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What I Forgot About Guitar Making, Part 2

On every hand, the machine is doing the work that once called for the concentrated ability of men.

Walter Rose, The Village Carpenter, 1937

Fretting begins (to fret-to be constantly or visibly worried, origin Old English, to devour), 12% nickel/silver fret wire (fret-each of a sequence of bars or ridges on the fingerboard, origin 16th century, unknown)

What I forgot about guitar making is that you have to do it all the time, not just piece work on the weekends or other stolen moments, you have to set aside time every day to concentrate solely on the skills used to complete each task. It should be play, when you play you become absorbed by the work and lose track of time then find yourself revitalized. It is not a job, it is work (Ora et labora-pray and work). It takes practice, when you study a musical instrument you devote time to practice scales and arpeggios properly, you work on problem areas in a piece and you take time to sight read works that are new to you. Skills must be maintained and sharpened.

A Sears-Roebuck cobbler's hammer found at a flea market

It's been awhile since I've done fret work and I forgot what I needed to do and have-make sure the tang enters the slot straight on; be careful of the fret ends, to hammer too hard will make it loose in the slot; make sure that you have a bag of #2 lead shot to set the neck on; work slowly and efficiently and keep the guitar top protected with card board, aluminum or brass. Be prepared for set backs-accidental dings caused by the support block along the neck that will need to be fixed.

This is a clinch block that I used it a lot during my time as a horseshoer. It clinches the nail ends to the hoof wall after the shoe is set, it's more complicated to write about it then to actually do it. I use it now to back up the fret board as I hammer down the fret over the sound box.

What I forgot about guitar making is at this point you concentrate on every blow of the hammer, you become absorbed, you have to because the neck is the most important part of a guitar. This is where you make music. Disagree with me if you want, but to play open strings is to play open strings, you have to fret a string sometime.

Installing frets is not quiet work, when you get into the sound box region the sound of your hammer gets amplified and becomes a little disconcerting.

For the 19th fret I use a clamp to pressure fit the wire. On several other guitars I've widened the fret slot and epoxied the wire in. I will take the circular sanding block that I used to create the end of the fretboard to smooth out the ends of the frets over the sound hole.

A block that holds a chainsaw raker file to file down the ends of the frets. I know that a guitar maker is supposed to do this free hand, but I like this block. Next step is to superglue the frets to the slots, you can see this process at Stew-Mac! After that I will glue the bridge on and complete the french polish.

What I forgot about guitar making is that you need to let go of every thing you do, don't plan for tomorrow, don't fret over yesterday, do the work at hand.

YouTube for the day-Aysa Selyutina. Again, I can't get over how many wonderful young guitarists there are these days, we are so lucky!


  1. Why do you have to press in the last fret wire? Nice hammer, I use a cobblers hammer for my chairs, big punch in a little hammer.

  2. How did they glue the wires in before the magic of super glue? For boats I use a sledge hammer head to back up the hammer, works great,

  3. Terry:

    First: Many luthiers press in all of the frets, less chance of bunching the frets (fret ends) out of the slot. By pressing in the 19th fret I reduce the chance of wrecking the finger board.

    Second: Hide glue


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