Hi all, I'm new to CBN and the CBG world, and I'm going to be building one very soon, just waiting on my last few parts. One thing I haven't totally thought about is a fretboard. Do I need one? Can I just fret my neck? Should I use one? What are the pros and cons of having one vs not having one? Thanks for any and all help, guys and gals of CBN!
(I should note that I'm using a poplar 1x2 for my neck)
Hi Roland, and welcome to the madness! Here's my experience...based on my builds and much information from within these forums. I have built gits without a fretboard, early on, but now I always use a separate fretboard, glued to the neck. The plain neck yields a thinner neck, which can be a plus for smaller hands. But they felt too thin for my liking. The added fretboard adds an extra 1/4" of depth, which feels better to me when playing, and also adds a lot of strength to the "bow resistance" of the finished neck. Not such a big deal in lightly-strung 3 stringers, but I prefer heavier strings, so I'll take the extra 1/4" of material. I use 1/4" red oak hobby board (1/4" x 2"),readily available at my local HD store in 2' and 4' lengths. Many others cut their own from common and exotic materials of their choosing. I glue my fretboards onto the neck, finish the width and edges, then cut the nut slot and fret slots. Others finish the fretboard (width, edge), then cut the fret slots before attaching to the neck. The second method allows you to start again if you mess up the fret slots, but a little bit of fretting experience (and a couple of mistakes) will allow you to confidently proceed using either method. Another plus for a separate fretboard is that you can use different woods for neck and fretboard for a distinctly different , contrasting appearance. Try both methods, and try necks with and without fretboards, and find your preference. Lord knows, you'll probably be building a crapload of different gits. You'll see!
Thank you so much! I'm really looking forward to this build as I've wanted to build my own guitar for quite a while, but I'm still very scared of the actual cutting of the fret slots. Any suggestions on that?
I'm about to cut my first one. Well, not really, but I will before Spring. So I really don't have any advice except about the "being scared" part, because that reminds me of an old story about taking your Jeep off-road for the first time. "I'm scared I'll scratch or dent it with a rock," they say. The old timers response is to go out in your driveway, pit up a rock and throw it and the Jeep. Now it is dented and scratched and you don't have to worry about it anymore.
So maybe just start fretting on a piece of junk wood and see how it goes? Shoot, I should follow my own advice...
As for your first build, maybe do what I did? I was waiting for parts so I made a diddly-bo out of junk 2x4 and I learned so much from it! I essentially never finished it because I went to diddly-bo #2, new and improved.
So maybe that is the solution, just go do something. As Nick Schade, wooden kayak builder advises, "You can't make a mistake, the trees are still growing."
When I first started making guitars I had what I call fret board intimidation. If you want you can purchase some templates from CBGitty, that's a good place to start. Another thing you can do is look at Uncle Crows videos on YouTube. He shows how to measure out a fret board with a calculator and he made it super easy to understand. The best thing I did was make a jig I saw on YouTube. Go to YouTube and search six gun guitars, he has a really easy jig you can make that makes a perfect fretboard every time. I was working on a guitar and I knew I could cut the frets easily so I timed myself....8 minutes on a 25 inch scale not bad. I also use an Irwin pull saw (Lowes 13 dollars or so) makes it a breeze. Hey you got this!!
Hey thanks Richard!!
Great info thanks. I always wondered how they do that.
I am on the site for the first time in years!!
Thanks y'all, I'll look into all that!
Hi Roland, there was a long tread on this subject not too long ago that would help you, but I cant tell you how to find it, mabey somebody else can.
My first one with frets I just cut them right into the neck and in the end it was all fine.
I didn't use a saw that was specific for cutting fret slots so I ended up needing a little superglue to keep them in.
