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Hey: questions to those who cut their own fret slots

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Basschair, Mar 22, 2006.

  1. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    First, did you create your own jig to aid in cutting straight slots (and which saw did you personally go with), or did you get one of the pre-made jigs from a place like StewMac's ( http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Saws_and_slots/Fret_Slotting_Miter_Box.html )?

    Second, if you purchased the setup, from where and how do you like it?

    I've been sticking with pre-slotted FB's, but have one here cut for 24 frets, but that has extra room for a couple more. I'd like to add two to it, and would definitely like to cut my own in the future, so I'm debating whether to fabricate or purchase the equipment.

    Your knowledge is appreciated!

  2. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    I have one read about it in a book, but in my book it said to....Just use a framing square.
  3. Groove Theory

    Groove Theory Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2004
    The Psychiatric Ward
    I made a jig for it and printed a template using wfret, worked well, plus it cost ALOT less than the stew mac one.
  4. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    I believe the templates SM sells to go with the miter box only go up to 24 frets, so that wouldn't help you much in this case.
    I don't have the miter box but i do have the saw. I haven't used it for cutting fresh slots yet, just deepening existing slots (LMI slots are SO uneven!) Anyway, it's a nice saw, the depth gauge is easy to set and it works pretty well.
  5. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    That's basically what I do.

    For the fret distances, I plot out on autocad my fretboard, and
    tape it to the piece of wood I want to cut up. I line up a square
    piece of wood right up to the line on my drawing, and cut through
    the paper. It probably dulls my blades a bit, but it works.

    If you want to add two slots, make sure your saw has the same kerf
    (width of cut) as the precut ones (is kerf the proper term?)
  6. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

    Good point. The FB is from StewMac, so it has the same kerf (I think that's the right term) as the saw they sell (.023"), which also matches their fretwire...convenient, eh?

    I just noticed that the miter box setup is only good for FB's up to 3" in width. Normally, this would work out, but I do plan on doing some 6 string fretted, and would think that the FB would be wider before tapering, and the body end would stay wider. Hmmmm.....

    As far as figuring out the slot placement, I'll use wfret, or just use the fret measurement utility on the SM website. I'm pretty stoked on the idea of my first 26 fret bass, both as a builder and an owner.:)
  7. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    Well I used for my fan fret madness a stew mac fret saw, borrowed from a good friend and I purchased a Stanley adjustable miter saw, I think it was like $35 at Lowes. It has a handle and the stabilizer bar going through plastic supports. I flipped the blade upside down and drilled one extra hole in the Stanley blade and mounted the stew mac blade on that. It actually worked quite well for the straight cuts, the layout was done on tape to get the angle right.

    It was tough since I chose Ziricote for the fretboard, I never used it before and don't think I'd do it again on a fretted instrument, fretless would work great even without epoxy or poly. That wood is like diamonds to cut, it pinches like crazy and is so hard. Once the basic slots were cut I hand finished the slots one by one, very painfull.

    Then I discovered the usefulness of cranking the trussrod down, wow it was like night and day. :)
    Valuable lesson learned.
    Good luck,
  8. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Sounds like somebody's got the jig-makin' bug. I vote go for it. Personally I find that building my own jigs means I can incorporate extra features that I find useful but others might not and leave out ones that I can't see myself ever using. If I need them in the future, hey I can always build another.

    That and I can be a pretty tight, so dropping big cash on something I could easily make myself isn't usually an option.

  9. I use the stewmac fret saw and cut the slots while the board is still square (before taper). I find this very easy to do and faster than any jig. I use the wfret program to print out a template, tape it to the blank and use a combination square in the 90deg position to line up the saw right through the line. It works wonderful, fast and accurate ...and cheaper too!
  10. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

    Cheaper is always a plus :D
  11. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Hey, a follow-up question on this topic:

    Since I'm at work, I can't download/install the wfret utility right now, so I used the StewMac fret placement calculator to get the placements for a 34" scale with 26 frets (in inches), and got the following results:

    34" fret scale Printable

    fret from nut fret to fret
    1 1.908" 1.908" (nut-1)
    2 3.709" 1.801" (1-2)
    3 5.410" 1.700" (2-3)
    4 7.014" 1.605" (3-4)
    5 8.529" 1.515" (4-5)
    6 9.958" 1.430" (5-6)
    7 11.308" 1.349" (6-7)
    8 12.581" 1.274" (7-8)
    9 13.783" 1.202" (8-9)
    10 14.918" 1.135" (9-10)
    11 15.989" 1.071" (10-11)
    12 17.000" 1.011" (11-12)
    13 17.954" 0.954" (12-13)
    14 18.855" 0.901" (13-14)
    15 19.705" 0.850" (14-15)
    16 20.507" 0.802" (15-16)
    17 21.264" 0.757" (16-17)
    18 21.979" 0.715" (17-18)
    19 22.654" 0.675" (18-19)
    20 23.291" 0.637" (19-20)
    21 23.892" 0.601" (20-21)
    22 24.459" 0.567" (21-22)
    23 24.995" 0.535" (22-23)
    24 25.500" 0.505" (23-24)
    25 25.977" 0.477" (24-25)
    26 26.427" 0.450" (25-26)

    In my pencil/paper design, #'s 25 and 26 appear correct when compared to #24 at 25.5" (bisection of distance from fret 12 to the saddle break). Can anyone argue with the math here?
  12. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Your math is good.
  13. Hi there,

    To cut my own fret slots in a fingerboard i built a mitre box-style jig.

    I built it in a whole piece with no slot, then cut it in half and mounted it to a base with with a junior hacksaw blade in between the 2 pieces, slightly proud of the bottom.

    This works as a copy cutting jig using a pre-cut fingerboard that I bought from a luthier supplies.

    I cuts them the same every time and theres no mind bending maths.
  14. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Thanks for mentioning that one: I was actually using it yesterday, but the problem I found was that the printout didn't come out quite right for me (probably a printer problem).

    I'm off to some tool stores today to see what I can come up with. Thanks for the help guys.
  15. Yeah, I've had that too, with my cheap inkjet printer. You can take a file to Kinko's or somewhere and get a good printout, or you can use the numbers and measure on the workpiece.
  16. Groove Theory

    Groove Theory Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2004
    The Psychiatric Ward
    whoa, thats sweet, you can even do fanned fret layouts on it. nice...:bassist:
  17. I got the StewMac mitre box & saw, but after cutting a dozen fretboards for various projects, I grew very satisfied with my Popeye forearms.

    Then when I happened upon a cheap used radial arm saw, I shelled out the $75 for the table saw blade. Put a little 1/16" pin in the fence, and with the SM templates I can cut fret slots in about 5 minutes.

    I still use the handsaw though for various slot adjustment/cleanup tasks.
  18. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Yeah, Popeye-sized forearms sounds pretty tempting...

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