Mini Table Saw Conversion for CBG Fret Slotting or Crafts

Introduction: Mini Table Saw Conversion for CBG Fret Slotting or Crafts

About: I am a simple guy. I have been involved with Special Effect makeup, probuilding and other related interests for about 20yrs+. I enjoy woodworking projects such as guitar making, and projects on the lathe. R...

For my pursuit of making things easier and faster for working on Cigar Box Guitars or small crafts. I am limited

to what my shop electricity can handle. I have only a single pole 15A breaker. And when you add a full size table

saw that it just under that. then any thing bogging it down makes a draw on the circuit and will shut it off. So eariler this year I did an Instructable on cutting frets here...

This is my improvement to that. Plus this can possibly be used for smaller crafts as needed. I had an older Harbor Freight mini 18V cordless 5" circular saw. Been hanging around for a couple of years since my dad passed away. I was never gonna use it as intended like fence boards or other outside projects. I have better tools for those projects. So a light bulb came on to make this a mini table saw conversion.

The conversion parts of this, is that I am making this as a drop in tool for my existing router table. Take out the router and insert this and becomes a multi functional tool for a small space. HF has updated these saws quite a bit over the last 5-6 years. So not sure how it may apply to them now, but should be similar process looking at them online and in the stores. Just better constructed.

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Step 1: Saw Base Plate...

So my original thought was to make a whole new box and attach the saw to it, but yet again my shop is small and limit space that making a whole new tool was not gonna work, thus thats when one day working on a guitar I thought I'll make it a drop in tool which saves space and my box enclosure is already built for me.

I removed my Rockler router plate (Blue) from my Porter Cable plunge router. I had some scrap 1/4" tempered hardboard from a previous project. This would be perfect material to make the base. I had also thought about using 1/4" Plexi which would serve just as well and can be an option later if I choose too upgrade when this hardboard wears out.

I traced an outline of the Rockler plate to the top side of the hardboard using a thin lead mechanical pencil to get as close to exact as I could. I had removed the running plate from the mini saw so I could mark and drill my mounting holes for the bolts I wanted to use in red sharpie. Which were a tapered countersunk head. 1/4" - 5/16" is right size for this. I also used Lock nuts in case of vibrations, the nuts will not loosen over time.

With the outline made, holes marked and drilled, checked alignment, was good to move forward.

Step 2: Cutting Blade...

As one gets further into making guitars or Cigar Box Guitars, some will like the option to use a table saw. Stewart MacDonald is a guitar parts supplier., they have a blade that is specific for cutting fret slots, but its $90.00 and 6". Again I could use a full size table saw and couldn't see it being $90.00.

So I got on the computer an searched for blades of the same thickness .023. This blade is perfect for cutting fret slots, I found a listing for a jewelers saw blade fot just under $5.00 and $2.00 shipping. Since its made for metals like gold and silver, it stated can be used for used for woods as well....PERFECT !!

Blade is HSS 4" x .023 x 310 teeth. This mini saw has a 3/8" arbor. The saw blade has a 1/2" this will fit nicely with a slight adjustment centering.

Step 3: Electrics....

So now I had this great idea for the mini saw conversion. I got ahead of myself for a second and forgot about how was I gonna switch this on. Thought well I can clamp the trigger on from underneath, but thought this would be a bad idea in case I needed to turn it off fast. So I had to make an exterior switch.

I carefully removed the housing to make note of the wiring configuration and how its connceted to the battery and switch. I marked and cut the wires one at a time and added 20" of new connceting wire to run back n forth. I apologize for not getting more pics of the wires themselves. I used a 2 prong Radio Shack connector for easy plug n play.

The new switch will then be mounted to the side of the router cabinet, plus a quick disconnect added to remove the tool to put back in the router.

Step 4: Cross Cut Sled....

I took what I had left of the hardboard ( 1/4" ) and cut it to dim. 4"x18". I used some 1x4 doug fir. to make the rails. I purchased some aluminum U stock from Home Depot and will use as the top runner guide. I used another piece of Doug fir and sanded to fit just snug into the U channel but easy to run. Has no side give to it, so it will stay straight and its being pushed.

