Fretwork is not for the meek. There are thousands of little techniques to ensure that the frets are perfectly seated and leveled – and we’re discovering new tricks all the time. One of our tricks is to use a combination of both pressing and hammering the frets in to the fretboard (demonstrated by our man Spencer below):
This Stratocaster neck has already been leveled and refinished, and is in the stage of being fretted. Before the frets are pressed, we squeeze some hide glue into the slots and squeegee off the excess with a moist shop cloth. Then we use our handy drill press, which we have outfitted with a pressing caul that matches the fretboard radius, to press the frets in. While we’ve got the fret pushed in to place with the press, we lightly tap the ends of the frets down, just to make sure that they seat perfectly into the board. It is a small but important step – if the frets aren’t pressed in fully, they may lift out of the board later, and won’t be perfectly even, requiring more to be taken off the top of the fret during the leveling stage.
A fret should be perfectly seated in the fingerboard, like so: (pardon the small bit of glue, it’ll get cleaned up later)