Use a Fret Setter upside down for faster fretwork!

Issue 23 March 29, 2007

A simple tip to speed up fretwork in your shop

Fret Setter idea

Here's a great Trade Secret e-mailed to us by Jason Ingrodi, a guitar repairman in Cumberland, Maryland. Jason uses the Fret Setter to hold a fret upside-down while he files the tang for bound fingerboards.

This little tip is a real time-saver!

Jason Ingrodi e-mailed his Trade Secret along with a shop photo:

Jason Ingrodi's shop

Dan, I want to share a trick, since you’ve shared so many with me.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to notch fret ends before the fret tang nipper came along, but even with it speeding things up, I still file the underside of each fret end to make it smooth. Holding the frets steady to file them was a wrestling match until I thought of this:

I clamp a fret setter upside down in my nut & saddle vise. The notched end gives me a groove to rest the fret crown in. This way, the fret stays put while I file it smooth. I can go through a whole neck’s-worth of frets much faster this way. It cuts my time in half!

Filing in a Fret Setter close-up

I wanted to share this little trick with you, since you appreciate this sort of thing. Anyway, I can't thank you enough for all you've taught me through your books and videos!


Jason Ingrodi, Cumberland, MD

Thanks, Jason!

That's a great tip. And here’s some more on this idea: This picture from shows what the fret tang nipper does, quickly removing some of the tang from beneath the crown of the fret.

Fret Tang Nipper

Here's a closeup of the business end of the nipper: that angled cutting blade pulls down and chops the tang out from under the fret.

Fret Tang Nipper closeup

The nipper removes the tang instantly, but you’ll still want to lick it with a nut shaping file to make it really smooth. Clamping and unclampling each fret end in a vise this way isn't as fast as Jason’s idea.

Filing in a Nut & Saddle Vise

Before the tang nipper came along, bound fingerboards meant at least two snips at each end of each fret, using a fret cutter as shown below.

Using a fret cutters

This method does a good job, but it’s slow: making two cuts at each end of about two dozen frets adds up to around a hundred cuts.

This idea is a lot faster.

Just lay the fret in the groove of an upturned fret setter, held in the vise. When you’re filing each end of 20-plus frets, you can see how this saves time. (In this picture, a tiny fret-end dressing file is cleaning up the fret tang.)

Fret cutters

Jason, your tip is going out to lots of folks who appreciate ideas like this: Trade Secrets readers. And it’s going to save us all a lot of time.

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