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Order of Fretboard Operations

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I've built 7-8 guitars and am starting to question my fretboard process. Curious to hear what other people do. I typically:

1. Cut fretslots a bit deeper than needed to account for radiusing
2. Do the inlay
3. Glue fretboard to neck
4. Radius the fretboard
    4.5 (uplanned) Re-deepen the edges of the fretslots, maybe re-deepen some of the inlay pockets near the edge of the neck
5. Install frets

The problem is that 4.5 step where I often have to re-deepen fretslots and some inlay pockets. Thinking about radiusing before fretslots and inlay, but I like the nice flat surface for working on inlays and for fretslotting. What do you guys do?

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I do it in the same order you do, for the same reasons. I don't do much inlay work, but do try to get those cavities deep enough in the first place. I used to (try to) cut fret slots deep enough the first time, but have resolved myself to the idea of re-slotting with the depth stop after radiusing. I don't like the idea of the slot being deeper in the center of the board....and rather do like the idea of a curved slot that is just deep enough.


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For me it depends on whether or not Im doing binding or not but I almost always cut slots first.

No Binding

1) I cut fret slots according to calculations I do in a my drawing program allowing for a few thousandths of an inch for material loss during radius sanding. I do this on a squared fretboard. 

2) I cut the board down and taper it close to the final size leaving roughly 1-16th inch on the sides. 

3) Install any inlay.

4) Radius the board

5) I make sure the bottom of the board is sanded perfectly flat.  I do this by attaching a 15" x 1" x 2" maple down the center of the fretboard with double sided tape and I and it on a piece of flat milled aluminum with 220 paper attached to it. The maple board keeps the pressure across the length of the board consistent. This insures I have no gaps between the neck and board. I find it a good step to take, especially when mating maple to maple. I also make sure the top of my neck is dead flat.

6) Glue the board to the neck.

7) I use a bottom bearing router bit and trim the fretboard flush to the neck. 

8) Install frets.

9) Carve the neck. 



With Binding

1) I cut fret slots. When I'm doing binding it doesn't matter if the slots are a bit too deep so I just cut them a bit deeper.  

2) I cut the board down to close to size and attach it to a fretboard template I have that is 0.058" smaller on each side than my neck template to allow for binding thickness. 

3) Install my binding.  I usually use 0.060 wide binding. The two thousandths of an inch overhang on each side allows me to scrape it flush once its glued to the neck. 

4) Install any inlay.

5) Radius the board.

6) I make sure the bottom of the board is sanded flat.   

7) Glue the board to the neck. I use locating pins so it doesn't slip around. 

8) Install frets.

9) Carve the neck. 


As far as calculating depth. I lay everything out in a drawing program so I can get calculate depth. You only have to do this once for whatever fretwork size you're using. I started calculating like this after the first time I had to fill large gaps under the fret tangs on a maple board. Using this method I've never had to go back and deepen slots (so far) and I get minimal gaps under my tangs. 


Here is an example. 


Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 2.31.48 PM.jpg

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've tried all sorts. The most successful was the most recent one, which was (in this case it was an unbound board):

  • Square up of the lengthways reference edge
  • Radius 
  • Slot
  • Add inlays and dots
  • Finish radius sand including inlays
  • Fret 
  • Trim, sand edges and sand chamfer of fret ends
  • Glue board to neck

All methods have disadvantages -  in the above case, it is that you lose the panel-pin location method in the fret slots. Next time, I'll leave a couple of fret marker dots out and use the drill holes to pop a couple of locating pins in there

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