Category Archives: Musical Instruments

Pick-Pocket Key Chain- How to Make a Guitar Pick Holding Keychain

So, I was trying to think of something to get my dad for father’s day and I ran across these key chains that hold guitar picks.  Since he plays guitar, I thought about buying one for him… but decided that it was something that I could make and it would be cooler if I made it myself.  This is my first time making anything out of leather, so if it doesn’t look super professional… give me a break.

I started out by outlining a pick and then folding the paper and tracing that, so there were two picks exactly opposite each other with a small space between them.  Then I drew lines around them, giving what I thought was enough room to stitch leather so that the picks would fit in the little pocket it created.  Once side doesn’t go all the way around, so the picks can easily be removed.  The other has a strap so that a key-ring can be attached and the pick-pocket can be closed.

Key Chain Template

Key Chain Template

Key Chain Traced on Leather

Once I had my design cut out, I folded it up to see if everything would work.  Would picks fit inside and would the strap be long enough to accommodate a key ring and reach the pocket? Everything looked good, so I traced it onto a piece of leather.  Then I cut out the leather using a scissors.

Key Chain Traced on Leather

Key Chain Cut Out of Leather Scrap

Key Chain Cut Out of Leather Scrap

Next I folded up the pocket portion of the key chain and started sewing it together with sinew.  I started in between the folds, so that the knots would be hidden. Then I started sewing along one side and along the bottom.  I kind of doubled back on my stitches so that each seam was sewn twice.  When I got to the bottom, I stopped so I could install a snap.  I would have actually done that first, but I didn’t have my stuff handy, so when I got to that point I stopped until I got the snap installed.

Partially Sewn with Snaps Installed

Partially Sewn with Snaps Installed

Snaps are usually super easy to install.  For the ones I was using there’s a spiked ring that you push through the fabric.  The other part of the snap sits on top of that, and using a little tool you hit it with a hammer to drive in and bend those spikes.  With leather it’s a bit more difficult to get those spikes through the “fabric” so I folded up a scrap of leather and using the side of a knife pushed the ring forcing the spikes through the leather (and into the leather underneath).  Once I had the spikes pushed though, I installed the snap like normal.  (Again, I didn’t do any measuring and got the snap off-center on the pocket… but everything still works fine.)

Pocket Completely Sewn

Pocket Completely Sewn

I put the female side on the pocket, then installed the male part on the strap, using the same method.

IMG_0250

Now all that was left was to finish sewing.  I finished sewing up the one remaining side of the pocket, and then went to work on the strap.  I stuck the strap through a key ring, and then snapped it to the pocket.  I held the key ring where the strap would sit flat when folded and then sewed a line underneath it to hold the ring in place.  Again I started inside the fold to hide the knots.  Also, I didn’t sew around the edge of the leather because the edge sees a lot of wear and I was worried that the thread/sinew would get worn through and then come unraveled.

Getting Ready to Sew Key Ring into the Strap

Getting Ready to Sew Key Ring into the Strap

Sewing the Key Ring into the Strap

Sewing the Key Ring into the Strap

Test Fitting 3 Guitar Picks

Test Fitting 3 Guitar Picks

Finished Pick-Pocket Key Chain

Finished Pick-Pocket Key Chain

I finished that seam, tied off the sinew and test fit the 3 guitar picks I had handy.  There was plenty of room for them, maybe even one or two more.


Improvised Cigar Box Guitar Parts Organizer

Completed Parts Organizer

We’ve been going through this massive remodeling project at work so a LOT of stuff has been getting thrown away.  Some of it is getting tossed because it doesn’t fit in the scheme of the remodel.  Some of it is being tossed because it’s old, or there’s no place to keep it anymore.  One of the things that was being tossed were these paper racks.  They used to have one in each of the printer stations to hold different types of paper.  In the new space, they don’t want anything on the counter, so they had to go.  I looked at them and thought, “Hey, I could put drawers in these.”  I grabbed 3 of them.  I might have grabbed more, but they’re pretty big.  They’re made of out of Plexiglas or acrylic or something, and there are six slots that would almost fit a ream of paper in each.  Then there are four compartments on each side for holding Post-It notes or something.  They were big, awkward and kind of heavy.

