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making partial frets

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I am finally building a Just Intonation neck (23 tone JI)

The problem is that I need a lot of partial frets under one or two strings to make it work. I have the blank fingerboard ready to go. I am in the mapping process, right now, trying to minimize the partials. Ideally, every fret should be separate for every string, ,but where they are close enough, I am going to run one fret under two or more strings. (No bending on this baby)

What will be the best way to install and dress these frets? I haven't even figured how to cut the slots yet. I might use a sawblade in a dremel, or I might try drilling two very small holes, at the ends of the fret, and use an abrasive wire to cut a slot between them. The middle of the slot could be finished with a dremel sawblade. If I just cut them in with the sawblade, I won't have a vertical edge, and I will have to trim the corners off of the tangs to make them fit. Another possibility is to make a very thin fretboard, and cut the slots right through it, and them laminate it onto another board and install it on the neck. Maybe laser cutting would work best.

Are conventional frets even the best way to go here? There won't be a lot holding them down, especially the ones up near the nut, which won't be more than a quarter to a third of an inch long. I was thinking of drilling holes at the ends of the frets, and forcing a "U" shaped piece of wire into it, like a staple. (Think resistors mounted on a circuit board) I would have to find a hard steel wire. Then I would probably use epoxy to set them.

Another possibility would be to put my two E strings together, and Make a pair of A strings together , and then my D and G strings separate. That way, I could run a single set of frets under the two E strings ,and a single set under the As. The only problem here is that the high and low strings are now all out of order. It might make chording easier, since I am going to have to invent a new chording system anyways, but runs would be harder to figure out in my head.

An even more drastic solution would be to make a guitar with EAEAEA tuning, and then slide the strings around so that they run EEEAAA, with the low ones on top, and thier octaves on the bottom. At least, there would be some sense of order there, and I would only need two sets of frets. (Octaves will give me the same notes as the fundamentals, so my E's can all be fretted the same.) That would mean some skipping around for runs, and some funny fingerings, but it might work.

Just thinking out loud here. Any comments will be appreciated.


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I would probably epoxy each one in, a little dab will do ya :D

When it comes to sloting you could use a very fine tip inlay bit and just route the area's where you want the frets, very time consuming but in the end it would look pretty clean and they make killer thin bit's for making slots.

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I just sold my 2 'American Lutherie' magazines of which one had a guitar with frets like you are talking about. It was either in issue #12 or #19. It might have been the baroque guitar, but I'm not sure about that. The fret-board had "T-slots" running lengthwise and each short piece of fret had a little metal "T" piece attached to the bottom so the frets would be able to slide onto the fret-board and I guess moved up and down the neck whenever needed . Each fret piece was slightly concaved to help keep the string from being pushed off it's edge (the ends of the fret piece were higher than the middle).

Give a guitar like this to a hard-core blues-bender and watch his head explode.

You wouldn't be able to get a little Dremel saw to be square to the fret-board at anyplace except maybe the first and last frets. Best way I can think of is to drill as many .022 (or whatever width you're after)holes in a row next to each other with that size drill bit (yes they make them, yes they break if you just look at them the wrong way), then "blend" them together with the Dremel rigged in a router-base and .022 (or whatever width you want) Dental burr,Like Brian says. You'll probably be breaking bits like hell. They are fragile when that small. I only have a couple left from the package of 5-6 that I bought and I didn't even use them that much. It can be an expensive way to go.

You can also make a very short .018-.020 saw blade by cutting off part of an exacto key-hole saw blade. You can use a hinge to hold it (clamp it tight in the hinge with some small nuts and bolts.

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Thanks Soapbar, I'll look that issue up.

I have used the drill bits you are talking about. My other hobbies include model car building, and Peanut scale flying models. I have drilled out many model car distributors and heads for spark plug wires with #80 bits! I break them too!

Thanks again,


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