FretBender demo: putting the curve in guitar frets

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Dan Erlewine demos the StewMac FretBender. This great idea came from luthier Randy Stockwell in the 1980s, and now it's a must-have tool in guitar shops everywhere.

Video Transcription

Dan Erlewine: [on-screen text reads: Dan Erlewine - Stewart-MacDonald] When you're fretting a radius fretboard, you need to radius the wire too, so that the ends stay down and it seats well. For years, I did all my fret bending by hand with pliers and I was good at it, but it took a long time and I couldn't always get a exactly perfect radius from one end of the wire to the other.

The StewMac FretBender

And then around 1983, Randy Stockwell came up with the idea of the FretBender. So it bends fret wire to the exact radius that you're after. You run the wire through on these bottom rollers, those are ball bearings that supports it, and the top one with the groove in it is what cranks it through. And it adjusts up and down with this thumb wheel. Crank it that way, you get a flatter radius. Go this way and it gets tighter. If you cranked it way down, you could get it so tight that you could get bracelets out of it.

I start out a little bit flat, then check it on the fretboard. See, that one's popping up on the ends. I'll give it a little bit more bend. That's more like it. Even a little high on the center, but that'll seat down tight. Here I've got it bolted to the side of my bench and it works just as well if I clamp it into the repair vise. It takes three pieces of wire for the average fret job. And I can run them through in a jiffy. They come out perfect and there's a little bit left over in case I screw up.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder

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