Fretwork, when carried out in good materials from good designs, can be highly artistic, especially when it embraces inlaying and overlaying with metals, xylonite and other hard substances which the fretsaw is able to deal with. To carry it out in a pleasing manner requires a good deal of practice, and much care.

The Outfit. Nos. 1, 2, and 3 are the sizes most widely used. For hand-cutting the saw is held in a haul-frajne , which should have tightening screws in both the handle and the top arm, and measure 12 to 14 inches from and enables cutting to be done to any saw to back. Bevel. The last quality is invaluable Anyone who intends to do much work in connection with inlaying.

May well invest in a treadle-saw which, As holes should always be drilled, not being worked by the feet, leaves both bored with a bradawl, the outfit must hands free to guide the wood. beginner to achieve; cuts much quicker; For hand-cutting a cutting-table, which can be clamped to the edge of an ordinary table, is essential. One measuring 12 inches by 9 inches will be suitable, and is easily made at home. Two slots are sunk into the rear end, so that the top of the clamps, which pass through holes at the inner ends, shall be below the surface.

Other accessories are: wire-cutting pliers, carbon paper for tracing, very small brass screws and wire nails, liquid glue, fine glass-paper, and a few special fretwork files.


The usual thickness for ordinary small work is fs inch; and for larger work inch, inch or inch. For overlaying, select ,lT inch or inch.

Satin walnut takes first place among fretwoods in popularity, on account of its pleasing brown colour, soft grain and cheapness. Its one fault is its liability to warp. It can be obtained in good widths. The favourite dark wood is dark walnut, a richly-coloured wood, hard, but not difficult to saw. Birch is an excellent wood for medium tints. Holly wood is very pure white and the best for use in overlaying. White chestnut is a very fair substitute for holly, and a good word may be said for white maple. Figured oak is handsome and suitable for large work, but needs very careful cutting and cleaning. For small articles one may select satinwood among yellow woods. It is close grained, slow to cut, and expensive, but very handsome. In the last three respects it resembles rosewood, the most beautiful of all the hard woods.

Silverwood, so generally useful in fretwork, is maple or sycamore stained a very pleasant silver-grey. Plywood, if specially prepared for fretwork, with all plies of the same colour, is useful, on account of its toughness, for intricate and delicate work. But ordinary plywood should be avoided for high-class work.

Boards exposed to alternations of heat and moisture are very likely to warp.

Do not soak them when attaching removing a pattern. A warped board should be damped on the hollow side and have its rounded side held near a fire it straightens out, when it should, be under pressure to dry.


There is little excuse nowadays for working to bad designs, as the amateur has a wide choice of good ones. A good design will leave no very weak places in the fret; has artistic merit, based on graceful outlines; and, when executed, will leave the worker in possession of article which is at least nice to look at, may be practically useful as well.

Designs are lithographed on thin A design may be pasted direot to the wood; or, if required again, be traced to the wood with carbon paper.

Pasting enables the worker to cut direot from the original and not from a copy, at the cost of destroying the pattern. When pasting, be careful neither to moisten the wood sufficiently to make it warp, nor to distort the design when rubbing the paper flat. Use flour or starch paste – not gum, applying it rather to the wood than the paper, and rub down quickly. A little adhesive applied to the back of the wood will balance moisture the side.

Tracing a design is tedious work, it saves removing the paper, and leaves the design uninjured. Pin the design of a piece or pieces of carbon paper as large as itself, and use a sharp pencil. Circles and arcs, etc., should be drawn with compasses and all straight be ruled.

Whether pasted or traced, design should have its larger dimensions in the direction of the grain, to minimize warping troubles. And, if one side only of the fret will be visible, have the design on better surface, so that the burr left by the saw shall be on the worse and unseen side.


Clamp the wood to the bench or a piece of waste wood. Locate holes in the waste near convenient points or angles. Hold the drill quite vertical; and keep it running while drawing it out of the wood. This will prevent the drill-point being snapped. After drilling, sandpaper the wood free of the roughness left where the drill has come through.

Adjusting the Saw

A saw is fixed in the frame with its teeth pointing downwards, the direction in which a fret-saw should cut. The saw should be securely gripped in the clamps, for tightening which a big nail or a pair of pliers is used, and be well stretched. A slack saw is much more likely to break than a taut one. The beginner must be careful while and after clamping the bottom end of the saw after passing it through the wood, as a careless movement may snap it.

Cutting by hand

Tilting the saw side-ways bevels the cut; tilting it forwards or backwards damages angles. It must therefore be kept vertical to get clean work, and to do this will tax the beginner, who is strongly advised to practise on simple designs before attempting anything elaborate.

The strokes must be even, short, and gentle. The part being cut is kept above the V in the cutting table, and the more delicate it is, the closer should the saw be to an edge of the V. The work is turned to meet the saw, but most of the steering is done by the worker.


When a treadle saw is used, the saw cannot alter its position, and if the cutting-table is adjusted correctly the cut is always vertical. The work has to be both fed up to the saw and guided by the hand. The beginner is cautioned against running the saw too fast when cutting thin or soft wood.

Hints on cutting

Accuracy of cutting should always be striven after. The worker must never forget that the finished article is the part left in, not the part cut away. The saw must therefore always be in the waste, but as close up to the pattern as it can be kept.

