How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Hammer

A decade ago when I began making stringed instruments I read every method I could find on how to install frets.  I would page through the LMI catalog, the Stew Mac catalog and many others looking at all the ingenious presses, squeezers, nippers, cauls and etc... related to installing fret wire.  I Feel some of this kit is quite expensive (when you compare it to similar shaped tools that are for other purposes).  As a fledgling builder I was nervous of swinging a hammer and putting a big dent in my yet to be completed first instrument.  If you are considering building instruments or have already started I want to offer you a great truth.  The more you do the better you get.  Want to get good with a chisel?  There is only one way I know of, use a chisel, make rookie mistakes (you are a rookie), have small victories and get better each time you use it.  Want to learn how to sharpen and use a card scraper?  There is no substitue for actually spending the time to be okay at it, then pretty good, then- hey, look at me this is brilliant, what was I thinking before - now I'm doing it correctly, and finally oh, this is how you do it.  I love carving necks with a spokeshave, I love carving heels with a sweep gouge, hearing the noise of a perfectly tuned and sharpened plane makes me grin.  All of these things took a little being frustrated and "not quite there time" before I could own the process.  Hammering frets was no different.  I use a pretty basic tool set for the process.  I like a small brass faced hammer dead blow hammer, some great made in USA nippers that cut really flush to the body, a straight edge to check between every 3 frets for high spots and a leather paperweight filled with lead shot to act as a buck when hammering in frets over the body.  I am quick and confident in the process becuase I spent the time doing it over and over and over again.  Build an instrument and be done with it. Start a new instrument and repeat. I feel if you try to avoid mistakes by using fool proof machining and gizmos; you will rob your "future self" of the ability to be confident and proficient with the tools of our trade.