Workshop: Hawaiian to Spanish Conversion

So, here's the fretboard of a 1936 Martin 0-17H. The "H" is for "Hawaiian" which means it was setup from the factory with a raised (high) nut, straight (rather than compensated) saddle, and a flat fretboard top with flush (ground down to the same height as the fretboard) frets.

These are "bar stock" frets which means their cross-section shows a simple bar of material rather than a curved top with a barbed thin tang that sticks down into a thin slot in the board. Regular Martin models switched over from bar frets to modern stock in 1934 but the Hawaiians still used bar stock through 1938 or so.

Here you can see that I've started to remove a fret -- I get a thin sharp object under it, knock into it a bit with a hammer, and then slowly start to wiggle the fret out a bit at a time with end nippers and a rocking motion.

Of course, after removal, the fret is now slightly bent.

Time for the vice!

...looking pretty good.

Now, what I'm doing here is inserting a small hardwood shim into the fret slot.

Then I put the fret back in and tap it down tight...

...and now the fret is raised like on a regular guitar. After leveling and dressing these will function just the same as regular frets.

As you can imagine, this process is pretty tedious!


Scott said...

I love the "from workshop" stuff! Keep it coming! Thanks Jake!

Tom McDonald said...


So you decided to do it, good for you! I like how you saved the old bar frets, I wouldn't have thought that possible. After all that work you certainly deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Happy picking!


Antebellum Instruments said...

Tom: Slowly but surely and the job got done. I did the majority of the work from after work in the afternoon until about 3 AM in the morning in one long ridiculous passage...

I saved the original bar stock because the alternative seemed much riskier -- wrong stock width, different compression, stuff like that.

Thanks again!