Gluing frets on an existing neck - Yea, Nea, Maybea?

StratUp

Dr. Stratster
Sep 5, 2020
12,754
Altered States
How do ya'll feel about this, especially those in the Luthierian profession?

Certainly it would stop loose frets. But I see reports that it makes the neck more solid (makes engineering sense) and transfers more vibration from the strings (tonewood argument incoming; debatable if this helps or hurts at the pickups).

What about the actual process with an already fretted neck? If you use CA glue along the length, I'm thinking you'd need to follow with an acetone wipe to avoid excess glue. Do you need extra-thin CA or will standard CA work? Would tite-bond work if you don't mind a few days drying time?
 

Caddy

Strat-O-Master
Aug 30, 2016
979
Indiana
I would use Tite Bond. The best for wood to wood, but not so much for metal or anything other than wood.
 

EAllen

Strat-Talker
Jan 24, 2019
428
Bargersville, Indiana
If frets aren't loose on an existing neck there is no benefit. There are some possible negatives if not experienced. Gluing existed loose frets is done using thin CA with a micro tip to place it precisely at the base of the fret with controlled flow to wick under the fret. Thin CA without practice is CA that ends up everywhere & doesn't come off without scraping. Scraping without a lot of experience ends up a worse mess. As for acetone to clean up, it can ruin many finishes.
 

Scott Baxendale

Most Honored Senior Member
Silver Member
May 20, 2020
8,523
Sante Fe, NM
How do ya'll feel about this, especially those in the Luthierian profession?

Certainly it would stop loose frets. But I see reports that it makes the neck more solid (makes engineering sense) and transfers more vibration from the strings (tonewood argument incoming; debatable if this helps or hurts at the pickups).

What about the actual process with an already fretted neck? If you use CA glue along the length, I'm thinking you'd need to follow with an acetone wipe to avoid excess glue. Do you need extra-thin CA or will standard CA work? Would tite-bond work if you don't mind a few days drying time?
I’ve built over 4000 guitars and every one of them has had the frets glued in with super glue. I would not recommend any other method for securing frets. I’ve also restored many guitars using superglue on the frets.

make a caul that matches the fingerboard radius and another caul to protect the neck and glue them in two at a time. I run a thin bead down the side for the great being careful so the glue does not run down the side of the neck the wipe of the excess with a paper towel then clamp them for about 3-5 minutes.

29C43DAF-88AF-412B-96E8-F7DE5AC60219.jpeg
 

charlie chitlin

Senior Stratmaster
Silver Member
Feb 17, 2007
1,381
The Berkshires
I don't find it always necessary, but it works; and sometimes fixes problems.
It has come to my rescue on many a clapped-out slot that didn't want to hold a fret.
I've also wicked it under a sprung fret and a fret that was dead.
If you wipe quickly, naphtha us fine.
I get nervous about acetone near nitro, so only use it when necessary.
I am a small-time tech with a small client base, so I have no problem fixing issues if they arise.
If I was a serious builder like @Scott Baxendale, I would seriously putting CA in every slot for peace of mind.
Frets can still be easily removed with judicious application of heat.
 

rocknrollrich

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 8, 2016
7,884
philadelphia
Does Ca glue give you a mechanical grip on the fret?
Tite bond doesn't bond to metal, so I don't know why people use that in fret slot.
I see some YouTube luthiers use titebond, they say, "to swell the wood slightly" purportedly giving the tang a better grip.
Ok. Maybe. They certainly know more than I do.

So does CA actually hold a loose or springy fret? Or is it the fret being pressed down tight with a caul that actually fixes the problem?
 

simoncroft

Still playing. Still learning!
Silver Member
May 30, 2013
20,701
SE England
Does Ca glue give you a mechanical grip on the fret?
Tite bond doesn't bond to metal, so I don't know why people use that in fret slot.
I see some YouTube luthiers use titebond, they say, "to swell the wood slightly" purportedly giving the tang a better grip.
Ok. Maybe. They certainly know more than I do.

