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"Though you may fret me, yet you
cannot play upon me."

William Shakespeare, Hamlet 1601

Fretting, what an appropriate verb to use to describe working on the fingerboard for a guitar, and out of all the parts of a guitar, the neck and the fret board are literally the heart of a guitar. One can always pluck the strings of a guitar over the sound board, but you really "play" the guitar at the neck and fingerboard, that's where as a player you do the real work. Yes, one must look at the guitar overall as an instrument, it must play well and sound well, two things which to me are one in the same. If the guitar doesn't play wonderfully, it won't sound that way. I had a long phone conversation with Marc Culbertson of Gilmer Woods last summer about guitar necks and neck woods and got quite the education on fret work from him. What a great guy!

I cut slots in a fret board with a fret saw that I bought from LMI back in the '90's that has a walnut handle that I made and an engineer's square to guide the saw for the initial cuts. This work is as nerve wracking as routing out the binding channels (rebates) on a guitar body, one slip and you have scarred the fingerboard. I enjoy taking my time while doing this, I have a chance to contemplate on my recent misdeeds (thank you, Roy Underhill!). This is the fret board for the Lacote guitar, it is African (Gaboon) ebony. I have photos coming of a full sized classic guitar that has a new fret board, also African ebony, along with new photos of the almost completed new shop. I just started my summer/fall job as a maintenance mechanic with the National Park Service, but I will try to update the blog more often. Thank you to all the people who have been checking back for updates!


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How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979

So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice

Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…

The Guitar Maker's Backsaw for Cutting Fret Slots

The overall correct process of placing frets in a guitar fingerboard ("fretting"), is far less straight forward than most people believe. A perfect job, for perfect playability, requires some careful preparation.

Anthony Lintner, guitar maker

Twenty five years ago, I bought my first fretting saw from Luthiers Mercantile. It was made in Germany and had a straight handle on it, basically it was a gent's saw.

First thing I did to the saw was to take off the straight handle and make a nice handle for it from some wonderful Claro walnut that came from a Cottonwood Creek bottom wild grown walnut. I used it to cut fret slots in dulcimer and classical guitar fret boards. The saw served me well for several years until I made the mistake of cutting some brass with it.

Well, I never did get around to sharpening the thing.

The blade is .015 of an inch thick with the teeth set at .022-.023 of an inch. I think it has 22 teeth per inch. It is a great saw and I was very sad to see that…