Before I even got home, I had a pretty good idea for making the drawers.  I had furring strips and paneling sitting around in the garage.  At home, I slid a piece of furring strip into one of the slots, and seemed like it would be a perfect fit.  I planned to use the fake wood paneling as the drawer bottoms, but it was a bit thick.  So I bought a 4×4 sheet of ¼ inch hardboard.  I measured the opening of the rack, side to side, and front to back and marked out the hardboard for the drawer bottoms, and furring strip for the drawer sides.  I thought about doing lap joints, but decided I wanted to keep it SUPER easy and just went with butt joints.  The sides ran the whole depth of the drawer, and the fronts & backs were cut to fit between them.

4 drawer bottoms would fit across one edge of the hardboard, so that’s what I started with, cutting them out with the circular saw.  Then I cut enough sides for those 4 drawers.  This was a mistake, which I’ll get to in a minute.

I laid out the drawer sides, front and back on the driveway.  Set a drawer bottom on top, drilled a hole and drove in a little nail.  Drilled another, drove another.  One at a time until the boards were all attached at the ends.  Then I drilled holes in the middle of each and drove nails in those .  These were little carpet nails that I had dumpstered somewhere.  I’ve had them in my possession for over 10 years, and just ran across them a couple days previous while reorganizing the basement.  They were perfect.  Once the bottom was attached, I drilled holes and drove some rink shank nails (dumpstered at the same time) to hold joints of the drawer sides together.

Then I started on the next one.  With this one I remembered that I had planned to glue the joints as well, so I ran a line of glue around the edge of the drawer bottom and on the ends of the front and backs of the drawers (where it butts against the drawer sides).  Then I set the sides on the bottom, and flipped the whole thing over onto the driveway.  The glue kept the pieces from sliding around, so I could drill more than one hole, and drive a few nails at a time.

Here’s where the problem came in.  I realized I hadn’t bothered to test fit the first drawer.  So I grabbed it, slid it in, and it got stuck about an inch from being all the way in.  Further inspection showed that toward the back of each rack, the plastic bulged out a little bit making the back of the drawer slot narrower than the front (where I had measured it.)  Now I had parts cut for 4 drawers that would all be too wide.  I took the completed one to the belt sander, shaved a bit off both sides, and then it fit.  I did the same for the other one that was almost done.  Then I trimmed the pieces for the other two drawers I had already cut.  All pieces cut after that were compensated for the bulge.

After doing a few drawers with 2 nails in each butt joint, I started running low on rink shank nails and grabbed another jar of them from the garage.  This one had come from an estate sale and had a bunch of steel corrugated fasteners mixed in with them.  This was pretty much the perfect use for those, so I started putting one nail in the bottom (without bothering to pre-drill) and then driving one of the corrugated fasteners into the top.

I got done with the first 6 drawers and realized “Doh! I wanted dividers.”  They’re super easy to do before you build the drawer, so I built 6 more with dividers.  All I did was lay the two sides (or front & back) together and draw lines on them using a square about where I wanted dividers.  I didn’t do any measuring, I just eyeballed everything.  My first one I split front-to-back and side-to-side.  Then I realized that the back section of the drawer would be hard to get to without taking the whole thing out, so from then on I just did the dividers running front to back.  Mostly I divided the drawers up in to 2 or 3 sections.  Then I used the band saw to cut slots in them just wide enough for the hardboard.  I used a piece of furring strips to mark strips on the scrap pieces of hardboard and cut them out with the band saw.  Once the drawers were all assembled, I’d just lay the strip on top and mark how long it needed to be to fit in both slots.  Then I’d cut the hardboard to length and slip it in.  I didn’t glue them or anything, in case I wanted to remove them later.

