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parentheses, exponent, multiplication...........


Not that I've ever cut my own fret slots (which has prevented me from building a multiscale... :D) but I think it would make more sense to cut slots then radius, because I assume it would be easier to cut more evenly on a flat board, and if a slot needs deepening after the radius it would just be a matter of a few swipes along the slot.

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Perhaps an ounce of my thought process would help. Or it could damage your psyche beyond repair. :D


I have a Stew-Mac fret slot miter gauge I got on eBay.

Aligning the fret slots dead-parallel when gluing would be unbelievably hard considering human error & the board sliding around when clamping.

Sanding & polishing (like with micro-mesh pads) over the slots would shorten the life of the pad by increasing the likelihood of the pad catching on the slot & tearing just a bit.

If the board is slotted to a precise depth with the S/M miter box THEN radiused, the slots will be shallower on the edge than in the middle.

It would seem to me that the board should be glued on, then the whole neck routed to shape, then radiused & polished, then slotted.

Please explain to me why this is not the case.

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Ok, so I've only built two necks, the second one was with help from someone who's built a bunch of guitars though, so I learned a decent amount. The way we did it was

Route trussrod channel

slot the board when it's square

Cut the top and bottom of the fretboard how you want it to be when done (so nut slot and whatnot)

Cut the taper into the board and route it

Cut the taper into the neck and route it

Shape the heel of the neck (round the corners basically)

Cut and shape the headstock

Thickness headstock

Drill tuner holes

Glue the fretboard and neck together (be very careful that it all lines up, lots of clamps)

Shape the neck

Flatten the fretboard to get rid of any high spots



I believe that's everything. With doing the tapering of the board and all that you can also taper the board first and then use that as a template for the router to route the neck.

As far as slotting goes, I would slot the board before you taper it, much easier to make sure that the board ends up nice and square. I guess if you have your center line on the board you could do it when it's tapered, but I would say slot it first, just seems easier to me. If the slots end up not deep enough, you have the saw and can deepen them a little.

Really though, do it however you want and you'll figure out how you like to do it. Throughout these boards I think I've seen necks done 10 or 12 different ways (that's probably exaggerating but yeah, you get the point).

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The reason I do it the way I do is this,

First I slot because you have a nice square edge to work with. Than a glue it to the neck, because you still have a nice flat top to clamp to. Than I rout and install any binding/purfling because you still have a nice flat top to sit against the router table and keep things square. Only then do I radius. Plus it's easier to radius at this point because the board is thinner (profiled) and you have less area to sand.

But like I said, I use preslotted boards now.

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I do it all by hand with a slotting saw and a straight edge, so I slot before I radius. After I radius, I cut the edges of the slots so they go bit deeper, since they lose some depth when you radius. So, even though I'm technically slotting twice, it makes it easier to get proper measurements by doing the first cut when it's flat.

Edited by NotYou
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Current modus operandi

Make neck blank 3"x24" + nice and square. If it is laminate I orient the grain as best possible. I square it on the jointer if it is bad then finish with the drum sander.

Route trussrod with 1/4" bit on table router with fence. Mark the side I use for fence (it is my square side) I use warmoth trussrods so a nice straight slot is all I need.

Scarf Headstock - Currently I use a Chop saw with a 12 Degree jig. Since I have started with scarfs in the headstock (Setch style) I actually scarf after routing trussrod. If I am doing a regular scarf I do it before routing the trussrod.

Glue on headstock sides.

Plane and clean the front of the headstock

I think at this point it is best to put the headstock cap on... I have been doing it later with mixed results

Make a square fretboard blank 1/4" - 5/16" x 3" x 24" (or whatever I need for length)

Slot fretboard and mark the side I use for fence (it is my square side)

Install trussrod (waxing the threads and the nut) with a bit of silicon (only need a little to prevent rattle) and let it sit.

Glue the fretboard on square to the neck blank. I line up the 2 side of the fretboard and the side of the neck blank I used against the fence.

Make a template of the neck dimensions long enough to make it all the way to the end of the tenon. (sometimes 1/32 big on each side)

Template stuck to the fretboard with 2 sided tape

Trim as close to the template as possible with bandsaw.

Next I shape the neck on the router table. (This is were you must be really careful as tear-out at the headstock is bad. Sometimes I make a bandsaw cut at the end of the nut to help stop it.

I then rough in the back of the neck on the bandsaw

Shape the neck with Dragon rasps and Spoke shave

Taper the back headstock to the final thickness (Benedetto suggests tapered headstocks are more flexible and resilient to breakage)

Cut out headstock and finish all sanding

Radius fretboard with StewMac Aluminum beam

Use Gents saw with depth stop to deepen the fret slots

Make sure fretboard is dead straight and finish sanded to shine

Radius 2 foot pieces of fret wire to a little tighter radius than the fretboard... only a little to help the tangs grab.

Press frets in with a Press and StewMac Caul

Cut off excess fret with Dremel and cutoff wheel. I hate using end nippers, hurts my hands and sometimes pulls the frets lose or bends them

Dress fret edges with File mounted in a block

Level -- I mark the tops with marker then kiss them with sanding beam and 320 grit paper

Dress -- Only if I had a bad spot or 2

Things I think I might change:

Radius by hand sucks. I am seriously considering applying a radius to the fretboard before attaching it. I have my router radius jig built, just need to finish the sleds.Then using a template that supports the radius so that I can still use the router table to shape the neck.

