Fret Scale Template-Accurate! Cheap!--How To Make

  Here's my first CB building blog. It's just a short one to get the hang of it. It's about making an accurate fret scale template for about 3$US as opposed to buying one for 40+$US. It has sub-millimeter accuracy with just a little care taken in its making. First, you need a 3$ 'Swanson' yardstick from Lowes i.e. ( Of course it can be another quality brand from somewhere else as long as it has mm marked its full length. After completion of the template, it can be cut back to wahtever length you really want, the one in this blog and these pix is for a 30" Bass Scale. I like the 'Swanson' brand, I've bought 6 of them so far and have found Zero visual difference between any of them. Accurate enough I think. My frets and intonation come out near perfect so far after 23 builds.


On to the actual 'making':

Here you see I have the stick clamped against a board on my build bench.

I support behind the 'stick on each cut and 'guide the saw straight with a small block of hardwood.

I am using an Xacto saw blade.

The 'stick is aluminum and does not hurt the blade much.

I've used this blade for 20 years or more for wood, aluminum and brass.

After cutting the notches to about 1/8" or so (doesn't matter as long as you can see them) I highlight the marks in red Sharpie. I check and double check against my fret table (I use mm for frets) before each cut. I try to get as close to .5mm or .3mm or .7mm as possible when cutting between the full mm marks. I have created a plastic 'slide-guide' that is cut out the thickness of the 'stick on one side to help with parallax error since the 'stick is pretty thick.

Here you can see how the plastic slide-guide rests on the 'stick and on the fretboard itself.

The red marks are easy to find and the little slot acts as a natural stop for the slide.

But I find this to be the easiest method. Flip the 'stick over!! The 'stick is plain on the back! Straight and smooth!

I find my next slot with the Xacto #11 knife,

Slide the guide up to the knife, then

draw the blade out of the slot on the 'stick and along the guide for a great, thin, easy to find fret position mark.

After all the frets are marked, I put the Xacto blade in the knife mark and slide a small 4" square up to the blade and mark a line all the way across the fret board for the fretsaw to follow. The saw follows the knife blade mark very well.

Just an overall shot of the simple to make and best of all CHEAP $3 fret scale with sub mm accuracy!!

Best of all, since they are only 3$, you can make a different one for every scale, 25 inch for guitar, 13-15-17-20 inch for ukes and 30-34 inch for bass and still  have less than 25$US all told! Way less than one scale template from a luthier supply store and way better than a printed paper template. I can mark a 20 fret 30 inch bass neck in about 30 seconds now with real good accuracy and total repeatability. And since there is a spare edge the 'stick could be used for a second scale but I like a separate 'stick for each scale to keep from confusing myself (pretty easy) and since they're only 3$US how can you go wrong!


Hope this can help some of you builders out there, especially the newer ones who haven't figured out all these handy tools and jigs that help us build better!

All comments welcome and anyone with a suggestion to improve this type template or this blog, please jump right in and share with us all.

Thanks for looking my blog over.



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Comment by Mark Bliss on March 25, 2011 at 6:40am

Dr Byte:

I was just trying to show a quick and simple way to make your own. If you want an adjustable depth guide its hard to beat $6.75.

But with the home made jig discussed here, it may not be installable at the right height without modification.

Comment by DrByte on March 24, 2011 at 11:27pm

Thanks Earl. Don't worry too much about your box, as long as it's solid and in good shape and not toextremely small it'll work fine. I really worried about having the perfect size boxes for so long then tried a few I thought would never work and o my surprise some of them worked really great. I shunned the hardboard boxes and only used solid wood for a while then tried a hardboard box and it worked just as well, very slight difference in tone and volume but not objectionable. Just build with what you have and they'll keep getting better! One of my very best uke build is a very tiny box and a short neck that plays well and has way better volume than I'd ever expected. Check it out at My Small Soprano Uke.

Comment by Earl William Birth III on March 24, 2011 at 11:07pm
That seems like a pretty slick way of marking your fret locations.I m completely new to this and in fact I haven't started even building my guitar yet. I am waiting to get all of my parts together so when I start to build it I can keep going and get it done.I hope that the boxes that I have are going to work well.Thanks for sharing the tip with us.
Comment by DrByte on March 24, 2011 at 10:52pm
I've been working on a similar depth stop but with bolts through the blade and slots on the guide. But I haven't worked on it too much since its so easy just to saw till the teeth are covered and that's the perfect depth on my saw for most of my fret wire. But I'm still going to get the stop going. I think I will use Plexiglas for the guides on both sides of the blade and small wooden knobs on bolts for holding it on the blade. I'll post pics soon.
Comment by jabes on March 24, 2011 at 5:05pm
i bought an aluminium 4 ft stick marked in inches and mm today with the very same purpose(£ 3 ) thanks for the info . now ,where to buy an Xacto saw in the UK....mmmm. thanks again
Comment by Bluesheart on March 24, 2011 at 12:50pm
Really like that idea. I use the same yard stick but just marked fret positions for 3 different scale lengths. I think the slots will help avoid mistakes. I'm going to add the slots and make a plexi slide. Great idea, thanks.
Comment by Mark Bliss on March 24, 2011 at 7:28am

I suppose a crude depth stop could be added by joining two pieces of wood, about 1.5"X saw blade length,  together with a pair bolts and wing nuts, with the bolts positioned above the back of the saw blade and pinching the blade when tightened in place.

(Crude drawing):


Comment by DrByte on March 23, 2011 at 10:27pm
Heckuva lot cheaper than the luthier guys' miter box too!
Comment by DrByte on March 23, 2011 at 10:26pm
Great way to hack Joel! Looking real good.Nothing like improvisation in the world of Cigar Box instruments, that for sure, both in building and playing!
Comment by Sharecropper on March 22, 2011 at 9:37am

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