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help i still dont know how to cut straight frets

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by uethanian, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    i must've already posted 2 or 3 threads about this, but i just dont get it. i have an existing neck that i need to slot. it has a nut (precision) already, so using a caliper is not really possible. i'd use a ruler but...well its not too accurate any way u go about it. and how do u find the centerline of the fingerboard? and how do u draw straight frets off of that centerline? what do u use to make these marks? tape, pencil, grease, charcoal?

    this is only about drawing out the plans, not about the actual slotting. it seems like this part may be the more difficult.
  2. Nelson Guitars

    Nelson Guitars

    Aug 14, 2006
    Novato California
    Custom builder
    Build your drawing starting from the center line. With a square you can mark out the nut and theoretical saddle lines. Then lay out the outer strings (you can lay out all of them but the outer strings are required at this point) and then mark out the neck size. If you start this way you will have fewer problems.

    If you need to "find" the center of an existing neck just measure to the center of the neck near the nut and body and strike a line through those two points.

    Once you have a center line then all frets should be square to that. If you don't have a large vernier caliper or a machinist rule you can always just take your layout from an existing neck that you trust. Who needs the numbers if you have the layout? A piece of mylar or some other material that won't stretch or change with humidity can be taped to the side of the neck and a good sharp razor blade can be used to make accurate marks in it. Just lay the blade on one side or the other of each fret and make your mark. If you stay on one side always the distances will be the same as the center of the fret.

    Easy enough?

    Greg N
  3. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    do u mark the FB with pencil?
  4. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Give me half an hour and I'll make you a step-by-step picture tutorial.
  5. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Tools needed:
    1. computer with internet connection (I'll assume you already have this one :) )
    2. printer
    3. glue
    4. a square
    5. fret saw

    First go to the fretfind website and print out a PFD document with the scale you want to use.


    Cut out the extra paper from the template and use scotch tape to tape the ends of each sheet to form one long fingerboard. be sure to align the lines really well. The lines are there to make sure the fretboard is accurate.


    Here's the result, now cut out the line at the bottom of the fretboard. This line will align with the square edge of your fingerboard blank.


    Take some glue and glue the paper template on the fretboard blank. Make sure the edge line of the template is aligned with the square edge of the blank. I just use regular white or yellow glue.


    Take your square and align it on the first line of the blank. It's got to be precisely on it.


    Hold the square very tightly to the fingerboard and use it as a guide to your saw. Push the saw against the square as you're sawing to make sure it doesn't wander. When the line is well started, you can let go of the square and just cut the rest of the depth of the slot until it is as deep as you want it


    Do that on every fret. Once you're done peel off the paper and sand the leftover bits away and you're done. Stop busting your head about all the mathematics involved in this. :)

  6. Great tutorial. This needs to be put in the FAQ.

  7. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Damn. I just noticed you were talking about an existing neck. What a waste of time.

    Yeah you could pencil in a centerline. The square thing wouldn't be too good but you can still glue a template on the fretboard and try to use some thing as a guiding bar for the saw sorta like that square.
  8. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    haha thanks anyways phil

    but hey, i hadn't thought of gluing a template to the board...its a bit more complicated because my fret layout is microtonal (and i've learned not to trust fretfind with microtonal scales). but i may print out a blank board, and then draw in the frets, all before gluing to the board. my fretboard is also flat, so it wont be to hard to use a guide. thanks a lot!
  9. Nelson Guitars

    Nelson Guitars

    Aug 14, 2006
    Novato California
    Custom builder
    Mark your frets with a sharp razor knife and not a pencil. If you can't see the line then rub some chalk in it. Much finer and more accurate than any othew marking device I have ever encountered.

    Greg N
  10. musicelectronix


    Jul 8, 2007
    Hüstın, TX
    Lead Designer, Zeibek Boutique Pedals
    But an awesome information for me as I was looking exactly for this! Thanks!
  11. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    On a new FB, I went about it like this:

    Obviously, I used a "workmate" B&D portable bench in the pic. I used a roofer's square, 3 small irwin clamps and a small sqared up piece of poplar (To hold the saw in place between the square and the saw).


  12. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    Another trick that works for darker boards is to use masking tape and a good mechanical pencil. And yes a good measuring device is most important, I like to use both calipers and a good metal rule.

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