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tools for exact and accurate fret slotting?


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7 hours ago, PRSpoggers said:

What tools are there that can do it like really fast and accurately without breaking the bank?

Getting all three is a mission impossible.

  • Really fast means a rotary mitre saw equipped with a dedicated ultra thin blade, used in combination with a template ruler (which you have). Too expensive for hobbyists.
  • Accurately means using the template and a dedicated mitre box with a pin matching the notches. That's cost effective and straightforward which saves time but it's not super fast.
  • The cheapest way is both time consuming and relatively difficult. The tools needed are an accurate ruler showing the smallest increments, a protractor, a pencil and a saw. Draw the center line, measure the locations on the centerline, draw the perpendicular lines with the protractor... Double check that your measurements match with the table you're reading the measurements from. Triple check that you're reading the table correctly. Wipe off the markings as you notice you've been reading the wrong scale. Redo the measuring and drawing and double and triple checking. Finally take the saw and cut the edges. Recheck that the scale is right. Redo the measuring and drawing process if needed. Cut.

There's no shortcut.

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Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick any two :D

The cheapest I can think of is to design a fret board layout in something like Sigen or FretFind2D, print out a 1:1 scale layout of the design, stick the print to the fret board blank and cut along the dotted lines. Expensive bit = the saw. Accuracy = as good as you can manage. Speed = so so. Next step up from that would be to do as @ADFinlayson has mentioned several times before which is to measure and mark your fret spacings directly off a ruler.

Fastest? Stewmac fret slotting templates plus their super-slim circular saw blade in a table saw. Not cheap. Need the table saw to begin with. Need to construct a sliding jig to position the template over the blade. I've seen an overhead radial arm saw or a compound sliding mitre saw being used as an alternative to the table saw, but it needs to be super-rigid to prevent any wobble or slop screwing up the placement of the fret slots. And...well...you still need the saw to start with.

Super accurate? CNC. Not fast. Definitely not cheap. Super-steep learning curve. Honestly, for a novice I really can't recommend it unless money and time is of absolutely zero importance to you.

Somewhere in the middle? Stewmac fret slotting templates, their mitre box and hand saw. Moderately expensive, but almost completely foolproof; no need to measure or line anything up. To save some cash there's the possibility of cobbling together your own versions of them - the mitre box is pretty flashy looking, but mechanically there's not a lot going on with it. You already have the saw and at least one template so you're already most of the way there. There may be other cheaper variants that do the same thing. TBH if you really want the experience of slotting your own boards, you want it to be as accurate as possible with minimal risk of getting things wrong and you want it to be a relatively hassle-free and rapid(ish) process, they're hard to beat compared to the other methods.

If none of that appeals, the only other thing I can think of is to skip the slotting altogether and buy your fretboards pre-slotted. There's no shame in using them, and they're not that much more expensive than the unslotted equivalent if bought from the same supplier. The only downside I can see is that you're limited to whatever timber they have in stock and whatever scale lengths they choose to give you.

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