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.
OK, I've collected some wood and started to assemble and do some 'en-route' engineering along the way as I see potential issues pop up.
Here's a few pics of the initial build on the fretting jig for violin, viola, and possibly cello fingerboards. I have an order for some fingerboards of various sizes on the way but won't show for several more days so the top adjustable saw fence won't be constructed until I get the boards and the saw I'm going to use. I have the frets already and they seem to be exactly what I had envisioned using. So, officially started and I'll post more as it goes along.
"Initial board inventory, $20. worth of Maple, Alder, and Birch. plus the frets and some assembly hardware.
Layout of the bottom attachment hardware inserts. The solid pencil line at each end will be the cut off point. The end screws only help to hold things together while I drill for the permanent fasteners.
Inserts going in. These are brass obviously and 1/4-20 UNC thread internally. Don't use the power on the drill press to install them, just a firm downward force and use an end wrench to turn and screw them into the hole. They fit perfect in that hardwood without any glue being used.
The top edges have been rounded with the router and the pivot holes have been drilled in both the slide board and the sides. The stainless 1/4-20 UNC stud is for alignment and temporary assembly.
The layout is done for the clearance area of the saw blade. Clamping the two side rails together insures a common cutout.
STAGE ONE completed.
Well, the JIG is pretty much finished except for whatever pops up after I've used it on the real deal. Here's the pics of the brackets for the board hold-down clamps I fabricated and a few pics of the first victim....a flat board sample of shop scrap maple sanded to get a radius on the edges (not quite like a violin but close enough for the first testing cuts).
Here's the scrap fingerboard I cut. The cuts were clean and very easy to get right on the mark.
Here's the "fiddle fretter" next to the cut maple scrap board. Perfect match up.
I then decided to 'burn' one piece of fret material to see how it would lay in there and one pearloid dot to get a feel for the minute detail and difficulty of working with such tiny pieces. Nothing like those big dots on a guitar board!
I also had to fabricate a fret bender because most of them won't bend into the 42mm radius required for a violin fingerboard at the bridge end.
Here's a video showing my scrap Maple fingerboard I quickly shaped and did a practice on to see if everything was going to work out ok. It seems to be working exactly as I had imagined.
Here's the fret bender in operation
The pictures show a test piece of fret wire installed... seems to be quite acceptable. I would normally install the pearl dots before a fret so I could level them and finish sand the board but this is just a sample fingerboard I shaped quickly for a fun test.
I dig the horseshoes in the concrete!
That would be our family cattle brand. My dad made that when he built this smaller shop many many years ago.
I have now made the first fretted fingerboard from my DIY fingerboard of Home Depot maple cabinet scrap! LoL
Here's a few pics of the process after the slots are properly cut.
First the DOTS go in, then sanded flat and then the slots are checked to make sure they are all the proper depth still. The fret is rolled to a radius less than the 42mm of the fingerboard curve and then using a small arbor press, then are gently pressed in using a block of wood for surface protection.
I left the ends of the frets long so I could ttrim easily and pressed all of them in using the same block and they seemed to go very evenly and very nicely. I sanded them, shaped the edges and polished the ends over for smoothness. Now comes the final process, polishing and re-crowning from the leveling operation.
I'll post a few more pics after I do the board swap on the 5 string violin.
A friend of mine said I should put some binding on the fretted fingerboard because of my tuner peg headstock that looks like a miniature Fender guitar, so I decided to postpone the glue up and do some nice cocobolo and maple binding with 1.5mm side dots. Coming along nicely. Will probably glue it up solid in the next 2-3 days if work allows me the time.
The fret in the close-up pic has a really wide flat on top. Have you done further crowning on the frets to round off this flat ? Can't really tell from the other pics if you have or not.
Yes, they have had about 3 hours of re-crowning work done. the reflection is deceiving, they are all nicely rounded.
Well dang-it, since you're gonna' post the shots, I guess it's all up for getting a comment or two?
Here goes... the very last fret looks misplaced. It could be an optical illusion but the last fret appears to be too close to the next-to-last one.
Granted, they all get incrementally closer, but the close distance between those last two appears to be inconsistently so. Just my (unasked-for) two cents.