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Zero Fret Nut

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That damn red cordial :D

I'll leave this thread open for now, but unless it throws up anything groundbreaking in a day or so I'll probably delete it. Feel free to bump old discussions if you want to raise any new questions - it keeps all the info in 1 place.

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If you look close enough, and enlarge the photo like I had to, you can see

what is either the outline of fret tang or a slot that has been filled. (second fret)

And yes , I did squint. :D

Edited by oz tradie
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The tangs are nipped, and the ends of the slots are filled. It's hard to say what they're filled with, because the light is reflecting from the edge where the fill would be, but I'd guess either with CA or a clear material, a small piece of maple, or a mixture of glue and maple dust.

I do this on unbound guitars (if my blank isn't wide enough to rip off some invisible binding). I undercut the fret ends, and after fretting I CA glue a tiny bit of wood into the ends of the slots. I get the pieces by taking a *VERY* thick shaving from an off cut, then splitting this into strips about .5mm x 2mm by 1 inch long. I get about 6 or 8 strips from a shaving. At each fret end I drop CA into the slot, then tap in the offcut, and snip it off with my fret nippers. I position the piece so it is seated against the bottom of the slot, and the bevelled edge of the fret trims it to the perfect size for the hole :D

A little clean up with a file and the result is nearly invisible - 99% with ebony, maybe 70% with RW, haven't tried maple. It's more work than ripping off a binding strip and reattaching it after slotting, but it's a nice solution if you have a pre-slotted board or a narrow blank.

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After playing a guitar with a zero fret now for about 6 months (how long ago did I actuall *finish* building that?) I'm still at a toss up. It does make the job of nut slotting a little bit easier. But after you've done a couple, that doesn't seem to be too hard a job.

But tone-wise, I'm not sure. It's not really *that* different. I mean, an open note still sounds slightly different than a fretted note, the same way that an open "a" string sounds different than a fifth-fretted "a" on the low e string. It does sort of even out the tone a bit, but it's a subtle difference that I think would be noticed more on an acoustic than maybe anything else.

It just seems that the major difference between open and fretted notes was the amount of string vibrating more than what it was vibrating against. Or something. Maybe it's the fact that an open note doesn't have your meaty paws clamping down on the strings behind it.

I don't have golden ears or anything, and this guitar hasn't been changed from one to the other, so I can't really compare, but there's nothing jumping out and going "wow, listen to that zero fret". Open chords are still louder than full bar chords, certain notes are tonally different than others, and if it really gets to you, you grab a compressor and fiddle with the EQ on your rig. The guitar certainly doesn't sound more "metallic" or anything. I'd like to think that when I drop an open string pedal/drone note into a lead riff, that it sounds slightly more even, but I think that's simply practice on my part, I've simply learned to alter my picking dynamic better.

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I have a zero fret on my old Hofner archtop --- I love to play that guitar...

The main point of a zero fret is that the action at the nut is where it's supposed to be, at least, that's the theory behind them from what I've read. The effect on tone is a secondary issue, and frankly on an electric guitar I'm not so sure how great the difference will be. Although it seems to me that it's a good thing if the guitar maintains the same basic sound throughout the neck --why should those "frets" (the open strings) sound different from the others?

So I'm going with zero frets for my current builds...besides, they look cool --you can do some fun things with the string guide too, look at what Klein guitars do with theirs:


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