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Fret boards
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Author:  Ken Nagy [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 4:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Fret boards

I read the topic "when do you fret," and lots of other things. I know some like to fret before, and some after the board is glued on. What I'm wondering is when do you cut the slots in. It seems like some have pre-slotted, and I assume pre-radiused as well boards.

If you make them from scratch do you rough them close, and then slot, and then glue, and then finish sand, and then fret?

That seems to make sense to me. Sorta what is done with violins.

I cut the 3/4" blank in half with my big Ryoba saw yesterday. I only have a 1/4" blade for my bandsaw. It worked great. Corner to corner it varies from .29" to .34". That's acceptable. Last night I was figuring out conical fb's, figured out how to lay one out for roughing, and was thinking some radius gauges would be useful. Today I got a special letter in the mail. Growing old does have advantages:

10" to 17"


Author:  Barry Daniels [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 5:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

It is much easier to fret the board while it is still flat and rectangular. Everything else is kind of personal choice.

Author:  Joe Beaver [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

I use a table saw with a sled. That means the board is done face down on the sled with a template glued on the top (back side) of the fretboard. If I radiused the board first it would add a layer of difficulty. If I was using a miter box and saw I might radius the top first.

But... The board is always left rectangle with a center line and one side marked as the side that is perpendicular to the frets. I put that side against the sled and use it to layout the taper of the board

Author:  Clay S. [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

Barry Daniels wrote:
It is much easier to fret the board while it is still flat and rectangular. Everything else is kind of personal choice.

It is easier to cut fret slots in a flat and rectangular board, but I have radiused a rectangular board and then slotted it with a small table saw. I didn't want to cut the slots deeper in the middle than at the edges so I set the saw blade to cut slightly deeper than the tang and then rolled the board as it passed over the saw blade. It worked better than I anticipated so I will probably do it that way again.

Author:  James Orr [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Fret boards

I can cut them with my slotting jig or freehand. If I’m cutting with the jig, the board needs to have a side perfectly perpendicular to the slots. If I’m cutting freehand (for a multi-scale fretboard, for ex.), then it doesn’t matter because I’m just following my line with the saw.

Then slot.

I won’t fret until the board’s glued to the neck.

Tangentially related: years ago Lance and friends produced this jig that made slotting and aligning everything super easy.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Author:  Terence Kennedy [ Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

True up one edge of a rectangular blank.
Flatten the bottom and thickness sand to about 1/4”. Cut to proper width.
Cut fretslots with a tablesaw sled and conventional template. (I use the LMI template.). Cut to length.
Cut the taper, I use the table saw technique described by Sylvan Wells.
Radius. I use a router jig.
Glue to neck and level and fret after the neck is on the guitar. Finish sand to 220 after leveling and install side marker dots before fretting.

That’s about it for me. If I am going to bind I do it before radiusing and cut the radius into the binding.

Author:  B. Howard [ Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

I slot the board first (after truing up and squaring the blank). Done on a table saw with a sled. I use a clamp sled to make the tapered cuts on the edges. I then will do any inlay work while the board is still flat on top as it makes routing in the inlays much easier. Board is then radiused on top.

I do not install frets until the end, after finishing on any board that does not need finish. I put my frets in very last. Gives me an opportunity to sand out any hump or other funkiness at the body joint and have a perfectly level board to work from with my frets.

Author:  Ken Nagy [ Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

Wow, a lot of stuff there. That jig looks impressive, but I only have a pull fret saw that I think came from Brazil, not Japan. Go figure. It works nice, but it is much slower, and you have to control it. If I was going to make a bunch of them, I'd get a little table saw. I have kept my board square, but I'm roughing the radius on. Bubinga is the first wood I've cut that doesn't seem to have any smell, but it doesn't like anything more than a really light cut with a sharp blade. I will slot next, tough cut the taper, glue on, and then put the frets in.

It's just my first, so I don't think I'll do inlays, or binding. I am thinking about bindings, and that is enough!

I never thought about the board slipping while glueing. Something to watch out for.

Thanks guys.


