I just saw a YouTube video entitled "Don't Radius Your Fret Slots!" by a guitar maker. He has both acoustics and electrics in the background in his shop. He said if you cut your fret slots parallel to the bottom (fretboard side glued to the neck), and then radius the fretboard, it will cause "dead frets" due to the dead air cavity between the arc of the installed fret and the deeper straight slot cut in the fretboard. See attached sketch

Every manual-cut fret slot saw system I've seen cuts the slot straight and parallel to the fretboard bottom surface. I ask because I'm thinking of building an acoustic dreadnought based on the build steps shown and described in R. M. Motolla's book, "Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar," which employs the straight slot/radiused fret method.

I have a difficult time, indeed, believing Mr. Motolla, and every luthier supply house is prescribing a method that will produce dead frets.

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Hi again Mike. I have so many books, and saved articles that it's not funny, maybe because I started my journey before the days of Google, come to think of it before the days of video, and books with glossy photos. Hahaha. I even have # 1 to present issues of the Guild Of American Luthiers Journals.

I reckon each book or publication gives one something else to think about, something else to try.

Last month I took the time to catalog all the tools, machines, and jigs I had made for myself. I already had a file of photos of them all.  Some were made out of necessity, some because I could not afford the factory version, and at times due to the item not being available at all. 

I started going through the catalogs of luthier suppliers and listing the item along with its cost, not including freight. The final score was 97 items. Some were small costing only $20 or so while others were listed up to $700. Adding all that up I got a figure of over $1200.00.

As time went by I replaced some of my shop-made tools and machines with commercially available stuff, like the shop-built table saw and thickness sander, that I used for ten years before updating.

Oh, that does not include all the special tools and jigs used in Orchestral instrument repair.

Enjoy your journey.


I enjoyed reading your post, Taffy. But I realized I started a new thread on tools, didn't I? But I'm as excited, or more, about building some tools as I am about the guitar build. And I know the tooling will make the build so much easier and accurate, just as it does building an airplane! In aerospace, every tool is for a specific configuration, although tools can be modified for similar configurations by adding features, or precluding others.

Anyway, I see guitar tools and think that would be a snap to make, as easy as filing a template to within + or - .01 and using the router table to make multiple headers and making an assembly. 

Looking back, that tooling work was maybe the best job of my life, certainly the most satisfying. And as you demonstrated, a real gold mine.

It's been fun,


Great tools are nice, but don't forget that a simple tool can do the same job as well as an expensive or complicated one. In my repair shop, clamps and a collection of cauls from offcuts of wood are the most commonly used tools. You can do a lot of things with a sharp knife. The most used machine in my shop is probably my vacuum cleaner or my coffee maker :-)


So true about the clamps, and they're the first thing I've thought about making.

Great point you make. Cauls are not a use and toss thing.  A caul is worth doing right and saving for next time. They should be made to work well, labelled, and saved like any other tool.



I do have some special cauls that I reuse, but most of the time when I have a problem to solve, I use a combination of random bits of wood that I keep in two boxes, one with big offcuts and one with smaller ones. I also have a small plastic container with tiny pieces of wood and a selection of random-sized plywood offcuts. You can do wonders with clamps and cauls :-)

The big offcuts are a bit more organized, I like to have 4 pieces with the same measure.

At the risk of re-hijacking the thread ... you do get dead frets on electric bass guitars , but it is a function of the resonance of the wood , as far as I can tell .

Thanks, Len. I think the guy in the video was holding an electric guitar, and I saw several in his shop. I also saw a couple of acoustics. Since he didn't limit his advice, I assumed it applied to both. In further research, though, there are some mentions of it happening on electrics, with no mention of acoustics. So, in distilling most of the advice here, and what I've read, the glue to fill the cavity appears to be considered for securing the frets. I've got quite some time until I'll be doing fret installation and I'm a zealous researcher, so I'll be comfortable with whatever technique I use.


Hi again, I just noticed a typo in my earlier post. The amount saved over many years was $12000.00, not 1200 as stated.


Taffy, I have no doubt about that. $1200 seemed too low for all the tooling you've made. $12,000 is a LOT of money, but is accurate, I'm certain. By the way, what did you do with all that money you saved, take a long vacation to tropical islands?

Hi Mike I could show some of the high-dollar tools I have made or built but I don't want to highjack this/your dead fret thread. 


Oh, Taffy; I'd love to see those tools, as would many others, But at my age it seems I've only got one, maybe guitars in me. Maybe more if we sell our 2 acres as planned in a year or so and I can find the time. Sounds like you're a wealth of experience and knowledge.



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