Yet Another Fret Wire Bender

Discussion in 'The DIY Tool Shed' started by R. Stratenstein, May 28, 2013.

  1. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I've been needing one of these for quite some time.

    I liked the version Bill Scheltema (Canadianbreed) reviewed back a while ago, with its adjustment done by a thumbscrew at the top of the bender, instead of loosening a bolt, slipping it along a slot, and retightening the bolt. If I could have found the link, I'd have posted it here. It's made by a Canadian machinist, and is a nice unit.

    The thumbwheel adjustment makes it so much easier, and less mistake-prone, to creep up on exactly the right radius. But being a cheapskate and a DIY-er, I figured I could make something functionally equivalent.

    I could not find the components that are normally used in some of the older threads of builds based on Terry Downs (I think it was Terry's) design--if not, I apologize. It was a good design, very functional, and most important, used inexpensive off the shelf parts. I bought what I thought would work, that were in stock in the local big boxes and hardware store.

    The "big wheel" was stolen from a caster. The caster was surfaced with semi-soft facing, that I thought would be kind to fretwire, and control it well.

    Had to remove the wheel from the caster frame:
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    I wanted a good heavy axle, and ended up using 3/8" all thread rod. So the bigwheel's center needed to be drilled out to accommodate it.

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    This left the cheap plastic hub a little thin, so I filled the hollow interior of the big wheel with some epoxy material. Apparently "gel" means it never gets real hard. I should have gone with my first instincts and used JB Weld. Anyway the hubs are filled with this semi-hard material that will at least give the hubs a little support.

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    Here's a shot of the wood pieces. Basically a rectangular box, with a hard white oak "slider" inside, into which the big wheel axle goes through. It will adjust with a piece of all thread rod controlled by a wing nut. To give you an idea of scale, the slider (piece with the arrows on it) measures 3" X 4".

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    The body box was made by screwing two 3/4 inch X 1-1/2 inch strips of plywood along the edges, with the slider inserted in the middle to act as a guide to ensure a close, tight fit. Everything was sanded to 320 to give a nice, smooth sliding fit.

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
     
    TO53 likes this.
  2. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Next, I had to create a window for the big wheel axle to stick through. The window also had to be wide enough so that the washers, spacers, and other misc. hardware would fit and not interfere with the sliding.

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    I did this with the 1" Forstner bit, cleaning up afterward with a file and sandpaper.
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    Thought I'd put together a little mock up to make sure I was still on track, that my concepts were still OK, and no oversights become apparent. Looks OK.

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    The little wheels are replacement wheels for sliding doors, but they come pre-installed on little brackets with their own axles, etc. All you have to do is screw them into place. Here you can also see how I flattened the surface of the big wheel with a rasp and file, then cut a groove for the fret tang with my fret saw, while the wheel was turning in the drill press, on a bolt.

    Also in this picture, you can see how the slider is assembled. There's a 5/16" piece of all thread rod that goes into a hole in the top of the slider. a 7/8" hole intersects that hole for a nylock nut that with a nut on top of the slider, holds the allthread rod securely in place. Over the rod I installed a spring, so the slider would not bind, and would dependably move down as the wing nut was loosened.

    Here's the axle assembly for the big wheel

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    It includes a replacement crank-out-window handle, a nylock nut, star lock washers on each side of the big wheel, a washer and standard nut, a stack of a lot (I lost count) of washers used for spacers.

    Here's a close up detail shot of how the allthread rod is secured in the slider through intersecting holes, and where the permanently lubricated, flanged bushing that holds the big wheel axle, is located. :

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    Before final assembly, I epoxied the bushing into the hole, and snugged it up tight with a bolt, washers and a nut overnight.

    And the top of the body box, with the slider's allthread rod sticking up through a hole in the top, and the wing nut used for adjusting the position of the big wheel--and therefore, the radius of the fret curve. You can also see the top of the slider, the nuts holding the allthread rod in place, and the spring.


    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    Body needs to be secured to the base very tightly:


    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    And here it is, first fully assembled shot. I forgot to mention that the little wheels have a great U-shaped profile that looks just about perfect for fret wire crowns, and they're made of nylon or some other hard plastic, so they won't mar the frets.

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    Time for a test run! First, we need something to gauge the radius we're putting on the fret wire. Nothing like simple pencil, trammel rig and paper.
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    Get out a nice straight length of StewMac # 154 fret wire--medium large, I think they're called.
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    First thing to notice is that my version works upside down from normal--that is, the fret wire arches down, instead of up. I built it this way to simplify the construction details--I did have a version that bent the wire up, but it was more complex. It's not a problem, clamped on the front of the bench, where there's plenty of room for the fret wire to bend down.

    First try was modest, slight pressure, slight bend:

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    Got a little bolder, put a bit more pressure on it, and starting getting some radius. It was very easy to just turn the wing nut, rather than having to loosen a nut, push an idler wheel in the desired direction, (hope it's right) then retighten the nut.

    [​IMG]

    Just about nailed it in only 3 easy passes through!

