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Which Power Tools for Fingerboard Slotting?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by rubo, Apr 10, 2005.


  1. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    What power tools do you guys use for fingerboard slotting? I'm not talking about those hand saw jigs that LMI or Stewmac sells. Is there a table saw blade thin enough for this use, or maybe a Dremel tool with thin tiny blade incorporated in some sort of a jig? Any thoughts?

    Cheers
     
  2. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    honestly I buy the pre slotted from stew-mac or lmi. I have a stew-mac fret slot saw and I think it will go up on e-bay. I don't want to bother with it....t
     
  3. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    I have never heard of anyone using power tools to slot their boards. Slotting has to be very precise, so power tools aren't a good choice for this process.
     
  4. M_A_T_T

    M_A_T_T

    Mar 4, 2004
    Canada
    Search around on StewMac's and LMI's sites and you'll fine expensive table saw blades designed for this purpose.
     
  5. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I do it with a cheap craftsman table saw, Stewmac blade, LMI fret templates and a homemade plexiglass sled w/index pin. The jig took about an hour to build and I've done a lot of fingerboards with it.
     
  6. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I can say pretty positively that machined fretslots will be more precisely placed and the width much more consistent than ones done by hand.
     
  7. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    With the proper jigs/templates and so forth I can see this being true. So in that respect I stand corrected. You live, you learn. I wasn't thinking in terms of jigs and templates.
     
  8. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    Is there any other company that sells thin blades besides Stew & LMI. Their blade is 0.23 thick, I might need even thinner so I can use Vintage Fender size frets or Banjo.

    Cheers
     
  9. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I haven't seen any specialty fretting blades that are thinner but they may be out there for some other purpose. If you can't find one Stewmac sells a fret tang crimper that expands the tang width for oversize slots. You would generally use that kind of thing for refret or a neck without a trussrod but it should work for lighter fretwire too. FYI even Stewmac's smallest wire has a recommended .023" slot width.
     
  10. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    Fellow TBer, Bassic83, brought his fret slotting sawblade over yesterday. I don't know where he bought blade but the hole was only 1/2" diameter and my saw has a 5/8" arbor. He somehow managed to bore the hole to 5/8" before he came over. I already have the Stew-mac gauge that I've been using with their miter box. After setting up the table saw we only had time to run a wenge board for a six string he's building before he had to split. Worked like a charm. He left the blade so I get to play a little bit before he comes back to pick it up.
     
  11. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Many thanks, Bud! I got my blade from MSC Direct , but be aware that most table saws use a 5/8" arbor. Thanks to a friend of mine at work, I was able to mill it out to 5/8" from the 1/2" it originally had. It took a lot of patience, a conical bit, and lots of cutting oil!! :D

    For those of you who don't know, Budman's instruments are top-notch, very drool-worthy. They sound fantastic, and play very easily. He uses only top-shelf parts, and his attention to detail is great. His shop is pretty sweet too! BIG, with lots of room, and lots of toys to play with! He's very easy to get along with as well. Major props and thanks to Budman!
     
  12. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I was under the impression that fret tangs all required a .023 slot, regardless of the size of the crown. ?
     
  13. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Not necessarily- I have some stainless steel fretwire that requires a .019-.020" slot. It falls out of the regular fret slots I have cut. Some mandolin fretwire is odd like that as well. Anything from Stew-Mac is going to be .023", because they use one source for all their fretwire. Go with someone else, and it's not so certain. Most have a dimensional exploded-view drawing that gives the dimensions. Often it is not critical, and the .023" should work fine. But, like everything else, check and test-fit before you commit to the cut.
     
  14. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
  15. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    I used this one here . It's a half-inch arbor. Look at my post above for details on how I did this. I also had a 6" diameter one, but it cracked on me, leaving only the 5" to work with. I'm thinking I'll go ahead and invest in the StewMac one, though- I worry about things like warpage and runout, etc...definitely going to get some template action happening once I get into my house and get my table saw. I dunno, I might just get a few more of the 5" ones and modify them, since I already know how to do it now.
     
  16. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    I just found these. Sounds like the same blade.
    http://www.onlineindustrialsupply.com/6-780.html
    I've bought sandpaper from them.
     
  17. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
  18. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    If you select carbide instead of HSS the price jumps into $200 - $400

    Now the question I have how long do these last how many boards can you slot before you throw it away. Is there on with carbide tips, not the full carbide?

    Cheers
     
  19. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Good question. Has anyone worn them out? I'm guessing you'd have to get into fairly high production to do so, even with HSS, since one fretboard only represents about 54" of kerf. But I've never used one, maybe jewelers saws are especially prone to wear or something.

    Small HSS slitting saws (perhaps with heat-treated teeth), 1.5-3" diameter, even when used on mild steel still have a pretty good life.
     
  20. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    $76.27 vs. $30.77 vs. $12.07...hmmm...I think I'll get a bunch for $12.07, then mill the arbors out. :) Thanks for the tip, Bud!