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Veritas Small Scraping Plane
Refrets are a common job at my guitar repair shop. When advisable, I prefer to resurface and true a fretboard while the frets are removed from the neck with a combination of a scraping plane and sanding abrasives. This creates a solid and level foundation for the new frets that both simplifies the fretwork and allows me to remove the smallest amount of material possible from the top of the new frets during the fret-leveling process.
If you can only buy one scraping plane, I would recommend a small one such as the Veritas small scraping plane sold by Lee Valley. It has a comfortable ergonomic design. The plane has a small footprint and the blade runs the full width of the tool. This design makes it easy to control the plane over the body of a flat top and in tight spaces between inlays.
Setting up and maintaining the Veritas small scraper plane is quick and straightforward. First, lap the back of the blade on a sharpening stone to remove the remnants of the old burr and maintain the flatness of the back of the blade.
Sharpen your scraping plane blade at a 45 degree angle. The Veritas blade is small and easy to control free-hand.
Once the bevel is flat and the back has a burr across its length, I round the edges of the blade on a disc-sander to avoid accidentally digging into a fretboard with a corner of the blade.
Turning the burr into a hook with a burnisher or screw-driver while not necessary, will allow the blade to cut more aggressively.
Setting the depth of cut is fast and straightforward. I jack up the toe of the plane with a feeler gauge. For a small scraping plane .005” will do. I then allow the blade to rest on the bench top as I secure the blade in place. This will allow the plane to cut aggressively. If you’re working a flat surface such as a faceplate or a classical fretboard, a lighter cut of around .002” is more advisable.
Cambering the blade is easy with the veritas plane. A small set screw is tightened slightly to bow the blade. This gives the blade a slight radius so it cuts most deeply in the center. Because the blade is anchored in place by only one point of contact against the main casting, the Veritas blade tends to work its way up. As the depth of cut lessens because of the blade moving up into the plane, I simply increase the camber of the blade. I can usually get through a complete refret before I have to sharpen or re-set the Veritas plane blade.
Ergonomics are important. The articulating palm rest of the Veritas plane can be adjusted to your personal preference.
Test cuts in scrap allow me to make any changes to the plane’s set up prior to removing fretboard material.