The last thing these drawers needed were handles.  I had a few in the basement, but I was planning to use them for building guitars or cases, so I decided to make my own handles.   For the first drawer I’d used one that I cut off a gas can when I was making a gas can banjo.   Now I didn’t have much left that was handle-like, so I started looking around the garage for things that could be converted into handles: spokes, screws, washers, hinges, wing nuts, nails, pieces of water ski bindings, bike parts.  I really enjoyed this part of it.  Trying to figure out what could be pieced together into a handle.  I made sure that on each rack of 6 drawers, no two handles matched.  There are a couple that match between the two racks, and I wished I’d made my brain work a little harder to figure out something original for those too.

Now  I’m just trying to figure out whether to make deep drawers for those compartments on the sides or just cut them off with a saw.  Also, I need to figure out where I’m going to put them.  (Them and my new tool box)



Building a Washtub Bass

I’ve been thinking about building a washtub bass for a while.  Down the road there are some folks who apparently use washtubs for recycling containers.  On my way to work, I’d see them out by their garage next to their garbage can and hope they were going to throw them away.  No such luck.  I kept checking places that were close to home, but couldn’t find anywhere close to buy a new one either.  One day I had to make a last minute run to Stillwater to pick up instruments parts.  I was preparing for a craft show, and had neglected to make sure I had enough tuners.  I took the trip out there to pick some up, and on my way back noticed a Fleet Farm.  I knew they would have washtubs, so I swung back around to check it out.

I grabbed a 14 gallon galvanized tub.  I think they’re actually considered feed tubs, but I’ll be referring to it as a washtub from here on out.  Then I headed over to hardware where I grabbed the shortest 3/8″ eye bolt I could find.  I got the two largest fender washers I could find, a couple lock washers, and a nylon package of nylon lock nuts.  The last thing I grabbed was a 60″ hardwood handle.  I knew I had a couple broom handles at home, but I figured I might want something a little longer and a little thicker.  I also knew that I had some clothesline at home.  I’d purchased it before a camping trip for making a makeshift shade canopy.  A tree worked pretty well as a shade canopy, so it had never been used.

At home the first thing I did was drill a 3/8 inch hole in the center of the bottom of the washtub.   I set it on a piece of scrap plywood and drilled from inside the tub.  I actually have a Forstner bit that I use strictly for thin metal because it makes a nicer hole than a standard twist bit.  Either one will work though.

Next thing I did was take off the handles.  Some people cut them off.  I just grabbed the handle with a slip joint pliers (what everyone refers to as channel locks) and twisted it out.

Next I installed the eyebolt.  It came with a nut which I turned on as far as it would go.   Then I put on a lock washer and a large fender washer.  I slid it into the hole in the washtub (from the underside) and then put on another large fender washer, a lock washer and then a nylon lock nut.  This might be overkill, but for the price a couple extra lock washers I’d rather just make sure that it doesn’t come loose.  Don’t skip the fender washers though.  They spread the tension over a larger area.  Without them, I imagine that nut would eventually work its way through the bottom of the washtub.

Next I got my “neck” ready.  First a drilled a 1/4” hole a couple inches from the top of the handle.  Next you have to cut a slot in the bottom to slip over the edge of the washtub.  You want to make sure that the slot is perpendicular to the hole.  I slipped a pencil in the hole and then propped it on a nut to hold the hole horizontal.  Then I could cut the slot vertical and everything would be lined up correctly.  Again I just eyeballed it. I made two vertical cuts maybe 1/4 inch apart, pretty much just enough to score the wood.  Once I had the wood scored, it didn’t matter if I turned the handle to get a better angle for cutting.  Starting at each cut, I cut diagonally toward the middle to open up a slot.  Once you have it cut, just make sure it fits over the rim of the washtub when it’s turned upside down.  You want the slot deep enough that it will stay on the rim, but not so deep that the handle touches the bottom of the washtub.

