No fret frets

Fretting this fingerboard is a bit more involved than past builds due to the fretboard binding. Instead of the fret tang (the barbed tongue that holds the frets in their slots) extending all the way out the side, they must be trimmed where the fret will extend over the binding. This means a lot of prep work before the relatively easy task of hammering them in can take place.

First, I like to add a fingerboard finish to the radiused and sanded board, especially with cocobolo. This seals the wood and provides a nice smooth feel. Of course, before any sealing can take place, the slots have to be cleared of all of the sanding dust that has accumulated during the radiusing process. This requires a special tool that can get in the narrow slot without widening it. Then a couple coats of the finish is wiped on and buffed to a satin sheen.

Since each fret will have to be sized for length and trimmed, a staging board helps keep the frets organized. Then comes the fun (insert sarcastic comment here!) of trimming the barbs to the correct length. They have to be long enough to hold the entire fret firmly in its slot, but still leave enough of a gap so that any seasonal contraction of the wood doesn’t push them through the binding. Using the EVO fretwire, which is harder and longer lasting than conventional nickel-silver wire, means using a bit more force to clip them all, but with the right tools, even that can be done. (I just hope I’m never asked to use stainless steel fretwire. That just eats tools for breakfast!)

After trimming the tangs, any rough remnants of the cut need to be filed flush. Then, after one final slot cleaning, the hammering can begin. This is the easy bit. The cocobolo holds the frets nice and tight, with no need for glue. All you need is a good support for the neck and a firm hand.

When I get to the fingerboard that will extend over the guitar body, extra support must be used under the hammer to avoid snapping the extension.

The ends are clipped close to the bindings and then filed flush. (Also not a task I enjoy. I much prefer to work wood rather than metal.)

That’s it for the neck, until its ready to be attached to the body for the last time. Then the frets will be levelled and the ends dressed. (In a nice casual ensemble!)

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