FRETS.COM When Frets Go Wrong

Frets can be springy and
Loose in the Middle
© Frank Ford, 3/15/00; Photos by FF

This fret went in too loosely:

In fact, even though it was "over radiused" just a bit, it was springy enough to rise right out of the slot. Maybe the slot was widened from previous repair work, or maybe the fret was a bit too much over radiused. Now, if they all were springing out like this, I'd switch to fret wire with a wider tang. Sometimes, though, such wire isn't available with the crown I want to use.

Whatever the reason, if I need to get such a fret to seat well in the center, and still provide a bit of "spring" to help hold down the ends, I'll fatten up the tang a bit just in the center of the fret with one of the following tools:

This is the Stewart-MacDonald fret crinkler. It produces an even wavy pattern in the tang to effectively widen it to fit a wider slot:

And this is my little fret tang expander:

It has a single pointy jaw and an opposing grooved jaw and is available from L.M.I.

With it, I can produce little waves in the fret tang, and position them right at the little barbs, moving them over a bit to make the tang fit a wider slot:

Oh, yes, this is the "old time" method of widening a fret tang:

Just swat the tang with a heavy knife, and make barbs. These barbs tend to tear up the fret slot and do a bit more damage than using either of the tools above.

Speaking of fret tools, I have one that I occasionally use for mashing the barbs:

It will flatten them out to loosen the fit of a fret. I find it particularly useful to avoid having the fret tang barbs snag a mother of pearl inlay right next to a fret slot on fancy inlaid fingerboards.  This one is also available at L.M.I.

Naturally, these tang altering techniques work equally well on the full length of the fret, in the middle, or just on the ends.

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