The last thing to do was add the ‘string.’  There’s some debate about what kind of string sounds best.   Some folks swear by weedwacker line, some like airline cable or parachute cord.  I had cotton clothesline, so I went with that.  I tied it to the eyebolt, and then passed it through the hole in the handle.  I slipped the slot over the rim and tipped the handle until the string was vertical when pulled taught.  I marked where it passed through the handle and then tied a knot there.  Actually, I didn’t tie a “knot” because I knew the clothesline would stretch, so I left a loop so it would be easy to untie and retie when it was needed.

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Table Leg Lap Steel Guitar

My other post about building a lap steel seems to draw a lot of viewers, so I figured I’d write a little something up about this one too.  If you’re looking for the post on building a lap steel guitar, you can find it here.  This one is about a 3 string “lap steel” guitar I built from an old table leg.

This one got it start when I was coming home from a bicycle ride late one night, or early one morning actually.  Someone in my neighborhood was throwing out a table.  It drew my attention because my first banjo I partially built out of an old kitchen table.  I stopped to take a look.  I was still a few blocks from home and didn’t feel like trying to take the whole table home.  As it was almost 3am, I didn’t really feel like making more than one trip either.  However, those legs looked like they might be good for something.  About 2 inches square and somewhere between 2 and 3 feet long.  I seem to remember that I actually had to use my wrench to remove them from the table, then I laid one end on my handlebars while I held the other ends and rode home.

I can’t remember when the idea for a lap steel came to me.  It might have been when I was removing the legs or it might have been staring at them in my garage at some later date.  At any rate, I got the idea to do a quick job of turning one into a lap steel guitar.  I got out a set of tuners that had 2 strips of 3 tuners, laid it on one end and marked where to drill holes.  As I was looking to just do a quick build, I left at 3 tuning machines.  With some more work I could have done six, but 3 seemed good enough for this experiment.

When I first envisioned this, I was going to screw a tuna can on top to use as a resonator and a place to put the electronics.  Well I wasn’t sure that I liked that, and when the tuna can I prepped fell on the floor and got stepped on, that settled that.  I had already cut an angle iron from a bed frame to use as the nut, I just cut another to use as the bridge.  However, that made adding a pickup difficult.  There wasn’t really a good place to put a piezo anymore.  I couldn’t be under the bridge, because the bridge had to be screwed down.  It could possibly go on the back of the angle iron, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about having it exposed.  So I decided that it needed a magnetic pickup.  I had picked some up for pretty cheap.  However, they were all far too long.  Even putting one at an angle didn’t seem like it would work all that well.  So I decided that I would make my own pickup.

I cut a couple pieces of cedar from cigar box inserts to use as the top and bottom and got some little magnets from Radio Shack.  The day I was working on it, I wasn’t really in any big hurry.  I’d just gotten done with a month of long hours at work and I was just happy to be back out in the garage again.  So once I got the magnets glued between the upper and lower pieces, I just set up a roll of magnet wire on a piece of metal clamped in the vice and started winding the wire around by hand.  I was listening to some good music, the Muddy Roots Music Comp Vol 1 (which I think you can still find for free here) so what might otherwise seem like tedious work was rather enjoyable.  I didn’t count windings or anything, I just wound until the “spool” was full.  I actually made a slightly different pickup a couple days later.  That one I took pictures of the process, so I’ll be posting that later.