So does CA actually hold a loose or springy fret? Or is it the fret being pressed down tight with a caul that actually fixes the problem?
When CA/super glue first came out, I glued a large spanner to a sheet of glass, without de-greasing either surface. Gluing metal to wood should't be a problem. However, my personal opinion is that it should only be the 'icing on the cake', or a strategy for helping to deal with a springy fret. Nothing beats a good mechanical fit. However, I'd support the cautions above about how much mess you can leave if you're not very experienced.
 

jvin248

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 10, 2014
6,122
Michigan
.

If you have a wonky fret to fix, go ahead. Clamp the lifting fret end down and apply.

If you are doing it for some tone wood theory... There are much better activities to improve tone.
\/
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.... Adjust pickups heights, screw pole heights, bass/treble tip.

.
 

Scott Baxendale

Most Honored Senior Member
Silver Member
May 20, 2020
8,523
Sante Fe, NM
I don't find it always necessary, but it works; and sometimes fixes problems.
It has come to my rescue on many a clapped-out slot that didn't want to hold a fret.
I've also wicked it under a sprung fret and a fret that was dead.
If you wipe quickly, naphtha us fine.
I get nervous about acetone near nitro, so only use it when necessary.
I am a small-time tech with a small client base, so I have no problem fixing issues if they arise.
If I was a serious builder like @Scott Baxendale, I would seriously putting CA in every slot for peace of mind.
Frets can still be easily removed with judicious application of heat.
I never use acetone on a fingerboard or frets.
Does Ca glue give you a mechanical grip on the fret?
Tite bond doesn't bond to metal, so I don't know why people use that in fret slot.
I see some YouTube luthiers use titebond, they say, "to swell the wood slightly" purportedly giving the tang a better grip.
Ok. Maybe. They certainly know more than I do.

So does CA actually hold a loose or springy fret? Or is it the fret being pressed down tight with a caul that actually fixes the problem?
what do you mean is doesn’t bond to metal? I make jigs with it all the time where I glue wood or plastic to metal.

You can just about glue water to Teflon with baking soda and super glue.

If I get a cut while working I glue the cut together with superglue too. The CA glues the fret to the wood. It’s also east to remove and redo. This is a no brainer if you do frets on a professional level.

On Fender necks, I take the neck off and I have a radiused fret caul that covers the length of the neck. I can install all the frets at once then glue them from the ends where the glue wicks down the fret underneath the tang. with this method I can do an entire fender refret in lass than 1.5 hours with factory level quality ever time.

If you run your fret file down the edge of the neck any loose frets will squeak. These must be glued down if you want the guitar to play at its best. If you try to level the tops of the frets while some are loose and squeaky you will ruin the fret job if you don’t glue them down first because now the frets that are sticking up are now too low when hammered down because they were filed while loose and now they are too low because the tops were filed to match the lower secure frets.

Recently I’ve started French polishing the fingerboard prior to gluing in the frets because it makes the cleanup go a lot faster.

Also I almost never tape off the fingerboard when dressing frets because I dress the fingerboard as well during the process. I clean and sand the fingerboard with 320,1200,OOOO steel wool along with the frets to give a factory fresh surface and feel to the fingerboard. This looks and feels better than just touching the frets.
 

rocknrollrich

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 8, 2016
7,884
philadelphia
I never use acetone on a fingerboard or frets.

what do you mean is doesn’t bond to metal? I make jigs with it all the time where I glue wood or plastic to metal.

You can just about glue water to Teflon with baking soda and super glue.

If I get a cut while working I glue the cut together with superglue too. The CA glues the fret to the wood. It’s also east to remove and redo. This is a no brainer if you do frets on a professional level.

On Fender necks, I take the neck off and I have a radiused fret caul that covers the length of the neck. I can install all the frets at once then glue them from the ends where the glue wicks down the fret underneath the tang. with this method I can do an entire fender refret in lass than 1.5 hours with factory level quality ever time.

If you run your fret file down the edge of the neck any loose frets will squeak. These must be glued down if you want the guitar to play at its best. If you try to level the tops of the frets while some are loose and squeaky you will ruin the fret job if you don’t glue them down first because now the frets that are sticking up are now too low when hammered down because they were filed while loose and now they are too low because the tops were filed to match the lower secure frets.

Recently I’ve started French polishing the fingerboard prior to gluing in the frets because it makes the cleanup go a lot faster.

