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Shaping and Slotting the Fretboard

Some Decisions and Some Progress

It’s been all fretboards all the time for the last week or so, and I’ve made some great progress. I guess that “great” probably reflects quality more than quantity. Ten days to cut out, plane and slot a fretboard is probably not fast in the grand scheme of things, but as far as being happy with what I’ve gotten out of those ten days, I’m sticking with “great”.

The first thing I did was to cut and surface a simple, flat fretboard blank, just to be sure I could do what should have been easiest before I started the harder work. That actually went fine, and I got some good practice with planing a pretty thin piece of stock good and flat (sorry – some of these pics are stills from the video I shot).

That other piece of maple in the photo above is the board I’m going to use to make the next two fretboard blanks. Having finished a flat blank, I proceeded to make two different radiused blanks, one with a simple radius from nut to end, and one compound radius. The simple radius is about 16″, and the compound is a 15″ radius at the nut and closer to 20″ at the end. I started with the compound radius board, and while the radii (radiuses?) came out pretty good, I ended up taking the board down too far, and it was just too thin – or at least thinner than I wanted it to be. So I was more careful with the simple radius blank. The pics below are of that board taking shape.

I was really happy with how the simple radius blank came out, so with the blank cut, planed and radiused, I moved forward to cutting fret slots on that one. This is one of the scarier parts of the process because mistakes at this point are very hard to fix. If I cut a fret slot crooked, there’s not much I can do but throw it away and start over. Ditto if I mark the slots in the wrong places, or miss the mark when I cut them. All that to say, I took my time and did this part very carefully. I cut the first couple slots in the shop, but it was hot, so I moved inside the house to do the rest.

I’m really happy with how the slots turned out. Everything looks clean and straight. So next is to get the board itself down to final shape, and the first step for that is rough cutting the curves at the body end of the board.

By the time I got to that point, it was getting hot again in the shop, so I set the work aside for the day and took the opportunity to update the build with this blog post. Hope you are enjoying it!

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