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DIY Guitar Fret Bender Tool

Updated 3 September 2013:  See the new version of the fret wire bender.

Now I can put the frets back into the fretboard on the Martin.  One fret has been missing since the beginning- the 15th, the one that was removed when the neck was steamed off.  It was already gone when I got the guitar, and of course the neck and body had already been separated.

Since I have to install a new fret, this was a good opportunity for me to build a fret bender.  I have a couple of complete refrets waiting in the wings, and I've been wanting to build a bender for some time.  So here we go.

I have the Klein plan from LMI.  Super easy to build.

First we lay out and drill some holes.

Two holes, one slot.

The slot makes one of the wheels adjustable for different radiuses.

Bolt on two sliding-glass door wheels and a center guide pulley.  The plan calls for two one-inch diameter wheels.  I could only find 1 1/4 wheels locally; I did have to adjust a bit for them.

The center pulley is made up of two 1 1/2 inch fender washers sandwiched around a 1 1/4 inch washer.

Detail of the center pulley and one of the wheels.

I need a thinner nut behind the center wheel - I had to use extra washers on the outside wheels to align them all.  I'll make these changes when I can get new hardware.  But it's functional for now.

Rear view.

The crank is just a casement window crank fitted to the bolt (5/16) for the center guide pulley.

The fret bender in action.

Set the radius with the left-side adjustable pulley.

Pass the fret wire through, turn the crank.

Not a great example, since it's only one fret, but you can picture how you'd do this with a coil of wire for a whole instrument.

The center pulley's a bit wobby - I'm thinking of adding a brass sleeve to run the bolt through.  And I had to make the slot longer than planned to compensate for the extra diameter of the outside pulleys.  I'll probably change them eventually.  But it's perfectly functional as is.

Took about 30 minutes and maybe $15 in parts to build.  You can buy a fancy one from Stew-Mac for $90.  I'd rather put that money toward other tools I can't build myself.

And now I can whap - I mean reinstall - the frets into the Martin 12-string fretboard, including the new one.

The Complete Martin Guitar Restoration Saga
Restoration begins
Repairing heel break
DIY chisel for bridge plate removal
DIY bridge plate removal iron, Pt.1
DIY bridge plate removal iron, Pt.2
Steam removal of bridge plate
Bridge plate removed
Tongue brace removal
Crack repair and brace scallop
New bridge plate Pt. 1
New bridge plate Pt. 2
Patching hole in top
Final fitting of top patch
Installing carbon fiber rod
Fret removal
Fingerboard crack repair, Pt. 1
Fingerboard crack repair, Pt. 2
DIY fret bender tool (This page)
Refretting Pt. 1
Refretting Pt. 2
Tuner shaft repair
Neck reset - dovetail fitting
Measuring neck set with DIY jig
Gluing the neck with hide glue
Tortoloid Pickguard
Fitting bridge pins
Brace reglue
Making bone saddle
Making a buffalo horn nut
Restoration completed


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