Also I almost never tape off the fingerboard when dressing frets because I dress the fingerboard as well during the process. I clean and sand the fingerboard with 320,1200,OOOO steel wool along with the frets to give a factory fresh surface and feel to the fingerboard. This looks and feels better than just touching the frets.
When I said it doesn't bond to metal, I was referring to titebond wood glue.
CA glue sticks anything to anything, I get that. My question was is that enough to hold a springy fret.
 

charlie chitlin

Senior Stratmaster
Silver Member
Feb 17, 2007
1,381
The Berkshires
Does Ca glue give you a mechanical grip on the fret?
Tite bond doesn't bond to metal, so I don't know why people use that in fret slot.
I see some YouTube luthiers use titebond, they say, "to swell the wood slightly" purportedly giving the tang a better grip.
Ok. Maybe. They certainly know more than I do.

So does CA actually hold a loose or springy fret? Or is it the fret being pressed down tight with a caul that actually fixes the problem?
There is at least 1 well-known luthier who puts water in the empty fret slots with the idea that, it lets the wood fibers swell back out and hold the new fret more tightly.
I tried it once and it didn't seem to make a difference.
I suppose if you did every 2nd fret, you could get a feel.
As for CY holding a sprung fret...yes.
But like anything, it's not 100%.
How beat is the slot and howsprung is the fret?
Fret wire is surprisingly springy.
It can put up quite a fight if It wants to pop.
 

rocknrollrich

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 8, 2016
7,884
philadelphia
There is at least 1 well-known luthier who puts water in the empty fret slots with the idea that, it lets the wood fibers swell back out and hold the new fret more tightly.
I tried it once and it didn't seem to make a difference.
I suppose if you did every 2nd fret, you could get a feel.
As for CY holding a sprung fret...yes.
But like anything, it's not 100%.
How beat is the slot and howsprung is the fret?
Fret wire is surprisingly springy.
It can put up quite a fight if It wants to pop.
I enjoy watching ted woodford on YouTube. It's not that I want to become a luthier, but it's cool to see how something is done (even tho I don't plan on doing it myself).
So anyway, I think he's the guy who said titebond swells the wood, but doesn't actually hold a fret.
Now super glue, I know it bonds pretty well to things, but I didn't think it was mechanically that strong.
I'm not a luthier or guitar tech, so I defer to you folks who are. I just find it all very interesting.
 

Butcher of Strats

Most Honored Senior Member
Feb 28, 2022
5,332
Maine
Glue in frets sure.
But you are asking about frets already installed, not loose, with no popped up ends?
You want to try to get glue in under the frets?
Not sure we are all clear on this?
 

Butcher of Strats

Most Honored Senior Member
Feb 28, 2022
5,332
Maine
There is at least 1 well-known luthier who puts water in the empty fret slots with the idea that, it lets the wood fibers swell back out and hold the new fret more tightly.
I tried it once and it didn't seem to make a difference.
I suppose if you did every 2nd fret, you could get a feel.
As for CY holding a sprung fret...yes.
But like anything, it's not 100%.
How beat is the slot and howsprung is the fret?
Fret wire is surprisingly springy.
It can put up quite a fight if It wants to pop.
Yeah I have glued down fret ends that "popped up" or were raised up at the end.
But I consider those frets to be improperly radiused!
Makes me uncomfortable!
Metal springs glued into a ready to spring up position?
Pull those suckers out and bend em a little more THEN glue em back in!
Of course if its a cheap used mighty mite neck and the customer is a kid eating his last candy bar until payday, maybe glue is better.
Frets should be popping up innthe middle if there is any tension.
 

Scott Baxendale

Most Honored Senior Member
Silver Member
May 20, 2020
8,523
Sante Fe, NM
When I said it doesn't bond to metal, I was referring to titebond wood glue.
CA glue sticks anything to anything, I get that. My question was is that enough to hold a springy fret.
We used titebond for frets in 1975 but those frets still popped back up eventually. Superglue is perfect for this application. We use the thin Hot Stuff and get it from Allparts.
 