Of course, now I needed a place to put my electronics.  When I was thinking about a piezo pickup, I was just going to drill a hole in the end and use a square jack plate.  However, now that I was winding a pickup it seemed like I should at least have a volume control.  I looked around for something cool that I could use to cover up the cavity for the electronics, but was having trouble finding anything narrow enough.  So I finally decided I’d just use a piece of a broken cigar box.  So I suppose technically you could still call this a cigar box guitar, since the electrical cover AND pickup where both made out of cigar boxes.  So I drilled out a cavity, wired up the jack and volume control in the cover and then put the whole thing together.  A piece of a bicycle seat got pressed into service as the tailpiece.  Once the strings were on and the pickup tested (one broken connection had to be fixed) the pickup was screwed in place and it was finished!  My “quick build” ended up taking months after the interruptions of work and household electrical issues, but I’m pretty happy with it.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the completed lap steel.  I’m hoping to get some better pictures later (I always do better with natural light) but these will give you the idea anyway.


Converting a Kid’s Electric Guitar into an Amp

Today’s fun little project was converting a kid’s electric guitar into an amplifier.  My daughter’s friend got an electric guitar for his birthday, but didn’t have an amp.  He did have  his old First Act electric guitar which he wanted to trade me for one of the little amps I have sitting around to put into cigar boxes or other containers.  It was one of those little electric guitars that have a speaker built into the front of the guitar.  It was pretty beat up.  4 of the 6 tuning knobs were missing, and the machines were pretty crapped out too.  A couple adjusting screws for the bridge/tailpiece were missing.  I said, “You know how your guitar has a speaker?  That means it has a built-in amp.  So we can use the pieces from your guitar and build an amp.”

At first I was thinking we would take the pieces out and put them in a cigar box or something.  When we started looking at it I said “Why don’t we just take the neck and tailpiece off, and then the guitar body can be your amp.”  So that’s what we did.  They grabbed screw drivers and started removing the neck (while I went and grabbed a camera to document their progress)

Removing the neck
Removing the neck

Then they removed the tailpiece/bridge.

Removing the tailpiece
Removing the tailpiece

They we started uncovering the electronics.

Unpacking the electronics
Unpacking the electronics

Here’s where you can kind of start to see the plan coming together.  On this guitar you have a magnetic pickup, but instead of just going through a volume pot to the output jack, it also goes to a little amp which is connected to the speaker.  If you plug in a cord, a switch in the jack cuts the signal to the on-board amp and sends it to the external amp instead.  So our plan was to just switch things around.  We wanted to turn the output jack into an input jack.  It seemed like the simplest way was just to cut off the magnetic pickup and hook the wires to the jack.  So here they are removing the pickup.

Removing the pickup
Removing the pickup

Next we stripped the wires, and then hooked up a battery and plugged in a guitar.  Esther played her guitar while I touched the stripped wires to the tabs on the jack to make sure we got things hooked up right.  I would have originally figured white wire to white wire, and black to black.  But I wasn’t taking that switch into account.  So once we started hearing Esther’s guitar through the speaker we knew we had it right.  Once we had things in the right place, I soldered them up.  I usually like to let the kids do pretty much everything.  Esther has done soldering on a cigar box guitar she built, but her friend had never soldered before and it was kind of a tricky job for someone who’s never done it before, so he helped hold wires in place while I soldered them.

Soldering the wires
Soldering the wires

From that point on, I let them finish it up themselves.  They screwed the back plates back on and tightened up the strap knobs.  (We realized that because the amp is battery-powered, if we left the strap knobs on, you could wear the amp.)  Below is a quick video of Esther demonstrating the finished product.  It’s not the best amp ever, but it will make a nice practice amp for him to use while he’s learning to play his first real decent guitar. (He got a Fender StarCaster) His parents will probably appreciate that it doesn’t  get very loud.

I got to keep the extra parts.  I’ll probably put the neck on a cigar box, after I dress the frets ends (which are sticking out on both sides of the neck and are rather sharp.)


