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Do I slot first then radius?


PRSpoggers
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You can do it all the ways you described and a couple more no matter what the radius is. What's the best way depends also on the tools.

  • A common  way is to cut the slots on a square flat board as the straight edge can easily be aligned with the jig, making the slots perfectly traverse to the center line.
  • A square radiused blank would be equally easy to align. Cutting the slots on a radiused board might be a bit easier but radiusing a wider board more laborious. And you'd still have to recheck the depth after tapering
  • A tapered board would be a bit more difficult to align with the jig but should be doable by matching the centerline with that of the jig plate
  • If you measure, draw and cut the slots freehand without a jig you can even glue the fretboard on the neck and do all the cutting and radiusing after the glue has dried

I've had my fretboards slotted before gluing and radiused them after they've been glued on the neck. That has been the easiest way for me as I don't have access to the hand tools needed and our Master has a circular saw with all the jigs and templates in his home workshop. Not to mention that's a polite way to financially support a poor luthier!

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44 minutes ago, PRSpoggers said:

do I slot first, then glue my fretboard on then radius?

That's the way I do it. As @Bizman62 says, it is easiest to keep your slots square to the centerline if you slot while the fretboard still has sides square to the centerline.  I think it is also easier to glue the fretboard to the neck while the top surface is still flat, so I do that first and then radius.

There are no rules though and plenty have done it in all the different orders possible with success.

SR

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I slot, then radius, then glue. When gluing the radiused board, you can use radius sanding blocks as cauls, or long strips of wood. After the radius, I'll go back and slightly reslot them to match the radius with a fret saw. It needs to be done anyways, because sanding the radius packs the slots with dust. 

For more complex inlays, I'll do a half radius, then the inlay, then complete the radius. 

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seems to me that if you slot first... then radius... unless you cut your slots with a lot of extra depth you are going to have to likely re-slot them after radius... or at least check them good - but that's not uncommon.  freq use pre slotted and radius boards... and the issue there becomes ensuring you have the accurate centerline (everyone seems to draw a big fat line and finding the center of that always makes me nervous).  I think it's safe to say that any way you do it there is going to be benefits and pitfalls... and no matter what way you do it you just have to be aware of those benefits and pitfalls and use them to your advantage and avoid them - hehe!

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This is my order of operations:

1. Route neck shape/profile
2. Get fretboard blank down to correct thickness
3. Stick fretboard blank to neck
4. Use neck as template and route fretboard flush with neck
5. Radius fretboard
6. Cut fretslots
7. Inlay work
8. Install frets
9. Carve neck

I've done this stuff in various orders but I've done it this way for my last 5 or 6 builds and it's the order my most comfortable with because it mitigates risk of the fretboard not gluing on straight, cutting slots is way easier because there is far less wood to saw and I won't have to come back after radius to make the slots deeper, an uncarved flat bottom to the neck makes it easier to put frets in - I always find a carved neck wants to move around under the hammer or fret press.

 

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This is an interesting thread as it really highlights some of the more critical aspects of guitar making. Some are preferences, some or just good wisdom, and some are results of the tools used. In my process, the fret board slots are cut first because I'm using a table saw sled with a Stewmac blade and pin template. It's true that I do go back and deepen the outsides of the slots to match the radius, but it's really a minor process and I know the slots are all parallel and accurate. In the end, it's could very well be slower than doing them by hand.

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On 1/21/2021 at 4:18 PM, komodo said:

This is an interesting thread as it really highlights some of the more critical aspects of guitar making. Some are preferences, some or just good wisdom, and some are results of the tools used. In my process, the fret board slots are cut first because I'm using a table saw sled with a Stewmac blade and pin template. It's true that I do go back and deepen the outsides of the slots to match the radius, but it's really a minor process and I know the slots are all parallel and accurate. In the end, it's could very well be slower than doing them by hand.

Yes it is as much about the tools to hand as preference. I own a table saw now, so as soon has the hosco table saw blades become available again (I don't think the stewmac blade will fit my saw), I'll be switching my process

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Nowadays, I start with a rectangular blank

then radius 

then slot 

then cut the taper

then fret

then glue the fretted board to the neck

 

I've done it a number of different ways in the past, but the above suits best the kit I have and minimises building in errors.

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  • 1 month later...
On 1/18/2021 at 6:16 AM, ADFinlayson said:

....d it's the order my most comfortable with because it mitigates risk of the fretboard not gluing on straight, cutting slots is way easier because there is far less wood to saw and I won't have to come back after radius to make the slots deeper, an uncarved flat bottom to the neck makes it easier to put frets in - I always find a carved neck wants to move around under the hammer or fret press.

 

This is what I am worried about.  I keep thinking if I cut my fret slots and THEN glue it to the neck, what if I don't get the fretboard perfectly aligned so that the fret slots are perfectly perpendicular to the centerline???  I am SOL, I believe.  I may try the glue on and then slot and then I can carve the neck last process.  Thank you for sharing your steps.

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1 hour ago, KeysNGuitar said:

This is what I am worried about.  I keep thinking if I cut my fret slots and THEN glue it to the neck, what if I don't get the fretboard perfectly aligned so that the fret slots are perfectly perpendicular to the centerline???  I am SOL, I believe.  I may try the glue on and then slot and then I can carve the neck last process.  Thank you for sharing your steps.

A way I did it in the passed a few times was to slot first and drill 2mm holes in first first fret slot and one up the other end, and use a couple of cocktail sticks as locator pins. that isn't without risk of drill too deep and you have to avoid the truss rod, but it's a good working method if you're using a pre slotted board or just cutting/radiusing prior to glue up.

There are a tone of different ways.

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Key in your opening post was "supposed to". I never like wording such as this since it implies one way and no other, which in most cases is patently false. Any method with has solid reasoning and practical end result has equal merit to be at the table.

Most of this comes down to how you're approaching the task, and/or the tools you're doing this with. As @ADFinlayson,etc. says, there's lots of ways to do this same as most things. @Andyjr1515 has distilled his experience into a process that suits his tools and working methods, and more or less the same sort of forced evolution should help identify what works for your own circumstance.

Rather than recommend one particular method, I'll highlight some considerations that might help distill your own.

  • Slotting a curved surface is difficult unless using say, a mitre slotting box, since it's hard to eyeball your saw to the line.
  • Sawing a fret slot can blow splinters out of the ends; this is more of a "taper before slotting?" question, however this same principle applies to the various steps you might carry out on the neck/fingerboard. Radiusing with a router after slotting also causes chipout at the ends of slots where grain is less supported.
  • To get radiused fret slots, the board needs sawing after radiusing or at least cutting back to depth and final radius if cut prior to radiusing.

 

On 1/25/2021 at 1:04 PM, ADFinlayson said:

Yes it is as much about the tools to hand as preference. I own a table saw now, so as soon has the hosco table saw blades become available again (I don't think the stewmac blade will fit my saw), I'll be switching my process

A bit OT, however if these become available again I might snag one and see if I can get it fitted into a toolholder for the CNC at work. What was the diameter? (I'm going to Google it anyway, but this is conversation fodder ;-))

<edit: cheers Google>

fretsaw.jpg

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