I've fallen down a bit of a rabbit hole!

I've been thinking of ways to get a powered fret-slot cutting system going, both for speed and consistency of depth. I'm not quite ready to invest in the StewMac table saw blade, especially since I'd prefer to have a dedicated system rather than have to change blades in and out, so I've been looking at options (I'm also not ready to have a dedicated table saw JUST for cutting fret slots!).

One I've seen is the Mighty Mite mini benchtop saw, but I've seen consistent complaints about the power.

However I watched Del Puckett's video on YT about using the saw, and noted two things:

1. He says he's able to get it to work just fine for cutting fret slots if he runs the fretboard over the blade quickly, rather than slowly -  if he goes slow, the motor seems to grind to a halt. This appears to be what folks are referring to when they talk about the motor being underpowered.

2. This part seemed important: he mentioned that he replaces the stock blade that comes with the saw with a super-thin ....

In the course of poking around on the net I found this post by Bruce Johnson on talkbass.com (about a quarter of the way down the page) about this exact question and one thing he noted is that most woodworking table saw blades have a "set" - which is to say, the width of the kerf at the ends of the teeth is slightly wider than the rest of the blade, giving it a kind of "Y"-shaped cross section; this is to reduce binding as the wood heats up.

Importantly, metal-cutting blades like jewelers blades do NOT have this "set" - the sides of the blades are completely parallel.

So it occurred to me - if everyone using the Mighty-mite saw with the jeweler's super-thin kerf blades, those would not have the "set" and would be likely to bind when running the fretboard across the blade at low speed. This would explain why it seems to work fine if you run the fretboard across the blade quickly.

It would seem the solution might be to find or modify the super-thin-kerf jewelers blade to have a slight set to give the sides of the blade space?


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For a workshop with poor infrastructure and little time available, I prepared a dozen of cbg kits, ready for assembly and setup, with various workplaces to practice all the skills needed, with the possibility to make mistakes. For the 4 x 2.5 cm necks I had to build a special miter box, with John's method I fretted a dozen of them in a hurry.

Working with a correct fretting saw is essential, most problems arise even then with slots which are to shallow, to deep, or not horizontal. With John's method my beginners immediately learnt to fret correctly. Freehand slotting, controlling the slot depth and orientation with a feeler, was far less reliable.

My buddy Richard uses a copingsaw for fretting because of the kerf thickness. So with that, I'm kicking around the idea of using my latest garage sale find, a Jigsaw. Working out the details for a sliding fixture with a stop( Will have to use positioning pins in table). No expensive blades, doesnt have to be dedicated for one job and no one said the fretboard had to be on its face or back to be slotted. As long as everything is squared consistently and a template, it'd be pretty hard to screw up!

I really like the idea of a dedicated saw for fretting, but I have to admit, a small jig will do just a good a job, perhaps better.  I'm still working on my mini-table saw configuration but will probably fashion a jig as well, I like Chickenbone John's as well as any I've seen and already have saws and templates.

i was lucky enough to find a used stewmac blade at a garage sale...the luthier developed parkinsons  disease and was retiring...it works great...

Hi,  just a few comments. Chickenbone John is dead right about the accuracy needed if building your own saw table, sled and template.
In the first photo you see the bench grinder I used. The reason for this pick [it’s a Makita and not cheap] is that it is very smooth running and the circumference of the body is less [just] than that of the saw blade, so that I have some height adjustment playability.
After building the box that takes the tabletop, I hinged the table at the back and put two height adjusting knobs at the front.
With the table in position I then positioned the grinder with blade attached so that it was perfectly aligned with the sled and its guiding arms and screwed it down to the base of the box.
I have been using it for ten years now and I’m on my second saw blade. With a full-size fretboard, I push the board [attached to its template] forward through the saw but I do not come back through it but lift board and template off the table and relocate it for the next pass forward. This is so that I do not enlarge the slot by passing the saw through twice.

Hooch, I have not looked for thinner coping saw blades than what I get as standard but find the cut they make is way too wide to even grip the fret tang slightly. You may have more luck with the jigsaw idea than I did many years ago. I found the blade needs support top and bottom [like a bandsaw] otherwise it waves about like a flag on a thin stick in the wind, before biting into the timber. And the fact that the blade cuts away from the machine meant the saw was needed to be mounted above the work piece, so it pushes down onto the work surface. If you see what I mean. You might find that due to the jigsaw blade being held at one end only, they may be made thick so that they do not bend in the material being cut. Maybe?? Keep us informed. Taff

I mistakenly misnamed the tool. I was referring to a scrollsaw, that is why I mentioned the coping saw. I've heard the two names interchanged with each other. Taff like your setup.

Nice setup indeed, and something like it just might work for my mini-saw if my sled doesn't work like I hope.  How about a shot with the top down please....and the sled, please.  Thanks

Not to rain on your parade, but have you read the reviews on amazon? Beween them and no adjustment for height, I cancelled my order befor it was shipped. If the scrollsaw idea doesn't pan out. I'm going to modify Taff's setup for my Harbor Freight tile saw.

I like your tile saw idea, you get to see the cuts, let me know how it works.

 I figured cutting a fret slot would be light duty for the saw, that setting it up would be the challenge for me and the saw.  Something like hooch's set up might work.

Hooch, I should have listened to you, that mini-saw is seriously under powered.

I'd send it back but I've voided the warranty a couple of times over. 

Hi, thanks for the comments thavana. If you check back to the second post on the first page of this thread there are the photo's you requested.

I now have to build a new sled as my roof leaked last week and dripped water on the sled I was using. It has adjustable side rails that allow for perfect alignment...or it did before the big rain Ha ha. Taff

Hi, here is a new project I’m working on, prompted by this thread, a Kerfed lining Slotting Saw.

It will have a specially adapted sled. I cut the slots and it automatically moves the strip along the desired spacing amount for the next cut. All I will have to do is push through the saw and pull back and push forward again.

I’m using the business end of a tile cutting saw I already had, I had used the original table for my fret slotting saw shown in previous posts in this thread. The sawblade is the Stewmac fret slotting one, it has a slight buckle in it, so the slot is too wide for frets but ok for making kerfed linings for my guitars.

At the moment I use my bandsaw for this but I have to set it up all th time, this will be dedicated. Early days ...watch this space.


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