remove the recoil spring using a 4mm hex wrench.

Adjusting the ram

Rotate the gear by hand so the fret press caul clears the arbor base by about 1-1/4" when fretting a fretboard only, using the fretboard table.

Clearance should be about 2-1/2" when fretting a neck, using the wooden neck support.

Rotate the gear

Once adjusted, replace the recoil spring and install the lever arm.

Replace the recoil spring

Mounting suggestions

For best results, the press should be secured to a bench or dedicated workspace.

Mount the arbor press to a piece of plywood for easy clamping to your bench.

Mount the arbor press

To attach the fretboard table, drill a 5/16" hole through the plywood and your bench. Thread the table's screw rod though the hole-fence toward the arbor-and tighten it up from the bottom until secure.

attach the fretboard table

Another method (shown right) is to cut a recess into the plywood. That lets the press overhang the edge of your bench.

Cut a recess into the plywood


The arbor press can be used to install frets in a complete neck, or in a new fretboard that has yet to be attached to a neck. The proper set up of the press varies accordingly depending on how it will be used.

Installing frets into an unattached fretboard:

Place a fretboard, with or without template, on the fretting table.

Installing frets unattached fretboard

Use the adjustments on the front of the press to align the table so the fret slots are square with the caul.

Installing frets unattached fretboard

The indexing pin works with a fret scale template for quick arbor-to-slot alignment. To retract the pin out of the way, simply back out the screw on the other side of the fence.

indexing pin

Fretting a bolt on neck that has not yet been profiled:

When fretting an unprofiled neck, simply place the prepared blank on the base of the arbor.

Fretting bolt neck

Fretting (or refretting) a finished bolt-on neck that has been removed from the body:

Fretting finished bolt
Fretting finished bolt

Use the neck cradle when fretting a profiled neck up to the heel, then flip the caul over to fret the heel.

Lock-down screw

When gluing frets, use the lock-down screw to hold the ram in place over a fret while the glue dries.

Lock-down screw

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