Fixing a stripped strap knob on a guitar

My daughter bought an electric guitar recently.  She’d been using her mama’s, but wanted her own.  We found a nice one on clearance at the pawn shop.  She actually had a little money saved up, but didn’t have quite enough so she offered to do chores to pay off the amount she couldn’t cover.  The guitar was actually pretty nice.  Apparently they’d taken in a bunch of guitars and then they got lost in the backroom, so when they came out they had to go on clearance right away.  It’s got the Eddie Van Halen paint scheme, and it’s an odd brand nobody’s ever heard of, but it played well and sounded good.  So we brought it home with us.  The only problem with it was that one of the strap button screws was coming loose.  We fixed it at first by replacing it with a slightly bigger and slightly longer screw.  That held for a while, but eventually that one came loose too.

Esther asked how to fix it.  I suggested that she go look it up.  She found a forum where a guy suggested gluing in a couple toothpicks.  I suggested we go with a more permanent solution and get a dowel that actually fit the hole.  We picked up a little oak dowel at the hardware store, and cut off 2 or 3 inches.  We tested the fit of the dowel in the hole, and it was pretty much perfect.  It fit, but it was snug enough that it took some effort to get it in.  Esther used a tooth pick to get a decent amount of wood glue into the hole.  Then she twisted the dowel in as far as she should by hand.  I used a hammer to tap it in just a little further.

We let that dry overnight, then Esther used a flush cut saw to cut off the dowel even with the surface of the guitar.  I offered to let Esther drill the hole, but she preferred to have me do it.  She’s used a drill before, but this was just a little bit delicate.  I found a bit that was a little smaller than the original screw, and drilled down the center of the dowel.  She screwed the strap button back on and we were good to go.

Her mother’s guitar had developed the same problem, so we fixed that one next.

We didn't scratch it up fixing it, it was already like that


How to fret a cigar box guitar neck

This is something I’ve been meaning to write for a while now.  Since writing my book, I’ve learned easier ways of fretting instruments and wanted to pass along that information.  Recently we went to see The Calamity Cubes! play and they ended up staying at our house and Brook ended up buying a copy of How & Why.  He sent me a message a couple of days ago saying he was almost done with his first cigar box guitar.  I told him I knew of an easier way to fret and promised I’d pass along the info (with pictures).

I went out to the garage, but found I’d already fretted everything that was ready.  So I found a neck that wasn’t ready, grabbed my son Jed to run the camera, and fretted it anyway.  It was mostly ready, but I usually like to stain and/or finish the necks before fretting them.  This neck was for an experimental cigar box guitar, so it doesn’t really matter anyway. (Thanks to Jed for being a good sport and helping me track down the tools I couldn’t find after misplacing them during my mad building spree a couple weeks back… and then sticking around the cold garage to take pictures too.)

So the first step is cutting the frets slots in your neck, which I’ve covered in How & Why: A Do It Yourself Guide Not much has changed since then.  I still haven’t bought a miter box.  I’m pretty sure one day I’m really gonna kick myself for that. However, here’s what has changed since I wrote the book.  I no longer cut all my frets to length, shape them, and then install them on the neck.  Here’s my new method.

Installing Frets with a ‘Fret Hammer’

First off, I set the tang of a length of fret wire into the fret slot and then tap it in using a fretting hammer.  In the picture below, the first two frets were from the beginning of a new piece of fret wire and had nice square ends, so they could be lined up with the edge of the fretboard.  However, when you cut the fret with an end nippers, it leaves one side square and one side pointed.  You could turn the fret wire around and cut the end square, or you can just hang it off the end of the fretboard a fraction of an inch, then come back and trim it off later.  The latter method seems to go faster.

A fretting hammer is about $20 from Steward MacDonald and comes with a plastic head on one side and a brass head on the other.  My ‘fretting hammer’ is from Harbor Freight and cost about $6.  It has a plastic head and a soft rubber head.  The rubber head isn’t much good for fretting, but the plastic side works great.  It’s hard enough to install frets without marring them. (One of these days I’m going to see if the Stew Mac heads fit my hammer)  Another option might be covering the end of a regular hammer with thick leather.  I’ve never tried this, but it seems like it might work.

