I have consolidated all of the information that was originally available here (along with much more) into a complete book.  You can download it at the following link for free.

http://joshuagayou.com/downloads/AdvancedCigarBoxGuitarConstruction...

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Rand Moore said:
I'm not sure what kind of clamp is being used. Is it an "Irwin Quick-Grip Spring Clamp" or an "Irwin Quick-Grip Handi-Clamp"? I can't tell from the angle in your photo. The Handi-Clamp seems to have a trigger. While I'm back in the States, I want to stock up on these kind of "specialty" tools. So, a clarification would be most helpful.
I've purchased a number of different clamps, and believe me, the best thing you can buy for yourself with is the Irwin 8-piece clamp set they sell at Home Depot. It comes with 4 handi-clamps (the trigger ones) and 4 spring clamps (2 different sets). So far, they've more or less superseded every other other clamp i've purchased, making them back-up for only extreme cases need.
http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xmi/R-202214073/h_d2/Product...
I've seen people do it both ways. It really just comes down to preference. It's not that difficult at all to do this work after the fingerboard has been glued on. I've done lots of experimentation with trying things in different sequences and this is really the one that flows the most smoothly for me. I have a limited shop with limited stations, so really, the methods and sequences I use have evolved from me doing my best to ensure that I'm not sitting around waiting for something to dry (i.e. when a neck is clamped up and drying for 24 hours I'm not just sitting around waiting for it - there's plenty of other things I can do because I've planned it correctly).

If you use white glue then you shouldn't have an issue pulling frets. It doesn't stick to metal at all. All you're using it for is to fill any very small gaps between the wood and the fret tang to ensure that nothing rattles or buzzes when you play. But as long as you chamfer your fret slots you should be good for a re-fret job later on.

As far as finishing, I use either a Tung Oil/Varnish compound or french polish. Fret boards are treated with olive oil.

Brett Morgan said:
Nice write up Josh, very thorough! A couple of things I'm curious about, wouldn't it be easier to inlay/slot and maybe even fret the fingerboard before gluing it to the neck especially with the scarf joint? With the scarf joint it looks like it would be cumbersome to work with unless you had the end of the neck hanging off the table.Also using glue to install the fret wouldnt that make it difficult to remove them later, I was going to purchase some titebond II, that's been recommended a lot on the forum.
I've been eyeing of a couple of stew mac items (yeah kinda expensive but saves making mistakes ) http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Saws_and_slots/Fret_S...

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Special_tools_for:_Fretting/Dual_...

Do you seal your necks with a satin finish or leave them bare?

Cheers

Brett
The clamps I'm using have a trigger. They are my favorite to use. Just be careful not to squeeze them too hard if you have a strong grip. I've snapped the heads off two of mine by pulling the trigger too hard.

Properly dressing frets creates a hell of a mess, so you don't want to finish your neck before hand. I only ever bother to sand my necks down to 220 on the back and to 400 on the fret board. After I'm done with the fret job, I take the neck back and sand it down to about 1000 all around and then wipe the whole thing with alcohol (not including the fretboard of course). That gets everything good and clean for the finish job. All of my neck finishes are applied by hand with a fad (rubbed in like waxing a car), so drip really isn't a problem that I have to deal with.

If olive oil is giving you bad results on poplar, try substituting with Dr. Duck's Axe Wax. It will still darken the wood a bit but is of neutral color.

Really, when using light colored woods for the fingerboard, it's best to spray it with varnish. Light colored wood gets very shabby very quickly with dirt and oil from your fingers. After spraying, you sand down and buff the finish. Hitting the frets with steel wool will take off any over spray as lacquer does a lousy job of sticking to fret wire.

Rand Moore said:
Hi Josh,

I love your write-up on your method of fretting. Very informative. I like the idea of using a clamp to force the fret wire in to the frets. But, I'm not sure what kind of clamp is being used. Is it an "Irwin Quick-Grip Spring Clamp" or an "Irwin Quick-Grip Handi-Clamp"? I can't tell from the angle in your photo. The Handi-Clamp seems to have a trigger. While I'm back in the States, I want to stock up on these kind of "specialty" tools. So, a clarification would be most helpful.

Also, I see you do your fretting before you stain and "varnish" your necks. Can you offer additional advice on finishing your necks? I find that if I stain and finish my necks first, my fretwork screws up the finish, and if I do my fretwork first, the staining and (especially) varnishing, messes up my fretwork. I do like your idea of using masking tape and "blue tape". I'll try that next time. The varnishing problem is one of dripping. It seems the varnish tends to pool in the frets only to drip later, spoiling my finish. I guess I need to varnish sparingly and sit awhile with the piece to watch for any drippage which should brush away. If anyone else has constructive comments on this, please reply, too.

Also, the extra-virgin olive oil I use seems to color poplar wood slightly green (white with a slight tint of green). As you often use olive oil on your necks, have you seen this problem? I suspect that with other woods, it might not be a problem. Olive oil on cedar cigar boxes certainly beautifies the finish.

Thanks.

