FRETS.COM When Frets Go Wrong

What to do about a
Bad Fret Slot
© Frank Ford, 3/7/00; Photos by FF

Sometimes when I pull out a fret, you find that the slot is boogered up. It might be all chewed up, chipped and filled with mystery glue, or cut wider. In that case, I'll find that the same fret wire won't hold well in that slot, even though it fits elsewhere on the neck.

Here's a slot that's chewed up only on one end:

Could be that the previous mechanic had some trouble seating a fret, or had difficulty cleaning out the slot, or . . .

The cause doesn't matter. I'm only interested in the cure. If I use a regular fret in this damaged slot, I'' be sure to have some difficulty getting the end to stick down well.

The classic way to "fatten up" a fret tang so it will fit a widened slot is to whack it a few times with a knife, chisel, or considering some of the oldies I've seen, a garden hoe.

The result is a series of barbs right at the leading edge of the tang:

While this method works, it's a bit uncontrolled, and it is tough on the fingerboard. These sharp barbs tend to widen the fret slot a bit more than I'd like.

Here's my little fret tang expander:

Click for more info about this tool.

With its pointy jaw and slotted anvil, I can easily "expand" any portion or the entire length of a fret to fit pretty much any fret slot:

The tool makes these little wiggles in the tang:

And, I can position the tool so that I effectively "move" the existing barb over, effectively widening the tang:

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