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Best Setup For Cutting Accurate Fret Slots


Claptonfreak
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I am planning on starting a '56 strat project and I was doing some planning. I was wondering what the best tool is to cut the fret slots on the neck accurately, seeing as i can't use a preslotted fingerboard for a one piece neck. I would prefer to cut the slots after the neck shape is routed, but shop experience is telling me that I will have to do it before. Any information would be helpful.

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I am planning on starting a '56 strat project and I was doing some planning. I was wondering what the best tool is to cut the fret slots on the neck accurately, seeing as i can't use a preslotted fingerboard for a one piece neck. I would prefer to cut the slots after the neck shape is routed, but shop experience is telling me that I will have to do it before. Any information would be helpful.

I actually just slotted a fretboard this morning.

I use the slotting saw from StewMac. It's easy to cut with, as long as you have a guide for it. To set it up, I clamp a straightedge down where I'm supposed to make the cut and use it as a guide for the saw. The saw is .022" thick, so I add .011" to every measurement. That puts my mark right in the middle of the saw. Make sure the measurements are exact. Harmonics are not at all forgiving.

I just use digital calipers to measure. When get too far down the neck for the calipers to measure from the nut, I score the fretboard with an Xacto, across a carefully placed straightedge, at the five inch mark and measure from there. Same with ten and fifteen inches. The score mark is much more accurate than a pencil mark and can just be sanded out.

I also use this:

http://www.buildyourguitar.com/resources/f...c/jscrptclc.htm

Edited by NotYou
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I made a fret saw years ago out of a thin bladed tenon saw by reducing the set of the teeth with an oil stone till it was thin enough so the fret stayed in tight. I then made a mitre box with 90 degree slot that is a snug fitting guide for the saw. I spray some dry Teflon lube on the sides of the saw to make it slide freely in the guide.

I mark out the slot positions on the untapered fret board with a sharp scriber and clamp it down and cut it. The whole setup cost me nothing and has slotted a few fingerboards now. I was buying Stew Mac boards for a while but decided to save money and make my own.

Doing a whole tapered neck assembly in a setup like mine while tricky could be done. It would require one side of the mitre box to have a thin wedge to make the fretboard sit square to the slot.

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  • 3 weeks later...
I would prefer to cut the slots after the neck shape is routed

This is possible. Mark a centerline on the neck before shaping it. Then use this centerline to line it up with a centerline on a blank piece of wood that's still square. Stick the neck to the square wood with double-sided tape and you can use it in a miter box with a fret saw.

That's how I did my last fingerboard. It worked very well.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I use the stewmach blade in a radial arm saw, I bolted a custom made table to the saw with a registration pin glued into it.

I take a fingerboard and insert it into a "mask" that I CNC'd which has the registration holes for all the frets cut into the side of it and then index it along while pulling the saw back and forth across the board.

it takes about 30 secs to slot a board but I only cut about 1mm deep and finish with a handsaw with depth stop because no-one likes gaps under their frets :D

the whole thing took about 2 days to design, make and test. it cost about £150 all in and the value i waaaaaaay beyond that.. If I wanted to make a particular scale length I just make another "mask" to fit the fingerboard into using about £5 worth of acrylic..

this is my 4th fret slotting machine, I have used a dremel sliding on rails and bearings in the past but it does not have the guts to cut 1.5mm deep slots.

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By far the easiest and most accurate method is a table saw using a fret pattern. I have tried many methods and this method takes only a few minutes to slot a fingerboard. Is it worth the money if you have a table saw, yes. Probably the reason most supply houses use this method.

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Most elegant is CNC, of course, as you can route curved bottomed slots and have it 'do' the (compound) radius all on its own at the same time.

Most cost-effective and time-effective on a budget would be a template. With a miter box (and a Japanese crosscut saw) it takes me about 10-15 minutes to do a 24 fret board.

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