-Rand Moore.
I don't use a fret ruler. Waste of money. I have two scale lengths that I like to use: 647 mm (standard 25.5") for six string necks and 610 mm for 4 string and under. I went to the stewmac site and printed off both of these scales using their fret placement calculator and I keep those sheets on file. Be sure to calculate using metric. Then just go to Home Depot or Lowe's and by a metric rule (preferably a full meter stick). You'll spend a lot less than you would for a specialized fret rule and you'll be able to use it for anything else that you might want to measure.

Steve said:
Wonderful explanation and pics. Very informative. I have been using small finishing nails as frets with some success however they are, as you mentioned, one of the issues that come up when selling the guitars. I will have to work on it.

Where do you purchase a fret ruler for exact locations and placement? I have been using an old guitar neck as a template to this point.

Thanks again.

Steve
Thanks for the advise. I will try it this weekend.

Josh Gayou (SmokehouseGuitars) said:
I don't use a fret ruler. Waste of money. I have two scale lengths that I like to use: 647 mm (standard 25.5") for six string necks and 610 mm for 4 string and under. I went to the stewmac site and printed off both of these scales using their fret placement calculator and I keep those sheets on file. Be sure to calculate using metric. Then just go to Home Depot or Lowe's and by a metric rule (preferably a full meter stick). You'll spend a lot less than you would for a specialized fret rule and you'll be able to use it for anything else that you might want to measure.

Steve said:
Wonderful explanation and pics. Very informative. I have been using small finishing nails as frets with some success however they are, as you mentioned, one of the issues that come up when selling the guitars. I will have to work on it.

Where do you purchase a fret ruler for exact locations and placement? I have been using an old guitar neck as a template to this point.

Thanks again.

Steve
These threads by smokehouse are fantastic.

Here's my cheap approach to accurate frets:

1) I know I'll make a measuring mistake if I just use a ruler so I make up paper templates I cut out and tape onto the fretboard, taping between each fret line. I then clamp a piece of wood onto the neck at each line as I cut so I can hold the razor saw against it as I cut. This gives me good control. The block I clamp down is just the right thickness so the metal brace along the back of the saw blade runs into it, grounds out, whatever, right when the slot is the right depth.
The paper templates print out very accurately, but I do always check them first, depends on your printer. I've downloaded templates from websites and found small but significant mistakes in them. The nice thing about these is I can just cut and paste or type in the distance and the line ends up in the right place (I use inkscape, open source, free).
I'll share the templates if anyone wants, so far I just have 25.5 and 19 inch, but they're quick to make.

2) following something I read online I've tried sawing slots wide enough that the fret just about drops in place, held by epoxy. As hoped, I had a lot less leveling of frets, leveling the fingerboard itself is easier. The post said epoxy will release if you heat the fret with a soldering iron, haven't tried it. I tried using the clamp as suggested here but I had trouble setting the frets w/ equal pressure and some frets required more filing than I would like (though nothing drastic). This seems a reasonable way to go but it might be better to learn to do it "right" instead.
*almost cut one scarf joint with the angle backwards, and did just cut one last night off by an inch. Luckily I had extra neck left, not too little!

3) I use red oak fingerboards with too much grain. I seal it with a coat of superglue, scrape down with cabinet scraper, repeat once or twice... very hard, smooth surface.
Thanks....I'm off to ink scape

Fitzhugh said:
These threads by smokehouse are fantastic.

Here's my cheap approach to accurate frets:

1) I know I'll make a measuring mistake if I just use a ruler so I make up paper templates I cut out and tape onto the fretboard, taping between each fret line. I then clamp a piece of wood onto the neck at each line as I cut so I can hold the razor saw against it as I cut. This gives me good control. The block I clamp down is just the right thickness so the metal brace along the back of the saw blade runs into it, grounds out, whatever, right when the slot is the right depth.
The paper templates print out very accurately, but I do always check them first, depends on your printer. I've downloaded templates from websites and found small but significant mistakes in them. The nice thing about these is I can just cut and paste or type in the distance and the line ends up in the right place (I use inkscape, open source, free).
I'll share the templates if anyone wants, so far I just have 25.5 and 19 inch, but they're quick to make.

2) following something I read online I've tried sawing slots wide enough that the fret just about drops in place, held by epoxy. As hoped, I had a lot less leveling of frets, leveling the fingerboard itself is easier. The post said epoxy will release if you heat the fret with a soldering iron, haven't tried it. I tried using the clamp as suggested here but I had trouble setting the frets w/ equal pressure and some frets required more filing than I would like (though nothing drastic). This seems a reasonable way to go but it might be better to learn to do it "right" instead.
*almost cut one scarf joint with the angle backwards, and did just cut one last night off by an inch. Luckily I had extra neck left, not too little!

3) I use red oak fingerboards with too much grain. I seal it with a coat of superglue, scrape down with cabinet scraper, repeat once or twice... very hard, smooth surface.
I've tried adding my templates to this post repeatedly without luck, just get errors, so let me know if anyone wants them, I'll just post them elsewhere and link to them.

I'll post a tutorial on making these with inkscape if there are any out there who are not familiar with the program or its ilk and want to use it. There are a few oddly placed settings it took me quite some time to find (e.g. multiple places where to set to inches or cm instead of pixels). First one took me a long time, second very little, so I'll save others that hassle if anyone wants.

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