Thank you for the admission here. I'm at a loss and have been searching for info on cutting fret slots in a violin fingerboard. A google search brought me here so I hope you don't find me too awfully irritating. While waiting for my admission here to be approved I search your forum posts for anything about violin frets and found nothing.
I have a Yinfente 5 string electric violin with a standard fingerboard and wanted to get a fretted (24 total) fingerboard and replace it... guess what, nowhere can I find a fretted fingerboard for a violin, especially a 5 string version. One company that does work, builds instruments and on occasion takes in other jobs, wants $600 for a total fretted fingerboard! Holy smokes... about double what this violin cost new! I don't think so.
So I've searched for the tools but every fret making jig or saw is made with the intent of flat frets on a flat board, and the violin has a multitude of complex curves and although I have made a violin from scratch for a personal project, I'm at a loss to cut frets in a blank. I know the spacing based on a 330mm string length. At one end my fingerboard is 28.9mm wide and the opposite end (bridge end) it's 44.8mm wide. With a standard (?) radius of 42mm at the bridge end and tapered to nothing on the nut end, how would you cut those fret slots and install the wires? Make the fretted fingerboard non-scouped and symmetrical?
I have thought of using that tool tile layers use to transfer irregular shapes to tile to maintain the correct curve of the board to a 'stop' on the side of the fret saw, perhaps I will have to fabricate a jig of my own to hold it perpendicular to the surface.
Any help or links or guidance would be greatly appreciated.
I have enclosed a fretted fingerboard found on the Woods violins as a reference as to what I want to make. Also a picture of my electric I want to modify.
Your swinging saw fence on your cutting jig is interesting. I can see it being helpful cutting radial fretwork. If you start with a rectangular and flat fingerboard blank you only need a 90 degree cutting angle and no wedges.
This would be my workflow:
Start with a rectangular and flat fretboard blank like Mike suggested.
Cut your fret slots to their predicted depth on the edges of your fretboard blank leaving a flat bottomed cut all the way across. (don't worry about the center depth).
Radius the top of the fretboard.
Attach to the neck.
Taper fretboard to neck.
Prepare and install frets.
Have you considered leaving the upper quarter of the fingerboard smooth? I would have difficulty playing such a tightly spaced fretboard.
My jig will not require any wedge or other type of addition. Just simple adjusting the 'bed' board for the top taper and then adjusting the fence to the side taper you can achieve a perfect perpendicular cut to the f'board centerline. I did see the rectangle board as a starting place a good opportunity to just cut flat & straight and then taper to the final product but you buy ebony fingerboards for less than $7.00 in bulk and they are already radiused and tapered so in order to take advantage of the cost savings and the lack of additional work required I have chosen to go the route of the adjustable saw fence.
I'm concerned that the saw cut depth in the center near the 24th fret would weaken the fingerboard considerably. At that location the center depth would approach to within .070" of the 'undercut' area at the big end. The overall thickness at the last fret on my own 5 string board is right at .330" thk. Taking a .060" cut at the top center would leave a significant amount of material for stiffness and strength and sound transmission as well by using my method of 'rolling the saw' over the surface and only allowing a .060" cut the full radius of the board no matter the location of the slot over the length of the f'board.
In answer to the leaving it smooth at the upper end... I have played a fully 24 fretted violin and it's actually very very easy to do, including slides, vibrato, etc. and the addition of more sounds by the addition of the frets. There's actually plenty of room for your fingers since you would still be "fretting" the note in the same spot with or without actual frets. Many people who have not played violin, and only played guitar or mando or fretted bass are at a slight disadvantage because the frets found on a violin f'board are very low and very narrow, allowing the notes in between to be easily played as well.
Strings Magazine did a review of a fretted woods violin and you can see it here and listen for yourself.
I couldn't get this photo in the post in time, it timed out, so I'm including it here for reference.
The typical f'board on a violin, especially a 5 string is usually undercut at the big end, removing un-necessary wood in that area and for cosmetic reasons as well I'm sure.
