Fretting and Headstock Finishing

Now that I've finished up the headstock face (but it still needs lacquer) I thought I'd move on to fretting. Basically a fret is a small length of wire, T-shaped in cross section, with a barb that digs into the slots in the fingerboard to hold the fret in place. You can either hammer them in, or press them in--I chose to press them in for fear of smashing a huge hole in the fingerboard and then having to creatively inlay some piece of abalone and pretending that I wanted it there...

Before pressing in the frets, I measured each of the 20 fret slots for their barb length (down to the 64th on an inch) and pre-cut all of my frets. I made this little Styrofoam block to help keep them organized:
Since my fingerboard is bound with a thin maple strip, the fret slot doesn't extend to the edge of the fingerboard so I have to remove a short length of the barb from each end of the fret (this way the fingerboard edge will also look "cleaner" without 20 visible barb-ends). To do this, I used a borrowed tool designed specifically to cleanly remove this little piece.

Pressing the frets into the fingerboard can be accomplished many ways--a lot of people use a drill press and a brass "caul" that's curved to fit the fret to press them in. I thought "I bet I can accomplish that with a curved piece of hardwood and a C-clamp" actually worked. It takes some patience and careful attention to the torque angle of the clamp, but the end result seems fine. Here's a pic of the inaugural fret:

Once I get them all in I'll go back and carefully file the ends flush with the fingerboard and bevel them. After I got most of the frets in (except for the tougher ones around the heel--I need to make a support block to help me clamp them in) I decided to seal the headstock with epoxy in preparation for lacquering. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out:

Since the headstock epoxy worked out well, I went ahead and finished up contouring the neck and applied an alcohol-diluted epoxy rub with a rag to the neck and heel--it'll be all sanded off later and the neck subsequently oiled:

NEXT: Make a Nut
The next task I was faced with was roughing out the string "nut" from an oversized blank of cow bone. The purpose of the nut is to act as a "zero" fret and supply the point of contact for the strings at the headstock end of the neck. It also plays a crucial role in transferring string vibrations through the neck and into the soundbox (body) where they're amplified, so the material of choice is fairly important. Many stock production guitars use either plastic or some form of synthetic bone--for a nominal couple of bucks I chose to make mine from cow bone, which is more commonly found on higher-end custom guitars due to its higher density and better transmission of vibrations. The bone comes as a rectangular block and looks something like this:
After some rough sanding, cutting with a jewler's saw, and some gentle filing, I've roughed out the nut's final shape (less the string notches which I'll create later) and dry fitted it in the slot between the end of the fingerboard and the headstock veneer sheet:

Now I feel like I've hit this point where I could spend forever filing this or tweaking that, but those adjustments might be better made during the final fitting stage, so I decided to finish up the roughing of the neck by checking the alignment of the neck with the body.