Hello, again Roland. As mentioned by the replies you received, there are many routes, tools, and methods used to successfully cut fret slots and install frets. A little back-search through the forums, as Taffy said, will yield a lot of information for you. I'll give you a brief look at how I do mine, again, learned from within these forums. I started with a coping saw...that was the most appropriate saw I owned, though the blade was a little "wiggly" in my hands. I pounded in the frets with a small oak block and a dead-blow hammer. It worked, and not too badly. After a number of trial and error builds, using a little miter box, different saws and such, I settled on a method that serves me well.
1. I bought a Zona 35-380 dovetail saw from Gitty. 18 teeth per inch, sharp, and a .20 kerf...just right for med./med. frets from Gitty. Stays sharp for @ 15 fretboards worth of slotting in my hands.
2. Got a plastic handled, brass headed fret hammer, also from Gitty.
Now I had two good tools which were better than my previous tool set.
3. I set my nut position, then measure my fret slot positions, using a fret scale template, yes, from Gitty.
4. I lay my neck blank, with fret board glued in place, on to a saw horse, and clamp down to horse.
5. I lay my steel carpenter's square, 6", across the top of the fret board, and cut my fret slot across the fret board, using the square as a guide. Glen Watt has a video in here somewhere that shows this method. Better control than a miter box for me.
6. I eyeball the depth, and try to get the slot cut in several swipes with the saw, of course keeping the saw as vertical as my old hands and eyes will allow. My slots are always a little deeper than the fret tang, which is better than too short, so the fret will seat flat against the fret board. When the whole thing is finished, you'd have to look really closely to see a little groove below the end of the fret. Plus, it doesn't matter, it's a cbg!
7. Now, I use two different methods to install my frets. Depends on how I feel that week, I guess.
One way is to pound in the frets from a whole length of fret wire, trim with nippers or side cutters, and move down the neck until all slots are fretted. Next, I sand the fret ends flush to the neck with an orbital sander, usually start with 80-100 grit, go to 120-150 grit when close to fretboard edge. I use the orbital sander, held at @ a 45* angle to get the fret end angle. Go slow, take your time. Then, I finish the fret ends by hand with a small, flat file with a "safe" side resting on the fret board. Again, slow, easy, remove metal, not wood to the extent possible. You'll cut some small grooves at some point, don't worry, won't show.
My other method is to cut all the frets first, cutting them @1/8" shorter than the width of the fret board. I then hand finish the fret ends with a flat file, finishing with a slight round-over of each fret end using the same flat file mentioned above. Then install each fret with the block, or fret hammer, keeping them as centered on the fret board as you can. Will not be perfect! No worry, it's a cbg! Do the best you can. You're building a player, right? This second method (which I learned from a Forum post a few years back) keeps the fret edge away from fingertips, so maybe less critical on the final fret end finish.
Now, I'm not shilling for Gitty in my tools list, but Ben and his crew have a lot of tools, parts, and knowledge, so I use them as much as I can. One stop shopping for me.
There are many more options for fretting and finishing. Many might be better, and/or faster. Power saw fretting blades, repeatable fretting jigs, high $ fret end dressing files, etc. But these are things I do, and I do it pretty well! Learned by trying, failing, and succeeding. I use power tools to build, but man, hand finishing frets and finer points of a git build are the joy (and sometimes the drag) in the build for me. I have built a couple of 6 string cb gits with Chinese Tele necks, nut and frets installed, for @$35.00. They worked, save a grip of time, even had truss rods installed! But they just don't have the mojo that a neck I finished from a stick of 1x2 produced.
I hope this gives some usable tips for your git buildin'. You will curse, bleed, and nearly come to tears when you blow it along the way, but brother (and sisters), when you get near the sweet spot, you'll be smilin' like an ice cream summer day!
I bought a Zona 35-380 dovetail saw from Gitty. 18 teeth per inch, sharp, and a .20 kerf...just right for med./med. frets from Gitty. Stays sharp for @ 15 fretboards worth of slotting in my hands.
What happens after 15 fretboards? Do you buy a new blade from Gitty or do you sharpen it?