Once I had the saw hooked up again, I put a large tooth blade in to help cut the running channel of the sled. This was just right and will give a enough clearance to the jewelers blade.

Step 5: Final Fitment....Issues

So while making sure this can get into place as needed and when with no problems. After I adjusted the blade for more depth. I realized the battery/handle wasn't allowing me more room to play. I decided since this was going to be just this, a mini table saw. I took the housing apart again to find out where I can cut and rerun the wires. In the 3rd pic you see the red sharpie line, this is how far the battery stuck out and due to thickness of the table, would not adjust anymore upward. Cutting the handles seemed the best option for a drop in tool. Otherwise I ended up with inserting into place like you were threading on a soda cap.

As before adding the extended wires really helped to relax tension on them I had before cutting it. I'll mkae a small shelf for the battery to sit and be out of the way.

I made sure that anytime I messed with the wires I removed the battery as too not to fry and conncetions just in case. I used spade connectors and crimped to connect the wires together. I can unplug and area of wire as needed as my needs change or modify the setup for better access. But for now, I will stick with this.

Step 6: Project Finale...And Ready for Work.

In final, the project took me about 3 weeks, but in hours just a few days, since I only had limited time here and there and had to think a little on arrangements to be able to get the best out of this tool.

The sled glides across the table and since cutting the fret slots are not very deep, I am not really bogging the tool down in power. I am guess based on the heavy use I had used the saw a couple of times prior to this modification.

I image I'll be able to cut about 10 or more fretboards in a row. As you can see by the test cuts, they are cut straight, and clean, and depth was set just right to pound in a small piece of scrap fret wire.

These circular saws are average priced $40.00 at HF. And if you join their email newsletter, you can get some decent coupons. 20-40% off can make a project even more affordable. For me this project was fairly cheap since I had pretty much all of it. Jewelers Saw blade with shipping $7.00 ebay purchase, U channel $10.00 from Home Depot, Radio shack connector $2.00., and lock nuts and bolts less than a dollar.

Thanks for looking and hope this project helps to inspire another small shop project to help with your CBG builds or small crafts. Since I already had a router table built, and you need to build one. there are many sites that can help you figure the right size. Instructables will most like have something about making cabinets, you can also check out for woodworking projects. Also if you are interested in learning about making Cigar Box Guitars go to as well as for parts and ideas. A lot of vids on youtube can also get you started with building and playing.

Thanks for looking. GD

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    8 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    Link to Jewelers Saw blade please??


    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Hello Renzo_S, Sorry for the late, late reply. I did not have access to a computer for a long time. Most of my files i had saved were lost. Unfortunately, I do not think the company i got it from is no longer selling on eBay, unless they changed names. If you search for either 3" or 4" jewelers saw blade, you should find something similar. If you get it. I suggest adding some wide washers on each side of the blade to help stabilize it. You can see something similar to the fret saw blade from StewMac. They help the blade from wobble and steady. Here is something similar Make sure to find one that will work for the tang thickness of your fret wires. .023 to .026 is common i believe. Its been awhile. Thinner you may have to sand the fret slots. Hope that helps, again my apologies for late reply.


    3 years ago

    Same issue here, I have the saw and nothing to use it for,,, until now! LOL

    Thanks for this!


    4 years ago

    This is great"""

    How did you 'fix' the hole size difference in the arbor and the blade?


    5 years ago



    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    ThX, glad you like it. I was the same way. Had it floating around and doing nothing. Small cuts here n there. So when I got into guitar making, I figured this would be a awesome conversion for fret slotting. Of course, keep in mind it'll have its limits. But should still be usefull enough for thin small cuts. If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer as best I can or input. ThX again for checking it out.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done! A very precise custom jig for a specific use. Love stuff like this!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank You. I figured why let the tool sit and not be used since I have better tools for jobs it can do. I always like trying to reuse, or the other word I don't like - repurpose something that can help me in other ways. Thanks for looking at my How to.