2. INSTALL THE FRETS
I used to be intimidated by the idea of frets. The process seemed mysterious and difficult. But it’s really
not. If you take your time and make careful measurements, you’ll have no problem.
2a. Mark the fret locations. Enter your desired scale length into
an online fret spacing program (see makezine.com/21/cbg) and
print out the table it generates. Using a yardstick and a square,
make pencil marks along the length of the neck to indicate the
location of the frets.
NOTE: If you don’t want to install metal frets, you can glue flat
toothpicks over the pencil marks. They work quite well, but will
eventually wear out. If you want a fretless guitar (which also sounds
great), go over the pencil marks with a Sharpie or with some paint.
In either case, skip to Step 3.
2b. Cut the fret slots. About 5" should be deep enough. The saw
blade should be thin enough so the fret tangs bite into the slots
you cut. I buy medium-gauge fret wire and have had no problem
with frets popping out. A coping saw and a hobbyist’s miter box
will help you keep the fret slots square with the neck.
2c. Form the back of the neck. On the backside of the neck,
shape the sharp 90° edges into soft curves so your fretting hand
can easily slide up and down the neck. A Surform shaver tool will
quickly rough out a rounded edge. Follow up with sandpaper until
the wood is very smooth.
NOTE: Don’t shave the headstock or the part that will fit into the cigar
box — only work on the area under the frets and nut.