GF as a tool maker

I’ve seen a lot of fantastic “Made on a GF” products. And over the years have pumped out many thousands of relatively simple items entirely with my GF. But from the very first day my plan was to use the GF as a tool maker, not a primary tool. Have created a lot of jigs and templates that have made my other hobbies so much easier.

I recently completed my first made from scratch open back banjo. Am amazed at how well it turned out. Feels, looks and plays excellent. Obviously this project could not have been completed using the GF as the primary tool. I used planers, belt and oscillating sanders, bandsaw, drill press, router and many hand tools. But the GF was the tool I used to prototype jigs, forms, make templates, and score a very precise fret layout.

Prototyped a jig to cut the banjo neck to rim joint.
Template for making a rim form and steam bending form
Template for the neck profile
Template for layout of fret positions
Used the GF to score fret position directly on the Richlite fret board.
Template for peghead and heel cap
Template for fretboard shape
Template for fretboard position markers
Prototype parts for the dowel stick drilling jig

Working on my 2nd banjo now. Have some additional ideas where best to use the GF.


That’s beautiful.


Hansepe beat me to it…it IS beautiful!


Hey Rick, The company should feature that, if it aligned with your feelings.

Excellent work man. Most impressive. :+1:

What’s up with the folded cloth in the drum? Tuning?


I play old-time music. It seems to me that a bluegrass banjo is set up to be as loud, tinny and obnoxious as possible. Old-time banjo is more plucky, almost percussive in nature. The rag helps to deaden the overtones. Kind of an echoing sound.


Very impressive! A great example of what I am always preaching. If you can’t make it directly make the guide or template.
If I didn’t have a shaper origin as well I’d end up making a lot more templates.


Used my X-carve to make the steam bending forms but did the layout and sizing on the GF first. No matter how much I look at a design on the computer, I need to touch it to understand what’s wrong.


You said a mouth full right there! That is why I hate to farm work out. If there is anything wrong in my design I won’t know until it is too late.


Probably one of my favorite uses for the machine is making tools :slight_smile: this banjo turned out amazing. Kinda blows my mind when people can create things like that.


This is truly and beautifully amazing, Rick!


Amazing work!


Do you have a video of the sound? I would love to hear it. Amazing project


I would also love to hear this beautiful instrument. Thanks for sharing how Glowforge fit into this project.


Wow, outstanding! It’s really a fine looking instrument. You need to upload an audio file so we can hear the sound.

Hey Rick, I’ve got one of those Richlite fretboard blanks I bought back in the day, hoping to be able to cut it in my GF. I got a small piece at the same time to experiment on. I’m convinced there’s nothing I can do with it, so I’d be glad to send you the fretboard if you can use it.


That’s a Steve Martin worthy banjo…beautiful.
For those of you that don’t know, Steve Martin, funny man, is probably one of the top 2 or 3 banjo players in the world.


I bought the Richlite at the same time you did. Tried some test fret cuts 2 years ago but it was unusable because I needed multiple passes and ended up with a wide kerf. So I forgot about it until now.

For this project I shaved the Richlite to the correct thickness on a dimension planer. Then cut it to the approximate width and length on the table saw. At first I used the GF to cut a fret spacing template and marked fret positions on some scrap to practice. Wow, that stuff is hard and my hand cuts were ugly. I thought about making a saw guide with the GF but then I realized the fretboard was only 19 inches long and would easily fit inside the laser. The GF made perfectly placed computer controlled score lines in the Richlite to guide my fret saw. Worked perfect.

Now that I have the process down I can repeat. And still have another blank piece of material. But the reality is that I have a new source for Richlite with pre-cut banjo fret slots at a price less than the blank material originally cost me. Of course if I need to build an instrument with non-standard fret spacing I’ll use the GF to lay things out.


All I can say is WOW. Great job!

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:smiley: I know what you mean but this just struck me as funny. An audio clip (mp3 or wav file) would work too. But a video of the sound…:slightly_smiling_face:


I had no idea that was a thing.

Banjo neck lengths vary a lot as do the pot size. Mostly personal preferences, and some effect to the sound. The length of the strings to the bridge on a full size banjo might be anywhere from 22"-28". There is a complex mathematical formula to determine fret positions for the chosen scale length. Luckily there are web based calculators to do that.

I can take the resulting numbers and create very precise score lines in Inkscape.