Many people approach lutherie by starting with some repair, fret and/or set-up work. Others, who see fretwork as a challenging and integral ‘art’ in its own right, are happy to focus on developing that essential set of skills. Either way, the tools needed to work on frets are common to every luthier’s shop. Not surprisingly though, everyone approaches fretwork a little differently and there are a lot of options. For this reason, LMI does not offer a set of fretting tools – too many people would like to alter the kit to suit their needs! But we thought it would be good for those getting started to at least have this list of recommended tools to start off with. You might not need absolutely everything on this list, and doubtless, there are many other tools besides these that you may come to rely on, but this will help narrow down the options as you begin:
Sanding Bar – SSBXX. LMI carries three sizes. If you are going to settle on one, it would probably be best to go with this middle length; 16”-SSB16. These tools are the latest that we have developed for fretwork and they have myriad other uses in the shop beside leveling fingerboards and frets.
Digital String Height Gauge – DSHG. This tool is representative of our many essential measurement tools. You will want this at the end of the job when setting the action.
Fret Rounding File – We have a few options but the FFR is our most popular, with a famously comfortable and attractive handle.
Fret Height Gauge – SPFHG. You saw it at LMI first, folks! This tool’s three small straight edges are indispensable for finding low or high frets.
End cutters – We carry three, but the economical SPENT provides sure action and a tidy cut.
Fret Pullers – SPES. These reach under the bead of the fret cleanly so you can work the fret free without damage to the fingerboard.
Fret Hammer – SPHP. You’ll find that people are inclined to experiment with a variety of contraptions to press in frets. But a little skill with the hammer is all it takes to efficiently seat frets without fuss. This is the way many pros do it.
3-Corner File – F3. After your frets are in, you’ll need this tool to smooth out the sharp ends. The file is specially ground so that you can work on the fret without damaging the surrounding fingerboard wood.
This list could easily go on to include sanding detailers (and other abrasives and polishes), nut and saddle files, fret saws, our fretwire bender and other measurement tools – and certainly our feature-rich Fret Tang Filer tool deserves your consideration.