When cutting circles or ovals the saw should approach the cutting line at a very acute angle, so as to enter it neatly . To start a square or triangle the saw may begin at a corner .

In hard cutting special care must be taken when sawing delicate parts, which should be kept above the circular hole at the apex of the V m the table. Do not press the saw hard against the wood where there is danger of snapping; and be on guard against leaving a heavy piece of waste hanging on to a weak neck.

Here the shaded scrolls are connected by narrow necks with the rest of the design. If in cutting one out the saw is started at X and carried round to Y and Z in the direction of the arrows, a large piece is left hanging on to the scroll.

When the cut is completed from Z to X, the weight of the waste will tend to pinch the saw, and the friction may snap the neck. The proper course is to cut from Z to X first, and then from X to Y and Z along the arrows, thus separating the fragile part from the waste before the latter can do any harm.

In large work one is often up against the difficulty that the work cannot be turned through the frame of the saw. Suppose that the cut way of IJ and K. is started at H and carried to IJ K and Corners and Points. When a saw has

L. When an attempt is made to turn the cut into a corner, it is the best practice saw or the wood so that the line L-H to approach the angle along the converging may be cut, the wood and frame come into fines in turn, as this produces a perfectly contact, and the saw has to be worked clean corner. If, however, it is not pos- back to H, for the final cut to L. The sible to do this, the saw must be turned in the corner after the completion of one cut, it back into the correct line for the second to take up a new direction. In such a case cut. Carelessly-cut corners and points the saw should be moved slowly up and mean much cleaning off with the file down without cutting till the turn has been to get things right.

Like stencils, frets are held to- When cutting a point or outside angle, gether by ties. But whereas in a stencil the saw, after ninning up to it along one the cut-out part is the design, in fretwork-side, should be carried on into the waste it forms the design. Consequently sten and describe a circular course which brings cil ties divide the design, while fretwork t ties bind it together, and give it mechanical strength. In cutting, their importance should always be kept in mind,

When working up to them the saw must not be carried too far into the corners, or the ties will be weakened. On the other hand, they will be too thick and appear clumsy if the saw stops too soon.

In many designs ties take the form of intersections and form part of the ornamentation. When approaching an intersection the eye must be kept on the continuation of the line beyond it, for any lack of continuity of lino will be very obvious.

Duplicate cutting

Two similar frets can be cut simultaneously if two pieces of wood are nailed together and treated as a single piece, which for hand-cutting should not exceed inch in thickness, though stouter work may be sawn on a treadle machine. The pieces should be nailed firmly, outside the edges, and here and there through the waste, to prevent vibration and ragged cutting.

Though duplicate cutting is slow work, in the end it saves a good deal of time in tracing, drilling, and shifting the saw. It a!so in some cases avoids the expense of buying two copies of the design. But hand-cutting requires special attention to keeping the saw vertical, as any slant will produce dissimilarities in the two frets.

Removing the pattern

A pasted-on pattern should be removed by sandpapering, rather than by damping, as moisture promotes warping and roughens the grain.

Used as a corrective, filing is a sign of faulty cutting. But on some woods it is needed for removing the ragged edges left by the saw.

When using a file, be careful to hold it squarely to the work, so as not to round off the sharp edges of the fret. A set including all these shapes will cope with angles, curves and straight lines.

After filing, the work must be thoroughly rubbed with fine glass-paper, wrapped round a flat rubber, which is along the grain always, never across. Next, the edges of all openings require attention. Fibres left where the saw has cut along the grain are removed by folding a strip of fine glass-paper round a strip of thin wood and using this as a file. This job must not be scamped, as the general appearance of a fret will be marred if edges are left ragged.

A final rubbing of the sides with well-worn glass-paper completes the cleaning process.

Freticork joints. They are cut with the fret-saw as part of the actual design.

The halved joint is used for joining the sides of boxes and other four-sided articles, or for uniting two parts centrally. The mortise and tenon is employed for fixing upright parts to a base. Cut close and glued, they make a very strong joint. The tenon should be cut a bit long, so that after glueing it may be planed down neatly. The lap joint is a favourite for the back edges of a corner bracket. The dovetail joint for holding two parts together edge to edge and in the same plane.

Staining and Polishing Fretwork

Staining is seldom needed, as woods are generally chosen for their natural colour. If done, it must be followed by polishing. Varnishing should be avoided for finishing small work, though it is often employed for large work, such as screens.

Wax polishing is the easiest and most FRETWORK

FRETWORK satisfactory for amateur use. The polish, which consists of 6hredded beeswax dis-solved in turpentine till of the consistency made by raising raw or boiled linseed oil almost to boiling point, and adding about an eighth part of its bulk of turpentine (3)

D) I a 3 4. & Q of soft butter, is applied with a brush or rag, and well rubbed with flannel or chamois leather. The surfaco produced is marked by water, but can be restored quickly by a part application of the polish. Oil polishing gives beautiful results and a permanent surface, but needs a very great deal of elbow grease. The polish is after it has cooled. Many applications, with the aid of felt or flannel wrapped round a wood block, and bouts of rubbing are needed, as the oil keeps sinking in, before a good surface is produced.

Fretted oak articles can be darkened by exposing them to the fumes from liquid ammonia in a sealed box.

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