Pressing frets has a good few advantages over hammering, not least the noise - hammering frets at 12.30 in the morning isn’t a good way to make friends and influence people. I didn’t want to lose workbench space to a dedicated arbour press, so I decided to convert a tool I already had, but didn’t use (unless you extend the definition of ‘use’ to include tripping over it. I did that *a lot*).
Here’s the victim, a Black and Decker drill stand. This was a staggeringly crap tool for it’s intended purpose. Assuming you could finally get the drill clamped square and true (not a safe assumption, as it happens) the first time you introduced the drill bit to wood the stand would flex and the bit would take the path of least resistance, which invaraibly took it somewhere you didn’t want it to go.
The first thing I did was to remove the front half of the drill clamp. This effectively disarms it, removing any risk of innocent parties trying to use it as a drill press…
I drilled 2 holes in one face of a scrap of english oak, then turned it 90 degrees and drilled a 3/8″ hole, into which I screwed an M6 threaded insert.
I shaped a a block of glass filled nylon to make a fret arbour, narrowing one face so it was a little over 2mm wide, and cutting a 12″ radius into it, then drilling a recess to accept an M6 crossdowel in the other face. I screwed a short length of M6 studding into the crossdowel to act as a shaft. I screwed this shaft into the oak block, using a nylox nut as a rotation stop so the studding won’t come loose.
I then attached the oak block to the drill press, using the allen bolts which held the drill clamp. Et Voila - fretpress! The cross dowel allows the radius press to self level, so that it matches the alignment of the fretboard, and pressing the fret is as simple as cranking the handle.
The press works very well on RW fretboards, though early tests suggest it struggles with harder woods like ebony. The flex which made it so useless for drilling is still apparent, but really doesn’t alter it’s effectiveness as a press, and the conversion gives it a chance to acrue some positive karma for all the times it let me down as a drill stand. Best of all, it cost less nothing to make, since had all the components already.
The old fret press is dead, long live the new fretpress.