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Table Saw Shooting Board For Fret Slotting


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The first fretboard I slotted was done by hand with a guide and hobby saw. The results were that some slots were too deep, some too shallow, and the guide wavered on a few - making those slots skewed from the rest. I immediatly decided to find a better method. This is what I came up with.


This is a "shooting board". It's purpose is to make perfectly parrallel repeated cuts. A frett board can be quickly and precisely cut when the shooting board is used in conjuction with Stewart MacDonalds Frett Cutting Table Saw Blade (item # 1557), and Stewart MacDonalds Dual Scale Frett Templates (item #'s 4915 - 4920).

Materials Needed:

4' X 4' sheet of 1/2" MDF

1/2 lb. of 3/4" screws

wood glue

150 grit sandpaper

1/16" drill bit (a cheap one)

4' - 2"x4"

Tools Needed:

Table saw

Hand held drill

Sanding block or handplane or jointer


The shooting board should be a minimum of 16" in length and 38" in width. It needs to be at least 16" in length to get as much travel out of the runners as possible. More travel = more precision. A good rule of thumb is to make the shooting board just as long as the table of the table saw you will be using it on. The shooting board needs to be at least twice as long as the fingerboard you will be freting. This is to accomodate the fingerboard as well on the first cut (when most of the fingerboard is to the left of the saw blade), as on the last (when most of the fingerboard is on the right of the saw blade). The fence height is negligable as long as it is at least 1" tall. The purpose of the fence blocks is two fold. They ensure that the fence is perpendicular to the shooting board, in addition they also ensure that the fence is straight. For the fence blocks to accomplish their functions they must all be exactly the same size. The truss is there to simply hold the shooting board together since the saw blade will cut the board completely in two. The retaining block is purely a safety device. This block retains the blade when it gets close to your hands. Lastly are the runners. The runners are what keep the shooting board's fence perpendicular to the saw blade.

So now we got dimensions for the the pieces needed to build the shooting board. Time to assemble it. The First step is to attach the fence blocks to the board. Be sure to countersink all screws used on the bottom of the board, as we want this thing to slide nice and easy - not snag on every damn screwhead. If the fence blocks are identical you should be able to line up the blocks with the edge of the shooting board base and have a perfect anchor for the fence. Next attach the fence to the fence blocks. Then add both the truss and retaining block.

Now for the most important part of this whole thing. The runners. The runners MUST BE PARRALLEL TO EACH OTHER AS WELL AS THE SAW BLADE!!! The runners should be 1/64" thinner than the miter guides in the table saw. To achieve that dimension, I cut the runner material to the exact size of the miter slot and hit it with a sanding block, hand plane, or jointer to shave that last bit off the runner to make if fit just right. The runners can be made of mdf or uhmw, but if mdf is used be sure to seal them with shellac or similar finish to help prevent swelling. I prefer to dado the runners into the base of the shooting board rather than just screwing them on. I have screwed runners onto other jigs just to have them shift a little and bind in the miter slots. I cut the dado into the bottom of the shooting board only after I have completed the runners. That way the fit is nice and tight. I then glue and screw the runners into the dados.



Last thing to finish the shooting board is to set it in the miterslots of the table saw and run a standard 1/16" or 1/8" saw blade all the way through the board. There is no reason for the blade height to be any more than 3/4".

Now the shooting board is complete, time to set it up for frett slotting. An index pin needs to be installed into the fence to make the dual scale fretting template work correctly.


The indexing pin is nothing more than a 1/16" drill bit that has been clipped to be around 3/8" long. Be sure to drill the hole for the indexing pin before clipping the drill bit. :D The pin should be 1/4" to the right of the saw kerf and centered 5/16" above the base of the shooting board. The purpose of having the pin offset 1/4" from the blade is just so you can't screw up and forget to change your blade depth, thus hitting the pin with the saw blade. Granted that is a pretty remote mistake but moron moments happen! You will also want to make sure that the fingerboard blank is a few inches longer than necessary so you can trim it up after you have it slotted.

From here its easy. Take a standard 1/4" thick fretboard blank that has not been tappered or radiused and attach the dual scale fretting template to it via double stick carpet tape.


I push the fretboard up against the fence and then hold the template to the fence as I push it down onto the fretboard. You then hold the fretboard with template installed up to the indexing pin and the pin will lock into the slots in the template.



Push the shooting board forward to make the cut, pull it back, move the template to the next slot, re-engage the index pin and do over and over again until all your fret slots are cut.



These four fretboards took approx. 20 minutes to cut. That beats the heck out of spending an hour and a half on one that ended up skewed anyway!

Good luck, and see ya in the sandbox.

Nate Robinson :D

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Quick question. Why does the pin need to be a 1/4" to the right of the saw? Shouldnt it be Direct centered above the blade?

Do you think you could take a picture of a board with the template on it up agaisnt the fence with the pin engaged? Seems silly but it will give me a bit better of an idea.

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I will get a pic of the fretboard with template attached this weekend. The purpose of having the pin offset 1/4" from the blade is just so you can't screw up and forget to change your blade depth, thus hitting the pin with the saw blade. Granted that is a pretty remote mistake but moron moments happen! :D

That being said I see why you would ask that question. The fretboard blank should be a few inches longer than what you want it to end up being. This way the 1/4" offset doesn't interfere with the overall length of your fretboard, as you just trim it up after it is slotted.

If you see anything else that needs addressed just let me know.

Nate Robinson :D

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  • 4 weeks later...
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  • 11 months later...

I followed this guide to build my own shooting jig. One thing I'd like to emphasize: Test fit the fingerboard on the fence to get the line drawn and then drill the index pin. I waited until I got the fence screwed down to drill the hole for the index pin and it was no fun drilling a hole at that angle.

Also, scale the jig accordingly to your table saw. The blade on my table saw is near the top of the table, so by the time the blade has cut through the fingerboard nearly half the jig is hanging off the table. At least it's precise!


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Hey Jon

how thick is that laminated board and have you ever had any problems with laminated boards

warping or anything

The neck was about 1 1/2" and I cut it off at about 1/4" thickness. Some laminates weren't up to 1/4" thickness, so it was thicknessed sanded down to 3/16". It is not flimsy and has a great deal of strength.

I have never had anything I have laminated warp, twist, or change on me. It also provides a great deal of extra strength. My 9 laminate neck wont budge with me standing on it (180 pounds).

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