Slots and Dots
The ongoing saga of the scratch built guitars continues... In the last chapter installed the caps that cover the truss rods. In this chapter, I'll cut the slots for the fretwire, and make/install the fingerboard dots
Had I only been doing a single neck, I might have just went ahead and marked the fingerboard out for the fret slots and cut them. But since I am doing three, some sort of template seemed in order.
I did buy Stew-Mac's fret slotting miter box for the job, but I didn't want to spring the $40 dollars for their fret scale template. I was past the point of available cash, so - I decided I would make my own. The miter box has a small indexing pin in it these templates use, so I figured to use it as well, by cutting slots for it in a bar of aluminum.
I picked up an 1/8" x 2" x 4'-0", similar to this offering from Amazon, from the local hardware store for about $5. One of the good things about my line of work is access to highly accurate wide format plotters, which allowed me to plot out some accurate templates for the Fender 25 1/2" scale frets. I used spray adhesive to adhere it to the aluminum, then used a hacksaw to make a cut at each mark.
To make sure I made each cut at the correct location, I used a stair gauge clamp, something I have had since my days paying my way through college working as a carpenter. It worked perfectly:
The indexing pin in the miter saw is 1/16" round, and the hacksaw didn't quite make a 1/16" cut - so I filed each slot down and used a 1/16" drill bit along with a flat piece of metal to gauge when I had filed it deep enough:
To make sure that my filing didn't throw off the fret spacing, I used a safe-back cantsaw file, and only filed in one direction.
Once I had all the slots cut, I needed to make my new template wide enough to both fit into the miter box and give me something to attach the neck to - so I cut a piece of 1/4" hardboard just wide enough for the miter box and cut a small rabbet on the of one side for the aluminum template I just filed. I then epoxied the bar into place on the rabbet.
So comes the moment of truth, and I tried it out on the first neck:
Worked like a charm! I checked it against the original paper template, it was spot on. Cool! When the time comes and I need a template of a different size, I can do it again and add it to the other side. The saw is a Stew-Mac saw made specifically for cutting frets (it cuts a .024" slot), something I picked up about 10 years ago for a previous build.
After cutting the slots, I proceeded to cut the slots for the nuts at the top of the neck:
With the depth gauge (really just a piece of plastic bolted to the side) on the saw, cutting a wide slot is a piece of cake.
I used an uncut bone nut as a spacer to make sure I cut the slot the right width, and used it to make sure it fit snugly for when the time comes to install it. With the fret slots all cut, I marked out the locations for the fingerboard markers, and used my homemade awl to mark the spot. I like this awl because its a much finer point than most you will buy these days.
Then it's over to the drill press to drill the holes for the markers, then put them in place. For the first neck, I used the black plastic dots Stew-Mac sells. I glued them into place then I sanded them flush - I used the wide belt sander, because you can be so accurate with it - leaving the pencil marks, even.
For the other two necks I wanted something a little nicer, so I used a plug cutter to make a pile of 1/4" plugs out of some scrap walnut. Then it's over to the bandsaw to slice the wood and cut them out. A problem you can run into is when you cut the dots out, they go flying and fall everywhere... One trick I learned long ago is to put a piece of tape on the cut out side of the plugs. That way when you cut them out, they (or at least the majority of them) stay adhered to the tape - and you aren't looking for them in the sawdust pile.
I glued them into the fretboard with hide glue - then, because the bottom has no set and won't scar the fingerboard, I used a veneer saw to cut them flush.
Then it's just small matter to sand them perfectly flush again.
That's probably enough for this installment - next time I'll round off the back of the necks, radius the fretboard, and install the side marker dots.