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Forum topic by interpim posted 09-17-2009 01:30 AM 1870 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1170 posts in 3508 days

09-17-2009 01:30 AM

If you have been following my blog, you know that I am attempting to build an electric guitar.

This is my first attempt at a musical instrument, so the process is definitely a learning project, but I am trying to get it to at least sound somewhat decent when I get finished.

My question for the luthier’s out there is, do I need to purchase a special saw to cut the fret slots on my fret board? I currently have a small gentleman’s saw, the saw kerf is appx. 1/32 wide. Is that sufficient for the fret, or do I need to find another way to cut these… I don’t really want to make any expensive purchases to cut these, so if anyone has any tips or advice it would be appreciated.

-- San Diego, CA

9 replies so far

View webwood's profile


626 posts in 3299 days

#1 posted 09-17-2009 01:43 AM

i believe there is a fret saw – fret material comes in different gauges so the cut would be proportionate – as well as the fret material is pounded into place , requiring a tight fit check grizzley tools for more information as the head man there is a luthier

-- -erik & christy-

View stadler's profile


12 posts in 3225 days

#2 posted 09-17-2009 04:52 AM

Any saw that cuts a .022” kerf will be fine, either a western style backsaw, or a dozuki. The musical instrument supply companies sell them with adjustable depth stops. You will find that type of saw useful in many situations other than cutting fret slots.

If you’re not planning on acquiring tools and working wood for life, just buy a slotted fingerboard.

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3508 days

#3 posted 09-17-2009 06:29 AM

I’ve been working wood for quite some time now, and plan to for quite a while… But, I don’t plan on making a ton of guitars so I was trying to get around buying a specialty tool to cut 22 slots.

I re-measured my kerf cut with the saw I have and it is slightly under 1/32. I would say 3/128” not sure what that is decimal wise LOL

-- San Diego, CA

View boundsteelblues's profile


9 posts in 3237 days

#4 posted 09-19-2009 03:13 PM

I’d also recommend buying a preslotted and radiused fretboard on your first guitar. I purchased mine from Stew-Mac. Necks are the greatest difficulty in building a guitar. Also, you need to be sure the kerf is suitable for the fretwire you use.

-- A tree is our most intimate contact with nature. - George Nakashima

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

540 posts in 3530 days

#5 posted 09-19-2009 03:51 PM

Stew-Mac also sells a fret slot cutting table saw blade.

But I’m with Boundsteelblues, since this is your first attempt, go with a pre cut fret board. If your measurements are slitghtly off, it can throw the whole thing out of tune.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View boundsteelblues's profile


9 posts in 3237 days

#6 posted 09-19-2009 04:03 PM

If you haven’t picked up this book, do – Make Your Own Electric Guitar by Melvyn Hiscock. Hiscock or Martin Koch’s book are a must read.

-- A tree is our most intimate contact with nature. - George Nakashima

View brittonguitars's profile


5 posts in 1159 days

#7 posted 05-18-2015 04:10 AM

1/32 is .0312, so if you are slightly under that…....., most fret wire has a tang between .019 to .024, and the barbs stick out beyond that to a maximum of .036, so you can see on a standard slot of .022 the actual grip of the tang is only .014 so with your saw you would have about half that….not ideal but possible with glue and some “karma” on your side….!!!

concerns: slot distance/scale accuracy, and making sure all fret wire is soundly seated in the wood.

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1570 days

#8 posted 05-18-2015 01:38 PM

...3/128” not sure what that is decimal wise

A fraction, expressed in decimal, is the numerator divided by the denominator, so just divide 3 by 128.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2796 posts in 3487 days

#9 posted 05-18-2015 01:46 PM

Another option is to purchase a small plywood blade 7 1/4”, with lots of small teeth that will still fit in your table saw. Then hold a stone or file on the edge of it as it’s running (be careful) and thin it down until it’s the right thickness for the fretwire you’re using. A table saw made fretboard is a lot easier than doing it by hand.

You can do the same thing with a bandsaw blade. I’ve done both.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

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