Fingerboard Geometry Part 2: Scoop vs. Radius

As seen in our survey results, scoop gaps along string paths and the cross profile radius were regarded as highest priority.

The model I am using to study their interaction is a grid of 3×3 points. Think of it as 3 smaller radii crosswise (usually around 42mm), and 3 giant arcs lengthwise (representing scoop gaps under G, E, and down the centerline).

FB radius v scoop gap-01

Each of the 9 points are connected to a cross radius and the lengthwise scoop radii, so trying to force definitions on all 6 radii doesn’t always work. That’s too many constraints, like saying, “I want a right triangle with sides of 2, 3, and 4.”

Here, I’ll define 4 of the radii completely, and show the relationship between the remaining two. All solutions along the graphed lines are geometrically compatible with the constraining dimensions specified in the subtitles (which are based on median survey results).


Middle crosswise radius vs Center-line scoop gap

FB radius v scoop gap-02

Option 1 (one radius all the way) from our survey is the only one where all crosswise radii are defined. But one of the three scoop gaps can’t be set to our target without changing the middle radius. In this case, with G scoop set to 0.75mm and E set to 0.25mm, the center-line gap comes out to 0.68mm, or 36% over our target of 0.50mm. 

If we instead prioritize our scoop gaps, setting them to 0.75mm, 0.50mm, and 0.25mm, we can calculate the middle radius out to 38mm, which matches our survey’s Option 3 (tighter radius in the middle).

Some survey participants have observed this phenomenon:

I’ve made fingerboards for respected [players] that prefer an even radius along the whole board, but there will wind up being more scoop on the center strings, which makes the string heights higher than the g string in the middle of the board.

Note that our target scoop gaps decrease linearly from G to E. Some makers intentionally skew the gradation of scoop gaps, reasoning that players may not perceive the larger gap due to similar tensions and diameters of the G and D strings. It is difficult to draw conclusions about scoop gap skewing trends from the survey, because responses were given to the nearest 0.25mm.

Below are a few other gap size permutations from our survey.

FB radius v scoop gap-03

Note that in every case with nut & bridge radii set to 42mm, for the centerline scoop size to be halfway between G and E, the middle radius always comes out 38mm. As the middle radius flattens from 38mm, the centerline gap skews toward G. The tighter the radius (<38mm), the more it skews toward E.


Crosswise radius of the nut vs middle

FB radius v scoop gap-04

Those who selected Option 4 (tighter radius at the nut) describe it as a section of a cone, with radius changing proportionally to the width of the fingerboard.

Option 2 (flatter radius at the nut) respondents did not give specific numbers about how much flatter. It turns out that gradually increasing the radius toward the nut as I had described in the survey does not produce a plausible solution for our given gap sizes. In general, for a flatter nut radius, the middle radius will still tighten relative to the bridge end.

As shown in Fig 2b, when a centerline gap size is halfway between G and E, the relationships between the crosswise radii are practically identical. Here is another way of looking at that:

FB radius v scoop gap-05



Here are some geometrically plausible dimensions:




The differences we are talking about are tiny (though maybe not to a player). Here’s what they’d look like under your 42mm radius template:


Have fun!!!!


Coming soon…

I will tell you how to go all Traité de Luthérie so you can resolve your own favorite dimensions! Or if you’re too lazy, I’ll give you an Onshape CAD file to play with.



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