Fret Sawing Jig

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Project by HankLP posted 02-10-2020 01:59 AM 1421 views 3 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Since I started making fretted instruments – dulcimers, ukes and banjos – the most often asked question is “how do you cut the slots for the frets?” I started by laying out frets with a 24” Vernier caliper from Harbor Freight and cutting them by hand with a fret saw. This worked but was time consuming so I upgraded to a circular fret saw from StewMac used with a crosscut sled. However, a template was still needed to improve accuracy and repeatability.
Templates and manufactured jigs are pricey, but pre-slotted fretboards of common wood such as maple are relatively inexpensive from StewMac or LMI and make great templates. The last part of the solution came from a workshop by Jason Romero who described using a thin piece of sheet metal as an “indexing” device. It took a while to figure out a way to incorporate this into the crosscut sled. The addition is nothing more than a milled piece of fir with a .023” slot attached to the crosscut sled with Rockler fence clamps. A feeler guage fits the slot and can be easily lifted up and set down in the slotted template which is attached to the blank fret board with double sided tape.
I make most of my fretboards from Jatoba as well as Wenge and other relatively dense hardwoods. For information, the maple template was ripped in half for convenience and to have a spare.

7 comments so far

View teetomterrific's profile


123 posts in 1697 days

#1 posted 02-10-2020 03:30 AM

Nice job. I’m wondering why you didn’t include a toggle clamp to prevent potential slippage?

-- Tom, Adams, TN

View HankLP's profile


155 posts in 1837 days

#2 posted 02-10-2020 04:24 AM

Thanks, TeeTom. The feeler guage restrains the lateral play very well, and I hold down the fretboard firmly with fingers on both hands. Toggle clamps would work well, but clamping and unclamping 18 to 20 times to move the fretboard would be more effort than it’s worth.

View Peteybadboy's profile


4336 posts in 3285 days

#3 posted 02-10-2020 11:58 AM

That is an ineresting jig. Thanks for posting

-- Petey

View BurlyBob's profile


9516 posts in 3601 days

#4 posted 02-10-2020 05:24 PM

Just goes to show , Necessity is the mother of invention. Well done there Hank.

View Foghorn's profile


1416 posts in 722 days

#5 posted 02-13-2020 03:45 PM

Nice job. I use the same blade from Stewmacs and their templates. In hindsight, I would have done something like this a long time ago.

-- Darrel

View HankLP's profile


155 posts in 1837 days

#6 posted 02-14-2020 10:19 PM

Makes it easy to slot three or four fretboards at a time. That way there is always a spare if the inlay or installation don’t go right. Haven’t attempted to make a guitar yet, but looking forward to that in the future.

View Grumpy's profile


26812 posts in 5186 days

#7 posted 02-14-2020 10:40 PM

Nice job and congratulations on your ‘Daily Top 3’ award.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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