Ever wonder how the frets get inlayed in your guitar's fretboard or what tool is used to do it? Well, there are generally two different types of processes and tools used to inlay guitar frets. The first process simply uses a hammer to hammer the frets into place. The second slightly more sophisticated process uses a small arbor press to physically press the frets into their slots. You can either use a fretting hammer or a fretting press. Both of these tools work fine and most builders/ repairmen use a mixture of both tools. In this article I will talk about the fret press
A fretting press is obviously the more expensive option as far as luthier fretting tools go. A fretting press is a miniature arbor press that is specifically designed for guitar necks. The arbor has specific dyes for each radius fret wire. After the fretboard has been shaped and the fret slots have been cut, the neck can be placed in the fret press. Simply replace the dye in the press to match the radius of your fretboard and place your bent fret wire in the dye. Now just line up the fret slot and the fret press dye and pull the handle down. The fret will press right into its slot. Obviously with a fret press you must be extremely careful not to apply too much pressure to the fretboard while pressing the fret in place. You could possibly warp the neck or crack the fretboard. The fret press can give you more consistent results than the fretting hammer because the frets are pressed in with equal pressure across the fret. In other words, the fret should be seated properly without any raised edges. The fret press is also much faster than using a fretting hammer. For more information about fret presses, please see my fret hammer page.
Both fretting tools are simple and easy to use. If you are first starting out, I would suggest just to buy a fretting hammer. You don't need a fretting press unless you do a lot of fretting. Keep in mind even if you do get a fret press, you will still want to get a fretting hammer to hammer down loose frets and do other fret repairs. If you would like more information about how to refret your guitar, please see my how to refret a guitar article.