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In Search of the Perfect Cone

In Search of the Perfect Cone

by Tim Earls

Originally published in American Lutherie #30, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004

I think I've got it. I have here an untested method of finding the exact, correct multiple radius for any given fingerboard using simple barnyard geometry and no computer. Danny Rauen and Tim Olsen wrote interesting articles on multiradiused, or conical, fretboards in American Lutherie #8. (See Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, p. 298.) Great stuff! Let’s talk about cones for a moment.

A cone is a tapered cylinder extended up to a point. Or a tapered cylinder is a cone with its point lopped off, take your pick. You knew that. Bear with me. In a two-dimensional view, this looks like Fig. 1. The circular base of the cone is seen as a horizontal line, since you’re looking at its edge. The height of the cone, what I call “true length” is measured on the centerline from base to point. The side line of the cone I call “true distance.” The radius at any spot on this cone can be found by drawing a horizontal line from the centerline to the true distance line and measuring it. You probably knew that too.

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