Category Archives: The Fretboard


This job was actually done a while back – before I did the bridge. But It was incomplete so I didn’t post it. Now that I am coming back to it I see my pictures are not compete. So bear with me on this.

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Here I have pictured a fret bending jig. It was pretty simple to make. The hardware comprises of three 8mm nuts, bolts and washers, and four bearings attached to a piece of plywood on a 16″ radius with the two outer bearings equidistant from the center.

A close up of the jig. The tange of the wire rides in between two bearings in the center.

With the fret wire bent to the desired radius I cut it to length and hammer it into the cut slot.

Make sure your slots are deep enough. Sometimes the slot has to be cut a little deeper.

There were a couple where the ends of the fret wire didn’t hold down on the ends. The fix is some CA glue in the trouble area.

After the frets are in you have to file the ends at a 45 degree angle because they are sharp.

Then you have to level the frets (not pictured), and then crown them with a crowning file. You can see in the picture I have a fret rocker, which checks for high frets using three points when laid on the frets. Also not pictured is the polishing you have to do after the frets have been crowned. For that I used my Dremel tool with a polishing stone.

I found fretting the fretboard to be a little more difficult than anticipated. Not that it is a hard task but you have to develop a feel for it and that is something that comes after practice.

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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.

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