The Fretboard

Started work on the fretboard a couple of days ago and got right up to the point where I want to be. I have five days work lined up starting tomorrow so it was a good place to finish up.

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Here I have a 7mm thick board of ebony, flat on both sides and square down the sides. I am lining it up end to end with the nut in place.

Once I have it lined up I clamped a straight edge on the side of it for placement.

Then I put three pin nails in the neck and clipped them. Two at the body and one at the top and pressed the board over top to create my placement register. Now I can do away with that straight edge.

Martin guitars typically have a 16″ radius on the fret board. So to do that I had to make a positive to make a negative so I can make a positive again. So I began with a template and traced a 16″ radius on the ends of a long block and began to plane it down.

The positive. A 16″ radiused block of wood.

Then I staple some 60 grit demons on it and sand away to make a negative.

Then I put some 120 grit on the negative and sanded the fretboard.

A 16″ radius fretboard.

After that was done I cut out and sanded the circular in the end. This board is now ready to have the fret slots cut.

Laying out the lines for the cuts.

My miter sled. I have the fretboard attached to it with double side tape. Once I had it all in place I realized the sled has an index key for the notches located in the above fret rule so I didn’t need those pencil lines. (I was even off by a hair on a couple of them.)

Moving along, moving along. I just lift the rule and index the next slot.

20 fret slots cut about 0.5mm deep. The miter cuts straight across so I will have to deepen the cuts near the edges by free hand.

Not a clear picture but here I am checking the rise of the neck over the body. If you recall the neck is attached at 91 degrees so there is a gap where the board comes over top the body. For this I made a shim.

Broke out this dusty ol battle axe for this job. Attached the shim with double sided tape to a piece of ply dimensioned the same size and went at it.

The shim had to be as thin as baby’s hair at one end.

Glued in place you can see it is quite a nice fit. The opposite side has an ever so slight gap near the neck.

Now I am ready to cut the taper. For this I got out my taper cutting jig. Fortunately I didn’t have to make it specially for this cut. I made this one from a Fine Woodworking plan. Set up properly it can safely do four sides on a table leg.

Checking the cut. It fits nicely.

Glueing it in place with Titebond3. No slippage with those three pin nails.

A few hours later took off the clamps. It came out quite nice. Next day I will do a little cleanup.

Next up is the fretting.


About Alex

Love making sawdust and turning wood into objects of practical beauty.
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2 Responses to The Fretboard

  1. Scott says:

    I stumbled upon your blog and really enjoyed the informative and detailed work you have done. Nice shop! I have a blog where I rattle on about guitar’s in general and with your permission I’d like to list a link to your blog. I am an aspiring luthier and would some day like to produce a few instruments for myself and friends. Thanks for sharing!


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