With this undercut area approaching the last of the frets on the f'board and in that area they are closer and closer together, the straight cut across without regard to remaining thickness would result in a very close to cut thru condition and would weaken the f'board in my opinion more than it would benefit the making of the fretts slots.
I wanted to include this photo and comment so readers would see the reason behind my desire to build the jig as I have, for technical reasons and not just because I wanted it that way.
Thanks for the explanation.
Short of a CNC router, using your jig and saw with a stop indexed to the fret tang depth as depicted makes sense.
Dennis, you seem to be well on your way without help. Have you considered gluing the frets on top of the fretboard without the tang or slot? Off-the-cuff idea?
That's a very interesting concept. Just glue, no mechanical retention... Hmmmm. I'm reaching for reasons not to do that and the only ones' I can come up with are the obvious ones, will the glue hold? will the alignment of the fret be perfectly straight like a slot gives you? how messy would the process be and would the constant string vibration against a fret time and time again weaken the glue joint and cause lifting or total failure during play?
I think using a typical tang and slot would be preferred and I suspect unless the fit is very good, a dab of glue then would be highly desirable.
Have you had the reason to just glue a fret on anything in the past? How did it perform and is it still working?
Dennis, I was just thinking 'outside the box'. Do the frets even need to be metal? Thinking about those old tied-on Viola De Gamba frets... bent wood?
Something that I have seen in pictures, but not in person, ... There is a guy in (I think) Nova Scotia who bids a fingerboard overlay for violin, that has frets built into it. I tried buying one off him 10 years ago, but was unable to get payment into his hands... I have no contact info...
I already posted a link and photo to that same item previously in this thread. It's called the "Fiddle Fretter" and it works really well. I put it on my 4/4 4 string initially to try it out, and it worked really well. I then emailed him and had him "cut me one" to my specs for the larger 5 string fingerboard to try it out. It is a very good item, well made and you get two in the package, one is an obvious fret and the other a blend in stealthy fret type.
Here's a 4/4 4 string one on my 5 string for size comparison of the two fingerboards.
Dennis, the fretboard overlay is not the 'Woods' thing. It is an actual working fretboard that clips onto a violin's fingerboard. It's made of ( I think) ABS plastic. There are no actual frets though. What it has, if memory serves, is slight inclined ramps that build up to were the fret would be.
Kerry, I know it's not a Woods Violin thing. Mark makes his line of custom electric and acoustic electric violins both with and without frets. His are very expensive. (several thousand for the 5 or 6 string fretted electric Viper) Only the first post herein of mine had a pic of a woods fret board from Marks' 'Viper' violin he sells.. The photo above is my 5 string electric violin with the fiddle fretter appliqué applied... from Mr. Perter Stoney, he is the maker or inventor of the "fiddle fretter" and this is what you are referring to. I have 4 of Mr. Stoneys fretted fingerboards for violins. One size is for a 4/4 size 4 string and the other is for a 4/4 5 string violin. His address is Perter Stoney, PO Box 836, Windsor, Nova Scotia, B0N2T0, Canada and his web site is www.fiddlerfretter.com I have chatted with him several times.Also, FYI, the fiddle fretter appliqué does NOT clip on, it has a wax paper that you remove to expose a re-usable adhesive on it. After cleaning your fingerbopard with alcohol to remove any grease from fingerprints or rosin residue, ...You position it on the fingerboard firmly against the nut and align it with each side of the tapered fingerboard then press down well.
The 'fiddle fretter' doesn't have "ramps" as it has a flat fingerboard and tiny 'bumps' along it's length that are considered the frets although they are not separate and as you have said, they are probably ABS plastic or some other polymer that holds it own against playing and the abrasion of the strings against them.
I've been playing on them now for over a month and enjoy them very much. My violin partner now has one of her 4/4 4 string electric and when we jam together it makes for quite an electric show on www.streetjelly.com
I hope this clears things up.
Thanks for clearing that up Dennis. Your link does not work... Here is the site.