DIY Fret Pressing Clamp

DaveR

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Thought this could be helpful info for somebody like me who loves making their own tools on the cheap. I’m refretting a junk acoustic because I want some practice and wanted to buy the StewMac jaws 3 but couldn’t justify the expense. I already have the Philadelphia Luthier caul and brass inserts for my DIY arbor press. So I bought a 12” bar clamp for a few bucks on Amazon, chopped off the swivel foot and used a scrap block of aluminum with some carefully drilled holes to hold the whole mess together.
4479969B-D400-441D-BB0C-838EED30EFA5.jpeg



The large hole for the acme thread of the clamp is a real tight fit and the set screw clamps down on the ball end. The other side is loose enough for the caul to swivel as I tighten the clamp and the set screw just keeps the caul from falling out.
7E04DA58-C5C2-4BDA-89DF-F93D52A70F5F.jpeg


I wound up doing the whole guitar with this clamp because my arbor press is in the garage and it’s cold out there. Took a little bit longer this way, but I was toasty warm in the dining room. The clamp worked through the sound hole for 17-20. 14-16 I clamped around the back of the guitar with a cork faced clamping block. 1-11 worked with my normal cork lined neck holding jigs that I use with my press. I had to break out a hammer for 12 & 13 because I just couldn’t get a grip on anything with the clamp and that area won’t fit in my press either. I’m not very skilled with the hammer, but it’s amazing how water and a soldering iron pulled out the dents I left in the FB like a real idiot...
53E27108-CE97-4C16-80D8-07A5D187B22D.jpeg
 

LtDave32

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and wanted to buy the StewMac jaws 3 but couldn’t justify the expense.
You mean the whopping $360.00 expense? Yeah, I hear ya.

Three hundred and sixty bucks for a set of vice grips and some cauls. Whoa..
 

LtDave32

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Thought this could be helpful info for somebody like me who loves making their own tools on the cheap. I’m refretting a junk acoustic because I want some practice and wanted to buy the StewMac jaws 3 but couldn’t justify the expense. I already have the Philadelphia Luthier caul and brass inserts for my DIY arbor press. So I bought a 12” bar clamp for a few bucks on Amazon, chopped off the swivel foot and used a scrap block of aluminum with some carefully drilled holes to hold the whole mess together.
View attachment 513909


The large hole for the acme thread of the clamp is a real tight fit and the set screw clamps down on the ball end. The other side is loose enough for the caul to swivel as I tighten the clamp and the set screw just keeps the caul from falling out.
View attachment 513910

I wound up doing the whole guitar with this clamp because my arbor press is in the garage and it’s cold out there. Took a little bit longer this way, but I was toasty warm in the dining room. The clamp worked through the sound hole for 17-20. 14-16 I clamped around the back of the guitar with a cork faced clamping block. 1-11 worked with my normal cork lined neck holding jigs that I use with my press. I had to break out a hammer for 12 & 13 because I just couldn’t get a grip on anything with the clamp and that area won’t fit in my press either. I’m not very skilled with the hammer, but it’s amazing how water and a soldering iron pulled out the dents I left in the FB like a real idiot...
View attachment 513911

Damn clever, Dave.

A tip of the hat to you. Nice work.
 

DaveR

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You mean the whopping $360.00 expense? Yeah, I hear ya.

Three hundred and sixty bucks for a set of vice grips and some cauls. Whoa..
I’ve been pondering on how to build the vice grip version as well, but there’s a bit more fabricating and engineering involved there.

I misspoke earlier, looks like SM’s version of this clamp style press is the Jaws 2. Still a whopping $127. No thanks.
 

DaveR

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A-ha! I knew I didn’t need to hammer those frets. A trip back to SM’s website to look at the real version of this tool again shows how to use it around the body join area. They slapped together a jig that supports the neck around the 9th fret and bridges to the back of the guitar, giving a nice flat board to clamp to with this tool. I can slap one of those together right quick. I’d post their pic, but it’s probably a forum violation, so I better not.
 

LtDave32

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Dave, you could also use the long-jaw version of that clamp for those 9-13 frets. I know they are out there.
 

DaveR

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The problem with the frets by the heel isnt the length of the jaws, it’s just that there’s nothing even remotely flat to put the head of the clamp on. But if I make a bridging jig I think it’ll fix that problem. I might slap something together tomorrow and post a pic.

It’s also worth noting that I originally looked at clamps with longer jaws (I own a bunch of long jaw Bessey F clamps) but they won’t fit through the sound hole very well, so I intentionally bought one that was a bit shorter. Fits well on the two guitars I measured anyway.
 

DaveR

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Okay, here’s the idea. The two blocks in the upper left are radiused and cork lined. I built them for my headstock repair jig, but since one is a shallow radius like a fretboard and one is a tight radius like the back of a neck, they come in handy for all kinds of things. Those are sandwiched around the neck then a stack of scraps is stacked up underneath and all held in place with an F clamp. The 2x4 chunk across the bottom is padded with cork against the body, right around where the heel joins the body so we’re not squeezing against anything thin and fragile, hopefully. Then the fret press clamp can go wherever I want and has a study backer to clamp against. I can probably do 10-15 right here without having to reposition anything.

9A59E785-9125-4674-B494-29314101AE72.jpeg

This is just a stack of loose blocks for a demo, next time I need it I’ll fasten things together and maybe make it adjustable height for various thicknesses of guitars.
 

DaveR

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Well, this one stings a little, but never let it be said that I’m too proud to admit when I was wrong. And if somebody else learns from my screw-ups then it wasn’t a total failure.

I used this DIY fret clamp tool on another acoustic refret and made the “bridging” contraption to press the frets around the heel. I slapped it together real quick and didn’t worry about matching the angle on the back of the guitar or being real careful where it contacted the body. Let’s face it, the shop is cold and I was half-assing it, which is not how I usually operate.

Unfortunately, the edge of my wood caul, while padded, was only contacting the body with the corner and it was pressing just past the neck block instead of right on it. When one of the frets gave me trouble and I decided to crank on it a little harder, I heard a cracking sound. I must have flexed the back just past the neck block.
27949DF7-0E08-4DB1-AAE4-D32E33BC08B8.jpeg


Pretty sure those are just finish cracks and there’s no permanent structural damage. This is my own guitar and is slated for a refinish anyway because of other issues, but that’s discouraging.

The homemade clamp still works great through the sound hole and for the rest of the neck when a big acoustic like this is too unwieldy to get under my press. But for the frets at the body joint, maybe hammering is best.
 

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