    [​IMG]

    This looks like about 9.5", I'm going for 10, so this should be OK. I'm planning on having perfect fret slots that will hold the fret wire just right. :D

    Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with this thing. I had a lot of the miscellaneous parts, so I only have about $28 or so of newly-purchased parts, about $6 of which is that crappy epoxy. My biggest complaint right now is the handle. It was convenient to just use a pre-made one, but it sticks out too far to the front, putting leverage on the axle that is not good. I may fabricate one to replace it. Or not, maybe someday.

    Here are a couple of shots of the finished machine, in case there may be some ideas here you can use. Nothing especially innovative or clever, but it does work.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
    (Back side with bushing flange and washer epoxied to the slider)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    Finally, it occurred to me that I could mark where the slider was when a certain radius was achieved, so next time I could get close, and sneak up on the exact radius needed. This will need to be replaced by something more precise, but for now--meh. . .
    [​IMG]
     
  3. KWhatley

    KWhatley Tele-Holic

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    You're little side projects bug is infectious ;)

    I read this earlier and then after failing to find a waterstone pond for a reasonable price I strolled off to the garage and created a mini sawhorse type affair with a £1 dish washing bowel through it. Looks hideous with the scraps I used but it's solid, works and didn't set me back £60+ like pre made ones. So thank you once again for another inspirational post.

    The bender looks great and seems to do an excellent job so it's going on my to-do list along with the arbor mod for the stew macs caul.
     
  4. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Always glad to be of inspiration. If I helped set you 59 pounds ahead of the game, I'm happy with that! I have wimped out on the sharpening scene, and "invested" in a sheet of old float plate glass (supposed to be exceptionally flat), and a bunch of very fine grit emery paper. It works great, really sharpens well, but I always feel like I'm cheating just a little, somehow.

    If your shop is not heated, remember to empty the stone pond and dry your waterstones when cold weather arrives. Seems like I've heard that a frozen stone pond will crack those expensive Japanese rocks.
     
  5. RogerC

    RogerC Poster Extraordinaire

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    Wow. That's a nice bender, Rick. You definitely have better control of your radius than I do on mine, but I've come to realize that it doesn't seem to be that important. As long as you bend a slightly tighter radius than the fret board, it's good.
     
  6. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Silver Supporter

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    I like to overbend my fretwire. I think it helps keep the ends down when pressing/hammering. I could be wrong but I think it may cause the barbs to go in at a bit of an angle too, to aid in staying put. It is probably around a 9- 10" radius or so. Once I tightened it there...I've never moved it in 30 years or so. One time I loaned it out to a friend and I had to make another. I used bolts, washers, nuts, a piece of aluminum plate scrap I had here, and two bronze rollers from the DIY store. This kind of thing:

    http://www.lowes.com/pd_215743-37672-882743_0__?productId=3024774

    It worked well too. I bet 3 bolts sticking out of a piece of wood would suffice. You'd just have to push the wire through instead of cranking.
     
  7. nickhofen

    nickhofen Friend of Leo's

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    Nice bender Rick.
    I don't know how I miss that when it was posted, I make a search at the net for upgrading ideas and...voila!!!
     
  8. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Thanks, Nick. The thing works well, but I don't like the handle, it sticks out at an angle, and although I've kind of kept my eyes peeled for the right kind of handle at hardware and building supply stores, haven't found just the right one yet. My only other complaint is that the base, although making it easy to clamp to my bench, also (along with the handle sticking out) makes it big and clumsy to store. I may remove the base, and chuck it in my vise.

    Probably if a guy had a nice wood vise or something, he could mount the fret bender in that! ;):D
     
  9. nickhofen

    nickhofen Friend of Leo's

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    Haha, I see your fret bender chucked in your wooden vice too,in the near future Rick.
    Thanks a lot for the notifications.;)
     
  10. GunsOfBrixton

    GunsOfBrixton Tele-Afflicted

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    Very nice Rick. I do have the one from the guy in Canada. It is pretty easy to adjust and is well made.
     
  11. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Thank You, Robert. I really liked that fret bender, it is beautifully machined and built, and Bill's review was very positive too. I think at the time, he was asking $80 for it, which isn't prohibitive, but I don't build that many guitars, and wanted to see if I could make a functional duplicate.
     
  12. BluesBlooded

    BluesBlooded Friend of Leo's

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    Nice job Rick, I had not caught it at the time you posted it. 80$ is not that bad for you guys considering the exchange rate in your favor, it's much closer to 60$
     
  13. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    There seems to be some interest in the snazzy bender from Canada, so I took the time to look up Bill's review:



    Seems I was mistaken, Bill quoted the price at $68 plus shipping, which is quite a good price, especially as Andre pointed out, with a favorable exchange rate.
    Here's the link to the maker's site, he's still quoting (C) $68 for it. http://www.guitarbuilderonline.com/fret-bender.html
     
  14. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Silver Supporter

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    That is a nice bender in the video. And 68 dollars is cheap for the amount of materials and work that goes into it. My bender is like Bill's original one, a plate with a few bolts, rollers, and handle. I made an adjustable slot in mine as well, but never really changed the radius over the years.

    If I had a bottomless pit of money to put into the hobby tools, I might consider buying that nice aluminum one, but for a dozen guitars a year give or take, I can think of other things where that money could be better appropriated. For bang for the buck, and the fact that it is a one trick pony type of thing, I'd go with the aluminum radius beam.

    Given all that, Rick's bender looks like it would be a suitable replacement for the pricey one.
     
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