Scott Baxendale

Most Honored Senior Member
Silver Member
May 20, 2020
8,523
Sante Fe, NM
When CA/super glue first came out, I glued a large spanner to a sheet of glass, without de-greasing either surface. Gluing metal to wood should't be a problem. However, my personal opinion is that it should only be the 'icing on the cake', or a strategy for helping to deal with a springy fret. Nothing beats a good mechanical fit. However, I'd support the cautions above about how much mess you can leave if you're not very experienced.
When we first started seeing superglue around 1978 we thought it was for hacks, but soon we began to figure out how we could use it effectively in guitar work. By the early 80’s we had the baking soda/ superglue concoction for filling gaps and making strong repairs. Soon it replaced Duco Cement as the preferred method for gluing binding. At one point I wanted to test its strength and my father who was an avid golfer thought we should make a wood head driver. We took pieces of ebony about 3/4” thick and laminated them together with superglue to make a piece and carve a number 1 wood out of the block of ebony. Hitting a golf ball has thousands of pound of force when it hits the ball. Eventually the ebony driver broke after hitting a few dozen balls, but the break was no where near any of the glue joints. After that I began using it for a lot more things.

The best feature about superglue over any other kind of glue is that you clamp things dry then let the glue wick in rather than putting the glue on both surfaces and then positioning things to clamp after gluing.

It’s perfect for frets, gluing a nut, binding, inlay, certain crack repairs, filling gaps and holes, etc.
 

simoncroft

Still playing. Still learning!
Silver Member
May 30, 2013
20,701
SE England
Yeah I have glued down fret ends that "popped up" or were raised up at the end.
But I consider those frets to be improperly radiused!
Makes me uncomfortable!
Metal springs glued into a ready to spring up position?
Pull those suckers out and bend em a little more THEN glue em back in!
Of course if its a cheap used mighty mite neck and the customer is a kid eating his last candy bar until payday, maybe glue is better.
Frets should be popping up innthe middle if there is any tension.

I totally get your point, and that's why I think frets should always be pressed in. When I see someone bashing in frets with a mallet, it makes me shudder, doubly so it it's a lovely old acoustic guitar. Why harden the metal like that? And why put all these unnecessary stresses on the instrument?
 

Butcher of Strats

Most Honored Senior Member
Feb 28, 2022
5,332
Maine
I never use acetone on a fingerboard or frets.

what do you mean is doesn’t bond to metal? I make jigs with it all the time where I glue wood or plastic to metal.

You can just about glue water to Teflon with baking soda and super glue.

If I get a cut while working I glue the cut together with superglue too. The CA glues the fret to the wood. It’s also east to remove and redo. This is a no brainer if you do frets on a professional level.

On Fender necks, I take the neck off and I have a radiused fret caul that covers the length of the neck. I can install all the frets at once then glue them from the ends where the glue wicks down the fret underneath the tang. with this method I can do an entire fender refret in lass than 1.5 hours with factory level quality ever time.

If you run your fret file down the edge of the neck any loose frets will squeak. These must be glued down if you want the guitar to play at its best. If you try to level the tops of the frets while some are loose and squeaky you will ruin the fret job if you don’t glue them down first because now the frets that are sticking up are now too low when hammered down because they were filed while loose and now they are too low because the tops were filed to match the lower secure frets.

Recently I’ve started French polishing the fingerboard prior to gluing in the frets because it makes the cleanup go a lot faster.

Also I almost never tape off the fingerboard when dressing frets because I dress the fingerboard as well during the process. I clean and sand the fingerboard with 320,1200,OOOO steel wool along with the frets to give a factory fresh surface and feel to the fingerboard. This looks and feels better than just touching the frets.
Interesting, I got here that you install all the frets before glue (Fender necks) then wick in CA at the ends of the frets.
I knew CA wicks in nicely but did not know you could take it that far.
Cool info, thank you!
 

StratUp

Dr. Stratster
Sep 5, 2020
12,754
Altered States
Glue in frets sure.
But you are asking about frets already installed, not loose, with no popped up ends?
You want to try to get glue in under the frets?
Not sure we are all clear on this?

I need to level the frets on this neck some time soon. With all the hype about gluing frets in, I thought I'd consider it before leveling. I don't know that they are loose, but it's not the highest quality neck, so if it would help avoid issues, I'm thinking it could be a feature.
 
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