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fretting hand saw, pull saw? dovetail? japanese?


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I want to start cutting a fret board by hand and want to know what the cheapest saw is that I could get. I live in the UK so prices would vary compared to America or elsewhere.

The question that I have is, "what makes a good (and cheap) fret saw?". 

I understand that the kerf has to be thin like the tang on a fret. Most people talk about Gents saw or Japanese saws etc. Also TPI, how many is acceptable?

I think the word acceptable is preferred to good, as good would imply expensive and I want to go cheap.

I have looked at flush saws as that have high number of teeth, are small and probably easier to use and very thin.

I think that the tang I am going to use is half a millimetre thick. These are the cheap frets on Ebay. So a saw that would be good for that size.



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I say this with all sincerity - don't do it.

Find a friend with a table saw - make a little cross cut sled and do the slots with the stewmac blade and  template or similar.

Heaps of vids on You Tube.

Cutting by hand is tedious beyond belief and in all likelihood not as accurate or consistent as the table saw and jig. People use band saws too but IIRC it takes modifying a blade which I thought was too peligroso - but then a gain I don't have a bandsaw.

I cut by hand as some sort of right of passage to show myself that I could do it - and I could - but after a few iterations I found a $100.00 still in the box table saw (which needed quite a bit of attention to square) and dedicated it to cutting fret slots.

Best decision I ever made regarding fretting.

Good Luck!







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I have to disagree. There's nothing wrong with handcutting fret slots with the appropriate saw, particularly if you're not doing large volumes of fret slotting operations. Perfectly acceptable accuracy can be had by following a printed template stuck to a fret board blank and going carefully. You can use a makeshift fence with a block of wood with one edge clamped against the printed fret line as a guide for each cut. The Stewmac circular saw blade plus templates is also heading towards the upper end of things in terms of financial outlay.

If it were me I'd suggest getting the Stewmac japanese fretting saw with the depth stop. You can always upgrade it later on with the addition of the fret slot templates and mitre box if you choose. Closer to the UK, Guitars and Woods offer some low cost fretsaws and accessories that may be more in your budget and give decent results. I think Pax make a fret slotting saw too.

The key factor in any fret saw is that it cuts the slot straight and clean and with the correct kerf for the frets you are using. Any fine toothed crosscut saw with the stiffening back should work, but finding one with the correct kerf makes it harder. The ones made by Stewmac and G&W also have the precut holes for attaching the depth stop, so that may help make the decision easier.

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  • 1 month later...

The use of a table saw and fret template is great but keep in mind that the StewMac blade is expensive ($100) for what you get and it will not work on a SawStop (which is very common these days) table saw because the blade is only 6", You will also need to build a sled but they are always used in the shop. A flush saw will not cut straight. It is designed to blend. I use a Veritas dovetail saw. it has 20 TPI and the kerf is 0.020". I built a fret cutting jig and glued rare earth magnets on the fence to keep the saw straight. Worked great, but managing depth was challenging because the saw spline was not parallel with the cutting edge. If I had to do it all over again I would have purchased a saw with a spline that was parallel to the blade and built a better depth stop.

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