Slotting with radial arm saw (I have the saw blade just need to setup the fence). Currently I use the StewMac Miter box solution. I saw today they now have a Japanese Fret Saw!!!! This would be awesome because the old Gents saw was slow.

I am going to start finishing everything but the final profile on headstocks earlier. I am going to have the headstock almost done before glueing anything together as it is easier to work with before the neck has a fretboard on it.

Edited by RestorationAD
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As I've said somewhere, everyone seems to have their own recipe, some are more difficult than others, some are more cautious than others and the entire thing changes when different factors come into play like binding and so on. For example, I prefer to do a rough shaping of the neck prior to gluing on the fingerboard, to allow for any movement in the wood. So, then binding must be attached directly to an already tapered, slotted, and shaped fretboard. Then the bound, tapered, slotted fretboard is glued onto the already shaped neck. This would seem more complicated, but if you prefer to shape the neck first, its really the only way to go. Actually, I like having the neck shaped first, using a couple of these clamps, makes it seem almost easier than glueing up two flat pieces as it aligns itself. Seriously just tightening those clamps centers everything perfectly and by using a template to shape both fretboard and neck before hand, you end up with a perfect glue up.

Of course I'm extra cautious and drill a couple minute holes in the first and last slots to use set pins to hold it in place as well, I'd buy those clamps just to drill the set pins as it holds everything perfect while you do this step. I leave the set pins in until the glue is completely dry, since I epoxy to remove I just hold the soldering iron to the pin and they slide out no problem, would work the same with any glue, but epoxy tends to hold the pins much stronger, so a bit of heat is sometimes necessary to remove them. With this method I haven't even has a hair of misalignmet between the fretboard and neck. As for when to slot and radius, I always had bought slotted boards and radiused at the very end so I could make sure everything was perfectly flat before fretting. Personally, I'd want to slot early on or first just to have a nice square board to slot, however it could be done later. The key for me when building necks is center lines. If you have a center line that you marked right away when you got the board you can do things differently. If you have a centerline you can slot later using some double stick tape to keep the slot perpendicular. Though I'd still probably want to slot early, having a slotted board never seemed to cause any problems for me throughout the building process. Also if you do shape the neck early you have to slot first because you have to bind before gluing the fretboard to the neck and once bound you can't slot. And I also scarf first as RestorationAD said. As I said there are many variables and formulas to doing it based on preferences and features used. So as long as it all works out... J

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First I make sure the blank is square on both edges and uniform width (which LMI blanks are often not!).

I radius first because I do it with the radius router bits - they tear out if I try to radius a slotted board.

Then I slot, paying attention to the slot depth where I think the taper will fall.

Then I cut the taper *just* outside the line underneath the outer strings, and check the slot depths (deepening by hand at the edges if I need to), then plane both edges flat on the jointer (1 ultra-thin pass on each side is enough), then either bind with the offcuts of the same board, or with a contrasting wood (rarely plastic). I do NOT want the slots exposed on the edge of the board.

Then rout to final taper using a neck taper template - then fret the board off the neck and flex out any back-bow. At this point I also have a centerline on the board, but its a bit moot as I glue (epoxy) to a neck that is also already tapered using the same neck taper template.

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My method works great for me

I slot (multi scale with adjustable guides, standard with miter box)

Then i taper on my table saw using nifty little jigs i saw in an article once (has since gone offline)

Then i attatch the slotted and tapered board to my radius jig thats that

since im gluing a perfectly radiused board i use that as my "template" when sizing the neck with a router

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Aligning the fret slots dead-parallel when gluing would be unbelievably hard considering human error & the board sliding around when clamping.

The board won't slide if you'll use small nails before clamping - two on 3rd fret and two on 12 (or any other). After clamping you can easily put them away. Sometimes it's not possible - for example if you use big plate to clamp the board. In this case u can use toothpicks insead so the won't jut out from the fret slot.

So, i slot, taper, clamp and then making radius.

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My way is:

1) Bandsaw a fretboard blank

2) Square up and true all sides on jointer - for 12" radius I make the blank 7mm thick so after radiusing it'll be 5mm at the edges.

3) Cut slots in blank

4) Cut to shape (taper)

5) Radius - I currently do this using the sanding blocks - using doublesided tape attach board to a piece of granite to which I then clamp a straight edge. I mark a centre line on the board then place as sanding blocks on the board with has centre lines I move the straight edge so the marks on the block are inline with the line on the board. Now get rubbing! The good thing about this keeping the block held flush against the straight edge ensure you don't end up taking one side lower than the other. Occasionally checking fretboard height with steel ruler as I go.

6) Once the board is basically the right height I recut the slot to the correct depth and finish using fine paper upto 1200.

7) Attached board to neck fully shaped and sanded neck.

8) Fret and dot inlay (if I was going to do any fine inlay I'd do it before attaching)

9) Fret job, shine up, oil neck, and polish.

Something like that - when I get some of my router radiusing bits next week I also will be radiusing before slotting.

Just mid-point on another neck at the moment.

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