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5 Things To Know When Making Clock Frets

Some of the techniques when cutting out fret patterns have always been the same techniques and methods used over the years when working with longcase clocks. I find them easy and most importantly faster when trying to make a living repairing or building new longcase clocks.

Having cut out hundreds of fret patterns when working on new and antique longcase clocks, the hardest part of making a fret is getting the perfect fret shape to fit the hood.

1. USE GREASEPROOF PAPER AND A WAX CRAYON
    FOR MARKING OUT THE OUTER SHAPE.

If you are working on an antique longcase clock and the fret is missing from the hood, the best way is the traditional way by using greaseproof paper and a wax crayon or soft leaded pencil.

You can lay the greaseproof paper over the area where the old fret is missing and you can then rub the wax crayon over the fret shape, giving you the outer edge shape of the fret on the paper.

2. USE AN OLD CEREAL BOX FOR THE CARD TEMPLATE.

This is just a rough pattern at this point. Now transfer the shape of the fret onto a thin piece of card, you can use an old cereal box or the like, then cut out the shape of the fret. Once the card is cut to the correct fret shape it is very important to make sure the card cut out fits tight in the fret hole or space of the old fret you are replacing.

When you have your card template fitting correctly you now need to make two more templates exactly the same shape and size as your original, these are used to sandwich the veneer you are making the new fret from, and this will give it strength when cutting the fret out and stop any breakout of the veneers.

3 GLUE THREE SHEETS OF VENEER TOGETHER FOR THE FRET THICKNESS.

The actual fret is made from sheets of veneer, normally you can glue together three sheets of veneer using PVA glue and a small veneer press, or two boards and a heavy weight on top.

When the sheets of veneer are dry transfer the shape of the card template onto the veneer ply and cut out. This is done with a scalpel or sharp chisel and make sure the veneer fret fits like you did with the card cut out, some times a file is needed to make a really good fit. When this has been done you need to glue the fret pattern to one of the card templates, depending on what pattern you have chosen, some times you may have to juggle the pattern around to fit in side the fret shape. 

Now you can sandwich the veneer you are making the new fret from between the template with the fret pattern on at the top, and a blank card template at the bottom by taping the edges together with masking tape.

              ==================……..Template with Pattern

               = = = = = = = = = = = =..……..Three Ply Veneer

             ==================……...Blank Card Template

4. USE A SMALL BLADE AND HAVE THE FRET SAW ON LOW SPEED
   TO KEEP IN CONTROL.

When your fret is taped up and ready for cutting out you need to drill holes in the parts of the fret that has to be cut out and removed. These holes are for the fret saw blade to fit through, when cutting the fret out use your finest blade and have the fret saw on the slowest speed, this will give you more control with the fret saw and the level of work will be much higher. When all the fret is cut out remove the card from around the veneered fret, give the fret a touch up with a fine needle file and sand to finish.

5. DON’T TAKE FOR GRANTED BOTH FRET SHAPES ARE THE SAME.

If you are restoring an antique longcase clock and both sets of frets are missing from the hood, for example a swan neck hooded clock, you will probably have to make both the fret shapes separately as most antique clocks may have already been restored or altered over the years or with the passage of time they may suffer from twisting or shrinkage and most probably be different, so don’t take it for granted they are both the same.

When building new longcase clocks you know that both frets will be mirrored so you can cut both frets at the same time.
 
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Matthew Share is the proprietor of Riversdale Clocks.
He and his father Barry have been making bespoke cases for longcase clocks since 1986 and are both holders of advanced furniture qualifications

Matthew & Barry are co-authors in the new case making manual....
                      “Making A Case For A Longcase Clock”
a must read for any one making a case to house an antique movement and dial.     http://www.casemaking.riversdaleclocks.com
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