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Hot off the press from G&W in Portugal is this compact solution to rough-radiusing fingerboards quickly using your router. Machined from CNC-cut aluminium with a black anodised finish, this jig is designed to be tough and precise like a good shop tool should be. The jig consists of two parts; the sliding router base and a lower sled. The base rides over the top of the sled, indexed off the radiused guides whilst the sled is designed to move back and forth over the fingerboard. The complete jig is available in the most common radii (7.25", 9.5", 10", 12" and 16") with additional radius side plates as an option. Bases are compatible with the Makita RT070xC, DeWalt D26200 and Bosch GKF600/Colt, however any other compact router should be easy to fit with a little modification. The jig can accommodate a 71mm wide fingerboard, allowing the radiusing of 7-string and bass fingerboards in addition to standard guitar sizes. Everything arrived neatly packaged as always. The torn foam was my fault! All parts individually wrapped Beautifully finished. Two minutes, easy to assemble. All of the screws and tools required were included. The fixed base of my Makita RT0701C fits perfectly. Price as of writing is €129,90 from Guitars and Woods. Keep your eyes peeled for our in-depth review of the jig in use.
First you need a nice piece of wood, wide enough to fit the widest part of your neck. The thickness can vary but I usually take a piece of 20mm thick. I usually use fretboard woods of 6mm. Step 1: The most important thing to begin with is shaving the surfaces of the piece of wood to get perfectly flat surfaces. Now shave the sides of the wood to get perfect 90° degree edge. This is important if you’re going to use the sides as a guide for a router. Step 2: Draw a line on the sides of the wood under the angle you want for your headstock I usually take 13° like a Gibson. Now cut the wood in two pieces on this line and do this as straight as possible. Step 3: Align the two pieces like the picture below so you can shave the tilted surface of both pieces. If you do it like this you can save time by shaving both pieces at the same time. Shave downward with the grain! Step 4: If both surfaces are perfectly flat, then glue the pieces together like the pictures below. The more you move the little piece, the thicker or thinner your headstock gets. I like my headstocks pretty thick for the stiffness, so I make them 16 to 17mm. Shave the excess wood off the headstock. Step 5: Now you can saw or rasp the shape of your neck out of the big piece. You can only make a neck volute if you used a thick piece of wood! Step 6: I like to use the truss rods with the small ends, unlike the big bullet truss rod like a 70’s Fender. Because of the small end you can keep more wood, and that is important if you want to use a top lock with screws which go through the neck. The more wood you have, the more stable the screws. In case of a top lock, I move the truss rod a bit back from the lock. From there I route a narrower channel for the truss rod adjustment tool or Allen-wrench. So just measure your rod, and route the channel out of the wood with the exact dimensions. Step 7: Place the fretboard wood over the neck wood. I always like to use a longer piece of fret board than the neck, because I’m never sure if it’s going to be a 22 or 24 fret neck. (as shown below) Drill a hole through the fret board into the neck on the exact places where the 1st and 15th fret will come. Not in the middle of course, otherwise you’ll drill into the truss rod . Make sure you have two drill bits of the same diameter as the hole you just drilled. Now glue the fretboard to the neck (don’t forget the truss rod), and keep the fretboard in place by putting the drill bits into the drilled holes. After gluing you can take them out again. I use the inner tube of a bicycle tire to wrap around the neck tightly to press the fretboard to the neck while drying, but you could use wood clamps. Step 8: Now cut out the neck and head stock shape you want. Just use a bandsaw or other shaping saw. If you want you can already drill the holes for the tuners. Step 9: Onto the slots for the frets and fretboard radius. There are lots of fret calculators on the Internet to calculate any fret distance for any neck scale. Calculate the scale you want, and draw lines on the fret board where the frets must come, and use a fret slotting saw to saw the slots. Be very careful and saw straight, or intonation will be a problem! A fret slotting saw automatically saws the right depth, so don’t worry to cut your fretboard in half. Now you can radius the top of the fret board Just choose a radius you like, for instance a fender radius is smaller than a Gibson radius. Take a piece of cardboard or plastic and draw the radius on it. Cut out the radius so you get a shape like the picture below. Now sand the fret board to match the radius on the template you just made. With different templates you can create a compound radius neck. Step 10: Last but not least, the back of the neck. Start rasping the neck on different angles from outside to centre of the neck. Look at the pictures below. For this job you can also create a template to check the radius. After rasping all the angles out of the neck, you have to smooth the edges with a metal scraper. After that use some sanding paper to finish the neck. Now the neck is ready for inlays and frets....
