Clean fret slots without wrecking the binding!

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Issue 296 December 28, 2017

Neat tip from Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto: James Hingston cleans out a fret slot on a bound fingerboard without damaging the vintage binding.

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • A clean fret slot allows properly seated frets
  • A Japanese saw would work great if not for the binding!
  • Refret Saw to the rescue
  • A mini-clamp gives added protection

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: James Hingston - Gryphon Stringed Instruments]

Cleaning fret slots: Protect the binding!

James Hingston: Hi, this is James at Gryphon Strings in California. So I've pulled the frets on this L5 and sanded the board. And now I'm going to put the new ones in. And I want to make sure each slot is nice and clean so the new frets will sit and seat all the way down. So usually, I use a saw like this, a Japanese saw to do this job [on-screen text reads: Japanese Fret Saw -]. Just buzz right through the slot and clean it out. But the binding on this neck, which is the plastic or celluloid strips on the outside, prevents me from doing that. I don't want to cut through the binding. So what I use on this are a couple of StewMac tools. I've got the StewMac refretting saw here [on-screen text reads: Refret Saw -]. That just slides right in and you can just mosey back and forth.

But as you get closer to the edge, the binding, especially with thin, old binding like this, I get a little scared of breaking it. So my trick is this little quick grip clamp that I've glued on leather culls. I just clamp it on either side, right on the slot. And that way, when I'm using the saw, I can get right up close to the edge without being scared of breaking the binding. And that way, you can use both sides because these are reversed direction, so you can get right up close on both sides. And then with the hook [on-screen text reads: Fret Slot Cleaning Tool -], you can go right through and kind of scoop up all the dust and glue and whatever else is in there. And just ease it out, get it nice and clean.



James Hingston

Guitar Builder and Tech at Gryphon Stringed Instruments

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