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?
just wondering if you could use a Steel Step Bit to ream open the jewelers blade to 5/8 inch, the size of a standard table saw arbor ......
Hi Sean, here is a photo of my fretting table saw, purpose built and dedicated to one job only, fret slots.
I use the Stewmac slotting saw blade. The table is from a tile cutter sitting on a box I built to suit. Driving the saw is a high quality bench grinder, with the saw attached to one side, the bore was the correct size. It runs very fast with perfect slots every time.
I use different templates for different scale boards.
So I guess I'll meet you at the rabbit hole.
On part number one:
It is clear to see that Dels fret saw is doing the job from his YT channel. By the way you need to get the blade .020 or .023 kerf thickness. The blade that comes with it is 1/8" or 3/32" I can't remember. There is no doubt about it he even shows that the saw is under powered. He just found a work around by going fast though the work piece. But that will not work for everyone that goes out and buys a mighty mite saw. To change the blade you have to take the table top off by unscrewing the clamping knob. That is were its main problems are, if you are lucky like Del the table and the motor are in perfect alignment. Most are not. I've owned three, none cut as clean as the one Del has. I used mine for making block letters out of balsawood and basswood for signs. They worked for those type of projects. I never could get one to work good enough to make fretboards. I even tried to use set screws to align the table to the blade. I ended up buying the blade from stewmac and using my tablesaw. I have been looking for a used benchtop saw on craigslist and at flea markets to make a cheap fret saw out of.
On to part two:
Putting a set in a jewelers blade will widened the kerf. Um there are about 300+ teeth on a 4 inch blade, I'm not sure if they even make a setting tool that small. Lumber and hardware stores sell a product that you spray on your metal tables of your bandsaws tablesaws to make them slick. I would try that on a jewelers blade before I tried to set the teeth on a jewelers blade. The web site were Del buys his blades sells them for $25 plus shipping another $20. Okay lets do some numbers, Del says he made 200 fretboards before he burnt up his blade on some purple hart. If he made 24 frets on each board that totals 36" or 3 foot. 3 x 200 equals 600 board feet. Very good for a tool steel blade. A life time tool if you make cbgs for personal use and for gifts to family and friends.
If you can find a hobby saw at twice the price of a mighty mite with better quality craftmanship you will still be spending less than buying a stewmac sawblade.
I see benchtop saws on FB marketplace a lot for $25-50 in my area! I have a table top tile saw that runs a 7 1/2" blade and I have used circular sawblades on it a couple of times. If you look at some of the specialized wood tool companies you can find thin kerf blade a hell of a lot cheaper than Stewmac's. Also if you look at harbor freight little 5 pack rotory blades a couple Mic out to the right thickness. Dremel makes a mini saw attachment for the rotory tool ($39) that I think will also work.(Haven't got my hands on one yet to see!) I'll look for the blade and post it if I find it. BTW thanks for the heads up on the mighty mite, "was" getting one for my birthday.
Something u can find these blades on EBay.
I saw Del's post with his saw too and I got a different saw on Amazon that I'm in the process of setting up now just for the purpose of fretting. Here's the saw....
It seems to have plenty of power and turns at 8500 RPM. I had to get the 4" Diamiter 1/2" arbor, 0.23 kerf 110 tpl blades from Malco Saw Blades. I got two because of the pricey shipping.
The table is small and height adjustment is lame, so I'm going with the blade at full height and will build my sled to the height....at least that's the plan. I considered building the saw into a box but there are no holes to bolt down the base. I may be able to come up with something yet.....thanks Del! Rabbit hole indeed. ;)
What is your opinion of the saw! I have one on order but the reviews are 50/50.
I cancelled my order for several reasons. Based on what I've been reading in the reviews, I don't need it! Its tiny, under powered(according to some), can't adjust height, have to order an appropriate blade for fretting on top of purchase price of saw, need to build some sort of sled for slotting. With all of these factors, I already with the exception of the blade have a solution setting on a shelf payed for. Chicago Electric benchtop tile saw. It has lots of power(actually put in a skill saw blade and ripped 3/4" plywood), since it will be a dedicated tool for fretboards. I can build a dedicated sled to compensate for slot depth, spend the $50 on a blade and I'm good! After all isn't that what this is all about, making do with what got or find?
Hi I was interested in the comments and ideas of other builders. I would not take this idea too seriously, its Saturday and I've got time on my hands.
It seemed that a popular idea was to use small slitting saws. This idea is designed for using one of these small diameter saws. Many of you would have a drill press, so this is what I used here. Now I am not sold on the idea as shown due to it not being dedicated and would have to be set up each time. Two things I would do if I was going to use it is:
• Make locating holes and pins in the drill table for quick and accurate setup
• Cut slots in six or so boards, so only needing to set up once in every few months or so.
This was really just a fun project it’s too hot to do guitar work, over 40deg C, without dripping sweat all over my work. Pictures tell the story. Taff
Interesting concept, don't know if I could pull that off though!
You say that you want to go for a powered fretslotting setup for speed and consistency of depth. You may not like what I have to say, but here's my take on this. I've build several rigs for fret slotting by hand, two with no depth control, and the the last three with depth control. If you are using a good fret slotting saw with a rigid back this is an easy set-up to to make, and accurate and speedy in use. Making a box with a depth stop will give you the consistency of depth in the fret slots. To get consistency and speed for the slotting itself you need to be using some sort of indexing system, either a steel template with an index pin or some form of index blade in the bottom of the box which allows you to use a pre-cut fretboard as your indexing pattern. I've used both methods, and both are quick and accurate in use. If you are not using these methods already - the depth stop and an indexing template, I thoroughly recommend doing it before making the jump into cutting frets with a table saw. Unless you want to make 50 - 100 fretboards in a session, a good indexed and depth control slotting box will allow you to slot fretboards pretty quickly. Here's a video of me using such a set-up.
If you feel this isn't quick or convenient enough for you, then you might have to figure out how much you want to spend and get the right gear. Whether hand slotting or machine slotting the blade is critical, so for hand sawing we always use a Crown Sheffield steel guitar makers saw - it is the right tool for the job and it gets good results, and for table saw slotting, you just have to invest in the right blade. It will be expensive, but if saving time (and they say time is money), to will pay for itself after a slotting a dozen fretboards. The choice of table saw is more complicated, but you need enough power, a good mechanism for raising and lowering the blade to adjust depth of cut, and a solid table. You need to resign yourself to the fact that this will be a saw dedicated only to slotting fretboards, as swapping out the blade and re-adjusting for another work will be really time consuming. Making a sled to hold your work and pass over the blade is relatively easy, but the critical thing with the saw table is having one that has a perfectly flat surface and accurately machined guide slots in the top to guide your sled. There's really only one choice for this, and that is a cast iron table. Aluminium is OK, and a pressed steel top may be too inaccurate for the job. It's possible to make a sled that is guided by the sides of the table itself, but you would have to make sure that the sides are perfectly parallel and the sled moves smoothly and worth no blinding or skew as it passes over the saw blade. It looks like Taffy has made a good compromise of cost vs performance by buying the right saw blade, and then figuring out the rest himself. Making economies can be good thing, but on a job like this, you can waste a lot of money and effort trying to do it on the cheap, and $100 for a saw blade may end up looking like a good deal if you waste the same amount of money and countless hours on failed or less than satisfactory outcomes.