Making Things to Make Things to Make Things One of the reasons I love woodworking is that it is simply what it is. It’s me and the wood and nothing but a tool or two between us. And that simple relationship gives rise to beauty and function with no pretension. Well, most of the time anyway. Sometimes it turns out that I’ve spent an entire day in the shop making something that I need in order to make something that I’ll use to make something, and that’s what today’s post is actually about. Creative Problem Solving The ultimate goal in this case is the Les Paul style electric guitar that Josh and I are building. We want the traditional Les Paul 12" radius, but getting a radius on an eighteen(ish) inch by three(ish) inch board isn’t as easy as running it through a band saw. There seem to be a few common approaches to making that radius (there are actually a million ways to skin this cat, these are the ones I see most often). Hand planes. If you are good, you can plane the radius into the board with a sharp hand plane. Something along the lines of a Stanley #4 is a good choice. This takes a good bit of skill though, and is easy to mess up – which is not what you want to do with a carefully selected, highly figured piece of wenge. Router jig. There are several approaches to jigs you can build for your router that will carve the radius directly into your board. Many luthiers use this approach, and I may go there eventually, but these are often pretty involved builds, and the jig you end up with really only has one good use. So sure, when I get to the point that I’m building a guitar each month or so, this is probably where I’ll end up, but for now I’m looking for a simpler solution that hopefully can address more than just this one need. Radius sanding block. Sanding blocks with one surface cut at the desired radius can be used to sand that radius into the fretboard. If you have a block with a known and trusted radius, this is a very safe method of transferring that radius to your fretboard – it is unlikely that your sanding block will transfer a wrong radius, or will slip and gouge your board. Also, take the sandpaper off the block, and you’ve got a clamping caul with a matching radius. Simple and versatile. This is the direction I decided to go. Buy or Build? Radius sanding blocks are readily available from lots of vendors. But I tend to be a never buy what you can build kind of guy, so before I started shopping, I started drawing up ideas. Giving credit where it’s due, my initial ideas for the jigs came from a post by @hittitewarrior . His jig is a pretty large contraption and that size seemed to introduce a little too much variance in his results, so I wanted to design something smaller and simpler. I ended up with the following. A simple tower on a flat base with a couple side-supports. A small trim router attached to a board that hangs from the tower on a pivot point. There is a pivot point in the tower, and a corresponding point in the board for each radius that I’m interested in. As you can see in the pics above, I started with a metal pin in the pivot point, but I had a problem with the pivot board wanting to fall off the pin, so I had to switch that to a bolt. This was much more effective in keeping the pivot board secured to the tower. I used 1 x 3 poplar for my blocks. These are just project boards from Home Depot so they are easy to source and very inexpensive. If I wreck one for some reason or if I want more, it’s not that big a deal. The block goes under the router (duh) with some shims to get it to the right height and to keep it centered as I run it through. In this case, I attached two blocks with superglue/masking tape to get the right height. I then ran the router horizontally across the block, cutting the radius into the surface (I did try running a block using vertical passes along the length of the board, but that gave me an inconsistent radius). After each pass, I advanced the block 1 or 2 mm, then made another pass. I went halfway across the board, then turned the block around and did the other half from the other side. This allowed me to keep my fingers out of the way, but also required that I had the block centered properly so the radius would line up when run from opposite sides. After running through the jig the radius was good, but as you can see, not completely smooth. I set the board so the shadows would accentuate the ridges – they are not actually quite as bad as