Author:  Tim L [ Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

I do mine after the radius is on the board.
Unlike others I am using the radial arm saw I've had for the last 40 years, and it's solid.
Fixture, template, double back tape and everything is where it is easy to see.
I've used the saw for so long I am more comfortable with that than a table saw.

Author:  Clinchriver [ Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

B. Howard wrote:
I slot the board first (after truing up and squaring the blank). Done on a table saw with a sled. I use a clamp sled to make the tapered cuts on the edges


Author:  SteveSmith [ Sun Jul 14, 2019 12:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

I square up the board then slot it with a sled jig on the table saw too. The taper gets rough cut with the bandsaw then finished up with a plane.

Author:  Tim Mullin [ Sun Jul 14, 2019 12:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Fret boards

Like many, I use a sled on my table saw. With a few mods (sandpaper and fishing line) it is easily set up for slotting multi-scale fingerboards:

Author:  Woodie G [ Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

Here's how we do it:

- Rough square and thickness to 0.025" greater than radiusing thickness (which is 0.010" more than nominal thickness)
- Rip off 0.095" binding strips if using faux binding, and thickness to 0.080"
- Thickness to radiusing thickness (for .235" board, 0.245")
- Slot to 0.120" depth
- Radius
- Trim radiused board to size and correct taper
- Bind
- Sand bindings flush/scrape bottom flush

Author:  meddlingfool [ Sun Jul 14, 2019 3:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

My process...

Level blank to .300

rip .070 bindings, marking orientation

True one edge, slot on tablesaw with sled, slot depth .120 or a bit more

Taper with jig

Add bindings according to marks

Run through thickness sander slot side up til clean, turn over and thickness to .270

Add dots

Build neck

Attack to guitar



Author:  Ken Nagy [ Sun Jul 14, 2019 5:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

I wrote a bunch of notes in my binder so I don't throw them away. I think by writing and drawing I think. I made up a cheat sheet for the sizes I need using a blank that is 80 something mm wide. This will give a 12" to 17.5" radius, and about a 5.25 mm edge when the taper is cut on. It's ready to slot now.
I was taking some stock off with a rough file and it make a few pull outs where the grain shifted. Curly bubinga isn't very forgiving. But it seems pretty smooth now, so I'll try to keep it that way.



I have one long edge smooth, and that's what I'll work off. I need to draw a centerline. Mark them all with the very sharp 6h pencil; double check (I've been know to make mistakes),(edit SEE! I wrote know and not known.) and then saw them with the fret saw.

Now for another question:

Do you guys put anything on the fret board? When do you do that, before, or after fretting?

I've seen all kinds of magic potions, even some guy using super glue as a grain filler and polish.

Author:  DennisK [ Sun Jul 14, 2019 7:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

My order of operations is the same as Ed, but done using hand tools and no jigs, and I reference off of a pencil-marked center line rather than trued edge of the board. My slotting process is designed for fan frets, which need the scale marks to follow the high and low string paths (hence square or tapered blank is irrelevant), but works just as well for regular frets.

I generally don't do stealth bindings, but do collect the strips to use on fingerboards of different wood or ukulele bindings.

When the fingerboard is finished, I clamp it to the neck blank and drill position pin holes, mark along the edges of it, and then saw the neck taper.

Ken Nagy wrote:
Do you guys put anything on the fret board? When do you do that, before, or after fretting?

I like to give it a coat of oil to make the color look even all over, rather than only darkening in the areas where your fingers touch it while playing. I've been using Music Nomad F-One oil lately, but pure walnut oil works just as well. I do it after fretting, but I don't think it matters.

Author:  jfmckenna [ Mon Jul 15, 2019 9:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fret boards

I true up one edge and then use a long steel ruler with 100th of an inch markings on it to tick off fret marks with a very sharp exacto blade. Then using a square against the true face I mark fret lines across the board using the knife. Then with a fret saw with a depth stop I cut the slots.

The slots that are over the soundboard I cut a bit wider so I can press fit and glue them in with a light tap.

The very last thing I do is fret. I glue the FB on flat and then arch it after. As mentioned above I like this method as it sures up any discrepancies.

I like wax as a finish for the FB.

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