A fifty year old fret saw…

I have been making guitars for over ten years now, but never had the pleasure of owning my own fret saw…

How to do such a thing? Simple, just make a lot of instruments with tied frets, like lutes and baroque guitars.


To tell you the truth I have made most electric guitars using the fret saw at my former job. And there it was only to deepen the grooves in the pre-slotted fingerboards they bought…

For one of my current projects I couldn’t postpone it any longer. But the quality of the saws I used before just left a lot to wish for. For one they all cut on just one way. For the back saw like the one above you can determine the direction yourself, but it’s regularly used on the push stroke. The Japanese model of Stewmac is fine if you occasionally make a guitar, but it gets dull very fast.

The local hardware stores only carry cheap models with hardened teeth. With nice soft grip handles they look great, But these toys are not even sharp enough to slice butter.

A while ago my neighbour at the shop gave me an old back saw, telling me it once belonged to his father and he had used it as a child.  He’s now well in his sixties so this gave an approximate age of the saw. This little saw reminded me of another one just like it. I found it in my grandfather’s workbench years ago. It lay in a box in the back of my shop, waiting to be re-used as a card scraper. Its handle would find a new purpose on some other tool.

AnvilWhen I looked it up it had a nice surprise. The teeth were set and ground for cutting on both the pull- and the push-stroke. But the big surprise came when I measured the blade: 0,6 mm ! Exactly the right width for a fret slot…

FileBut before it could be used as a fret saw some work had to be done. I reverted the set of the teeth on a little railroad anvil (yes, every luthier needs an anvil). And sharpened the teeth with a triangular file. Two holes, a plexiglass depth guide and a couple of nuts and bolts later I had this…

A fifty year old fret saw...

A fifty year old fret saw…

On the right you see another little device, a guide block with a sliding bevel. It helps to guide the saw while cutting the fret slot.

Fret guide . Fret saw

The guide is held in place with a clamp. Slight tapping with a hammer helps to position it exactly.

To me restoring and using an old tool adds something. Nothing in monetary value, but all the more in quality and care.

This entry was posted in Tools, Uncategorized, Woodworking, Workshop and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A fifty year old fret saw…

  1. meubeluniek says:

    Die diepte aanslag is voor mij nieuw. Ik heb idd ook wel een toffelzaag gebruikt. Zetting terugslaan en ik had hem ook nog wat dunner geslepen….Leuk blog Jan!

    Liked by 1 person

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