they look in the photo. Some sanding with a flexible sanding sponge took most of the waviness out of the block and left me with a perfectly good surface to attach sandpaper to. After finishing the 12″ block, I made another with a 9.5″ radius (assuming a future Strat-style build). Hard to Handle (so make a handle) Since I used 1 x 3 stock for the sanding block, it is a little on the thin side when it comes to actually using the thing (i.e. holding and sanding block itself). To rectify this, I made a simple handle from 3/4 plywood and attached it to the back of the block. I chiseled out some recesses to create some extra support and glue surface, and clamped lightly while the glue dried. After a couple coats of wipe-on, matte polyurethane to protect, and keep the wood from moving too much, these sanding blocks are ready for action. They haven't seen any action because as of last night the ploy was still curing, but as soon as I can get some actual sanding done, I'll post a follow-up with some results. This was a fun project with direct costs of about $5 for the wood, and whatever value you want to place on the shop scraps I used to make the jig. I figure it saved me about $30 on two blocks, and now I have a jig I can use to make as many sanding blocks or clamping cauls I want in the future. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.
To truly step up your guitar-building game, every last bit of fundamental geometry needs to be perfect. Every time. You need 100% control. The fingerboard is what most people find the hardest to nail; a badly-radiused fingerboard translates errors through to the fretwork. This then requires additional metal being removed during levelling and a poor end product. Without the right tools it can be a slow and difficult job. Precision radiusing beams are the easiest and quickest way of sanding your fingerboard into perfect form. Simply stick a length of coarse (80-100 grit) adhesive sandpaper (or using double-sided tape for normal sandpaper) to the bottom, scribble over the board with a pencil and work on removing all of the pencil marks evenly and radiusing the board symmetrically. Once dialled in, sequentially replace the paper towards finer (up to 600 and beyond) grits till the board is perfect. A fingerboard can easily be completed in less than half an hour without hard work. As of writing, the last fingerboard I radiused yielded fretwork that only had one fret in need of specific levelling work. The acceleration in workflow saves the busy workshop luthier time and money whilst giving the home enthusiast shop-quality results. The width of the beams (70mm) is ideal for single-handed use. This easily manages 6-string and 7-string guitars plus 4-string basses. Wider fingerboards require only a little more attention, producing results as perfect as their narrower counterparts. In comparison to other radiusing beams available online, the G&W tool has a nice level of fit and finish. The ends are deburred to remove sharp edges left from machining operations, plus the surfaces are an appealing but simple satin with the G&W logo and radius in large clear type. The "grippiness" of the hand shaping is excellent (a couple of strips of hockey tape in the recess work great) with the weight of the beam ideal for keeping it true in use. G&W stock the most common radii (7-1/4", 9-1/2", 10", 12", 16") in both long (450mm/18") and short (200mm/just under 8") lengths with a discount for a full sets of all 5. Even including the cost of worldwide shipping, the price is still lower than the equivalent tool from Stewart-MacDonald. For European-based buyers, the price is simply a steal. Also stocked are shorter wood radius beams which are ideal for fret levelling, knocking down areas of inlay work to the level of the fingerboard or even as fret clamping cauls. That's a lot of beam for your buck - 21 fret, 25,5" scale board for reference G&W's comprehensive range of guitar and bass building tools, templates and essentials has developed them into an excellent one-stop shop for European-based luthiers. Their competitive pricing easily saves a significant amount of money or simply gets you more quality equipment for your budget. Precision radiusing beams are simple but essential tools often skipped over due to their formerly high purchase cost; G&W have broken this rule, allowing luthiers at all levels affordable access to shop-grade tooling. G&W - Guitar and Woods Luthier Supplies