My "Homemade" Guitar Tools And Jigs

There are quite a few neat tools and gizmos available through luthier supply stores. However, being the cheapo I normally am, I usually balk at the prices those neat gadgets bring. Often times, I can come up with the same thing (or close enough) for less money. This page is where I list some of my examples.

Fret Beveling Jig

On the first guitar I built, I beveled the fret ends by just holding a file at what appeared to be the correct angle and going to town. While this worked to a degree (no pun intended), the accuracy of my fret bevels was less than perfect. They kind of had a round shape to them, and the bevel varies along the length of the neck.

I saw that Stew Mac sold a neat device to bevel the fret ends at a perfect 35 degree angle. After looking at the catalog, I decided I could build one nearly as good and for much less money.

To start, I took a piece of scrap wood, about 1 1/2" thick. In this case, it was a cut-off of some boards I had glued together. I tilted my table saw to 35 degrees, and cut a bevel. I then just nudged over my fence and ran the piece through, slowly widening the slot until a file fit snug within it.

Cutting a slot.
The file should fit snug.

To use my beveling tool, I just set it down on the frets and move it along the neck. The wood holds the file at the perfect angle, and I get perfect results! Note that if the jig slips off the edge of the fretboard and slides across the frets (easier to have happen than you might think), it can leave deep gouges in the frets that are too deep to remove when leveling the frets. To help prevent this, I ground off the teeth on the edge and corner of the file with a bench grinder. This way, if the file slips the scratches aren't near as deep and can easily be removed.

Using the jig.

Fret Tang Nibbler

When installing frets on a bound fretboard, the fret tang needs to be cut away so the fret can overhang the binding. This can be done with a standard fret cutter, but is tedious and when you have to do it 44 times for a single neck it gets pretty old. Again, Stew Mac sells a neat tool that quickly does the undercutting for you, but it is very expensive.

As an alternative, I found a "Nibbling Tool" at Radio Shack (part number 64-2960) for twelve dollars that looked awful similar to the tool that Stew Mac sells. I took a risk and purchased the tool. Here's what the package looks like:

The plastic case of the Radio Shack nibbling tool.

I then took my Dremel and ground a groove into the face of the tool where the crown of the fret can sit. I made sure the groove was aligned with the cutting edge so that when the tool cut, it would cleanly remove the tang from the fret end. I must say, using this tool works much, much better than the old manual method!

The groove I ground into the tool.

Radius Sanding Blocks

Sanding a radius onto the face of a fretboard is not that difficult, as long as one has a curved sanding block of the proper radius to which the sandpaper can be affixed. These radius blocks are available for purchase, but again they aren't cheap, especially when you consider that you're buying a small chunk of wood. In addition, I like to create compound radius necks, which means I would need to purchase four radius blocks! Yikes!

Instead, I made my own out of scrap wood by cutting four 3" x 4" blocks of 8/4 stock (left over from a guitar body). I then taped a pencil to a piece of string, then taped the string to the table so that the pencil was about 1/4" off the edge of the table, and the tape was 10" away from the pencil (for a 10" radius). I then placed the wood block up against the table edge and drew the radius on the short end of the block. From there, I repeated the procedure with three more wood blocks for 12", 14" and 16" radiuses. After that, I took each block over to the band saw and cut the lines I had drawn and did a little sanding to smooth them out. Add some self-stick sandpaper and viola, home-made radius sanding blocks for cheap.

My radius sanding blocks.

This page last updated on 02/11/2011