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Thread: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

  1. #1

    Default Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Anyone with recommendations for a pre slotted fretboard supplier in the UK? I don't have the tools or skills, so I sent off my piece of rosewood to a local mandolin luthier, but now I come to install the frets and glue it on the instrument I have grave doubts about the accuracy of the slot cuts. I suppose I'm going to have to have a discussion with the guy about money, but I'm not inclined to repeat the exercise of emailing round trying to find someone. Are Stew-mac adequate or are there better options? They can't do rosewood to the UK which I'd prefer... Also I have a philosophical objection to ebay...

    JimC

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Jim, you don't need very much skill to slot a fretboard, and I would urge you to consider it. You can go to the Fretfind2 website, enter your parameters then print out a template, which you can use to determine the locations of the cuts. Then all you need is a fretsaw and a homemade slotting jig(Google it). I'm in the process of building my first mandolins and would say that the making of a fretboard is the easiest part of the build. It might seem daunting at first, but it's not rocket science and really is easy.
    best of luck, Mike.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Its not so much the actual slotting as thicknessing the board adequately flat that is the obstruction with the facilities and skill I have. My attempt was... unsatisfactory! My usual workplace and set of tools are unavailable due to CV.

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    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Quote Originally Posted by JimCh View Post
    Its not so much the actual slotting as thicknessing the board adequately flat that is the obstruction with the facilities and skill I have. My attempt was... unsatisfactory! My usual workplace and set of tools are unavailable due to CV.
    Jim, I hope CV doesn't hold you back for too long, but if you do want to buy a pre-slotted board, have you checked out Ebay? I've seen a few on there but not sure about smaller scale lengths required for mandos. Worth a look though. Mike.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    I thickness fretboards with a hand plane.

    I simply make a jig which is two strips of wood the right thickness stuck down to a piece of melamine-face particle board (the stuff sold for making shelves, because it's a nice flat surface). Get one side of the fretboard flat, then attach it to the board with double sided tape or use the masking tape + superglue trick).

    To plane it, angle the plane so the toe rests on one of the guide strips and the heel on the other, maybe at a 30 degree angle. Plane away until the plane stops taking shavings. Result = one evenly thicknessed fretboard!

    If you pick a fretboard thickness which matches manufactured boards (e.g. 3mm MDF) then you just cut your guide strips from that and glue them down. Or glue up multiple pieces - a 4.5mm board is 3 pieces of 1.5mm ply glued together.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Easiest and most accurate flattener is sandpaper face up on any board. Start with very coarse, 80 or less. Keeping thickness constant is by inspection with any kind of a caliper, or the professor’s jig, above. Since it’s the frets that have to be coplanar, the board under is hardly critical. Lacking tools like files, the sandpaper can also level frets, but the hand plane might not be best for that part!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Thank you folks for your well intentioned advice. The situation, though is that I am locked away from anything resembling a suitable fret saw, my decent planes, and even a stable workbench. If I were planning to make a number of instruments in the future I could probably justify buying duplicate tools, but at the moment I have no plans beyond this one, so my enthusiasm for buying more tools is distinctly limited.
    I just wish I knew how a competent luthier managed to produce such a complete mess of a fretboard as the one that's in front of me. Its most peculiar. Not to mention frustrating.

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    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Quote Originally Posted by JimCh View Post
    Thank you folks for your well intentioned advice. The situation, though is that I am locked away from anything resembling a suitable fret saw, my decent planes, and even a stable workbench. If I were planning to make a number of instruments in the future I could probably justify buying duplicate tools, but at the moment I have no plans beyond this one, so my enthusiasm for buying more tools is distinctly limited.
    I just wish I knew how a competent luthier managed to produce such a complete mess of a fretboard as the one that's in front of me. Its most peculiar. Not to mention frustrating.
    Obviously not a competent luthier Jim.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    So what did he do that is so obviously wrong? Spacing that looks wrong? Measures wrong? Cuts not parallel? Cuts not perpendicular to the center line?
    Started too close to the nut end?

  10. #10

    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Well that's what's weird. The guy has produced some very nice instruments, I checked up on that. And frankly, now I've examined the job closely and done some measurements its hard to believe. The fret slots are all nicely parallel and cut square, but the spacing is just all over the shop. Not just lack of precision or carelessness, worse than that. As an example I scanned and carefully measured an area up round the 12th fret and the spacings came out at 12.7, 12.0, 10.1, 10.0, 9.8, 9.9. I hope the chap isn't unwell.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Quote Originally Posted by JimCh View Post
    Thank you folks for your well intentioned advice. The situation, though is that I am locked away from anything resembling a suitable fret saw, my decent planes, and even a stable workbench. If I were planning to make a number of instruments in the future I could probably justify buying duplicate tools, but at the moment I have no plans beyond this one, so my enthusiasm for buying more tools is distinctly limited.
    I just wish I knew how a competent luthier managed to produce such a complete mess of a fretboard as the one that's in front of me. Its most peculiar. Not to mention frustrating.
    Ah, didn't realise how hampered you were!

    I suggest you give Rob Collins a call, contact via https://tinguitar.com. He makes custom ukuleles, guitars etc, so a mandolin fretboard would be well within the range of what he's working with. I know him and also many who own his instruments - never heard any complaints of inaccurate fret placement.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    Well, I emailed the chap, and he's apologetic and is going to send me a new one, so problem should be solved. I guess we all have bad days.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Pre cut fretboard supply - UK

    You've been more than patient, and it's good that you contacted him. If you have any further issues after he sends a new one, you've got plenty of good suggestions here.

    It's especially good that you examined things carefully before going forward with assembly! I can just imagine the results of completed assembly with the fingerboard in question.

    Here's hoping that the build goes smoothly for you from this point.
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."


    2002 Gibson F-9
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    [About how I tune my mandolins]
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