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Inexpensive Alternative To Fret Saw


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I'm probably gonna have my fingerboard slotted by lmi, but incase its not deep enough, it there a saw I could buy for cheap that has a kerf of .023 (even .025 would work)

I like to use Zona saws. Cheap, sharp and a variety of kerfs available. Available direct or at better hobby shops. Select the razor saw link on the left:

Zona razor saws

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Closest I saw to .023" on that site was 0.020". Is that close enough to work with .023" fret wire?

Depends on the thickness of the tang minus the barbs. You might have to file down the barbs a bit (a PITA).

0.003 extra doesn't sound like much, but 0.003" x 22 frets is 0.066", which is 3 fret slots of extra "width" pushing out on the walls of the slots, which will help to put some forward bow in your fretboard for sure.

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I was actually curious of the same thing Rick, how close is close enough. I know with undersizing fret slots can cause some pressure in the fretboard and possibly bend things, so I'd imagine you want your slots pretty close to size. I had searched through the site as well and it seems that 0.020 is the closest in sets sold, but they do sell replacement blades at .022" which should be a lot better. But as I asked, how close is close enough? Is that 0.001" going to cause problems? It doesn't sound like much at all, but times that by 22 or 24 frets and you get a whole lot more distance off. Anyhow, just curious. J

EDIT:What Eric said :D

Edited by jmrentis
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You should have went with the .020" wide blade, because I'm fairly sure there is no set in those stewmac blades, which means you could hold the blade against one side of the fret slot while cutting deeper, then the same to the other side of the slot, and pretty much keep the width LMI cut.

With the .025" blade you'll probably be widening the slots to .026" to .027" with the wallowing of the blade as you're cutting with it. Better use a thick gap filling glue if you're doing that.

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Yikes, .030" wide slots and epoxy. That's how I did it from 1988 to about 1993 and it haunts me. Not so much my fault. That's how Dan E, Sadowsky and Suhr were doing it back then. I like to think I've evolved from that (now it's tight fitting frets and super-glue)

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titebond isn't a gap filling glue. epoxy is, and I've read people saying they cut .030 slots, and use CA.

You see, you wouldn't want to use an epoxy when installing frets. You want to use a glue that will soften with heat, such as Titebond or CA glue. You'd want to be able to remove the frets sometime in the necks life, or at least plan to. CA glue is a poor choice for filling large gaps. If it takes longer than about 60 minutes to dry, it just keeps shrinking. I tested CA glue in a 1/4" hole a few times, just to see how much it would shrink. Definitely stay away from the stuff if you have massive gaps. You might be fine using CA glue in a .030 slot, but I'd recommend Titebond over it.

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I have a tenon saw that I modified by running an oil stone down each side to bring it down to the correct width for fretting fingerboards. It tends to jam once it gets so deep in the cut, but at that point it is deep enough for the frets to seat properly. So you cant really go to deep with your slots.

The last few guitars Ive built, I have bought the slotted and radiused finger boards. Saves time and gives an accurate fingerboard for not a lot of $ extra. I dont glue fret tangs in either, only the overlapping ends for bound fingerboards and used Superglue. I havent had a problem with loose frets either.

Edited by Acousticraft
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The typical kind of fast or slow cure epoxy unbonds easy enough with heat. There are some epoxies designed to withstand higher heat, but you probably wouldn't end up with that kind unless you sought it out.

I don't think epoxy has a decent bond around fret tangs, if the gap is only around the .000" to .003" range.

And so many people think epoxy is a "tone sink".

I like the fret slot to be no more than .002" wider than the fret tang, on a well behaving neck. I'll go oversize with the tang if possible on a spongy neck, but I find it only works on necks with deeper than needed fret slots, and even flat bottomed fret slots, instead of radiused fret-slots, although I think radiused fret slots (like Fender) show a higher level of craftsmanship.

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I use a .020 really short blade all the time to deepen existing slots and don't widen the slot .003". Yeah, my hand *is* that steady. If you have a "special" saw blade handle/holder like I do, you can probably even clamp shim stock on one side of the blade to make it fit the slot perfectly. Flip the saw to get both sides of the slot.

That "sanding thing" . Holy crap, now were on a deserted Island with nothing but our wife's nail filing kit.

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Soap and others do you also use the little triangle files to bevel the top of the slots to allow for better seating? Just curious, as I've seen decent seating both with or without this done and wonder the pros/cons and cautions. Thanks. J

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I bevel, but don't use a triangle file. I use a 1/8" square file tilted so that it works pretty much like a triangle file and hits both sides of the slot at the same time.

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These guys have a great deal on the Zona saws. They also have the .024 and the .030 blades.

Beats the snot out of StewMac's prices. :D

http://www.hobbylinc.com/prods/rad_zon.htm

BTW, I have a stupid question. When cutting the fret slots do you take into account the barbs of the frets too? I looked at the Allparts site and when you figure in the tang at .020 and the barbs adding an extra .017, what size blade should I be using?

Edited by hotgoalie11565
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That was the whole idea of the press-fit epoxy fret job; that the barbs also cause fret compression and if you wanted to avoid that, you would widen the fret slot to almost the width of the barbs. But I don't like that method anymore (and is the main reason I don't show off fretting articles I wrote long ago that were published)

I'm mostly doing re-frets and if I liked how the fret compression was with the existing frets, I want the barb width of the new frets to be the same. And I already mentioned how I like the fret slot size (snore).

Those barbs do have a shape that makes them move wood as they go into it, and not have the same compression effect as if a flat feeler-gauge type piece of metal of the same width was forced into the slot.

If the barbs are too wide, I shave them down. Not wide enough, I punch larger ones into the tang.

Better to leave fret slots a normal or original size and screw around all you want with the fret-wire itself. You can replace frets all you want, and always have the option to recreate what was there when you started. But widening the slots in the wood is another story.

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