Anyway, I start on the side of the neck farthest from me.  I tap in that side and work towards myself.  Usually it takes 2 – 3 taps. You want to tap hard enough to get the tang all the way into the wood so that the crown is against the fretboard, but not so hard that the fret is slightly indented into the neck.

Tapping in fret with fret hammer

Once you’ve tapped your fret into place, cut the end flush with the neck using an end nippers.  You can buy special fret cutters which are shaped to cut closer to the edge of the fretboard, but they’re 2 or 3 times as expensive as an end nippers from the hardware store, so I go with the end nippers. They’ll cut real close. In fact, if you’re not careful, you’ll sometimes nick the wood.

Cutting fret to length with end nippers

Installing Frets with a Wood Block

Here’s another method for installing frets.  I mostly covered this in the book, but there’s a slight change. Instead of cutting the frets to length and then tapping them in, you can set the fret wire in the slot (with the pointed end hanging off the edge slightly), set a hardwood block on top, and tap it into place.  My favorite piece of wood to use is the tapered piece I remove the neck to get it to fit the box.  It’s rather thin at one end so it’s just wide enough to cover the fret.  The other end is a bit wider for hitting with the hammer.  The thin side makes it easier to hit just one fret when they’re getting close together.  It also make it less likely that you’ll accidentally hit your fretboard with the edge of your block.

Pressing fret into slot before positioning wood block

Tapping fret in with wood block and claw hammer

As I mentioned above, it pays to be careful with your wood block.  Keep it as vertical as you can to avoid hitting the fretboard and leaving a divot.  I’d like to say I did this intentionally to show the “wrong way to do things” but the truth is, I’m just out of practice with this method and got careless.

Divot caused by not holding wood block straight up and down when hammering

Here’s what you end up with.  All the frets cut flush on one side, and hanging off just a little bit on the other.

All frets tapped into the neck

Frets hang over edge of neck on one side and need to be cut to length.

 Just go down the length of the neck cutting all the frets flush with the edge of the fretboard.

Cutting all frets flush with edge of neck using end nippers

Dressing the Fret Ends

Now you’ll just need to dress the end of your frets.  I find it easiest to do them all at once.  If you’re careful, you can do it without damaging the neck or finish. Take a fine metal file and hold it at about a 30 to 45 degree angle to the end of the frets.  Then just move it up and down the length of the neck filing an angle on the end of all the frets until the edge of that angle is flush with the edge of the neck.

Filing fret ends

This will sometimes leave the tang of the fret protruding a bit from the side of the neck.

This picture shows (kind of) that the fret tangs are still protruding from side of neck.

This can be remedied by holding the file almost flat against the neck (angle it just a tiny bit) and filing the end of the fret tangs.

Filing end of frets

Now you’ll probably want to round off the end of the frets.  I bought a double edge fret file from Steward MacDonald for doing this.  Mine will do both narrow and medium frets, which is all I use.  It’s kind of expensive at about $39, but it makes things SO easy.  I just hold it at an angle to the end of the fret and then round it off with one stroke.

Rounding end of frets with fret file

This shows two frets that have been rounded, and two that still have sharp edges. It also shows the divot I created with a badly aimed wood block.

If you don’t have the fret file, the ends can be rounded using a 3 sided file.  I have never done a whole neck like this, just individual frets that had to be replaced.  It works best if you use something to protect the neck.  Of course Stewart MacDonald has a special tool for this, but you can also just use a piece of aluminum cut from a soda can. Just lay it next to the fret so you don’t nick the neck with the edge of the file.

Rounding fret ends with 3 sided file, using piece of can as a guard.

No matter how you do it, you may want to hit the edge of all the frets with a sanding block when you’re done.  Just wrap some fine sandpaper around a piece of wood, hold it at an angle (like you did with the file), and run up and down the edge of the frets a couple times.  This will smooth out any file marks.