# Designing a fanned fret system

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Alright, moving into a new thread instead of hijacking the other one--

Does anyone have any theories or experiences regarding coming up with a fanned fret system? I have a few theories, but I haven't even made a NORMAL fretboard, so the odds of me actually making one of my own are slim.

Also, I would like to add that I've been checking out Novax, who license their system for \$75 US. A letter from Bill Carrico, the General Manager, informs me that this includes not only the details (plans?) and instructions on incorporating the system, but also some personalized interaction with Ralph Novak himself, regarding your design, scale length, bias point (whatever that is! ), etc. For anybody that's interested in a fanned fret system, I would highly encourage them to check out the website (www.novaxguitars.com) for yourselves, and consider paying the license fee. I certainly am.

On to the point of discussion--

Premise 1 for the experiment: We will not be using a standard bridge, unless someone knows of something out there that will work. Instead, we will use a separate saddle for each string, which we can mount wherever we need it.

Premise 2: We will need to get our hands on some sort of long nut, since standard widths won't work, either.

Premise 3: We'll assume that we have the proper tools and jigs for cutting a proper groove at various angles.

Premise 4: The craftsman will mock this all out on cardboard first, rather than wasting his/her wood! ;-)

Premise 5: I have used fairly round numbers just to make the math easier... they're probably not the optimal scale lengths to use.

Now, I know for sure that I have some flawed logic here, since scale length isn't really an exact science, but let's take the following scenario and see what anybody thinks:

a) Set your low E so that it measures 26" from its slot on the nut to the contact point on its saddle.

Set your high E so that it's 24" from its slot to its saddle. The saddle will be moved up 1" closer to the neck compared to the low E. The nut will be angled so that the high E's contact point is 1" closer to the body compared to that of the low E.

c) At this point in time, the 12th fret will therefore be at a right angle. In other words, it will be 13 inches away from the nut on the low E, and 12 away from the nut at the high E.

d) Using a fret scale calculator, mark where the rest of the frets would go for the high E and the low E. Obviously, it would be tough to do this with enough accuracy (you can't just freehand it!), but we're still talking about theory. Connect the dots, which will result in a fanning shape.

The biggest obstacles I can see are:

-doing it with sufficient accuracy

-getting the bridge saddles in the right spot... we all know that following the directions above, the guitar won't intonate properly for us... hopefully the saddles will have enough wiggle room without having to completely re-attach them

-Figuring out what our starting point scale lengths should be, because I somehow doubt that our lives would be as easy as selecting 26 and 24. Maybe even a less radically fanned system would be worth considering-- 25.5" at the low E and 24.5" at the high...?

Anyhow, that's not a real 'plan' per se... mostly it's something that I was thinking about and this seemed like the ideal forum to do that thinking 'aloud' as it were.

Cheers,

Greg

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It started out as having 24.5" for the high E, because the high E sound "sweeter" with that scale, then 25.5" for the low E because it has a tight solid sound.

So, if you stay 1" apart with the two E's, you'll be doing it the way they've been doing it.

Extra long nut is nothing . Just get some Corian scraps for that.

I say life's too short for all this multi-scale stuff, since I've had guitars with almost every scale, and never had the desire to combine the scales.

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I think it has a lot to do with how comfortable your hand would be while playing note's in the arched swing from your wrist as well (if you can understand that). Well that and getting used to playing one......

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Yeah, I'm too old to learn how to play slanted chords. It would probably make me lose my balance and fall over.

I also wouldn't like to have to raise the action height on my high E string. 24.5" high E would have to be set up higher than a 25.5" high E.

There also might have to be some compromises with the amount of neck relief.

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I was (and still am) very interested in this concept. But I'm not going to attempt it until I've personally played on one of these fretboards and decide whether or not I like it. But the reasoning, as far as intonation goes, is sound. I know that the intonation system for regular fixed pitch instruments ie. guitars, is not perfect. Having a separate scale length for each string makes it so they (strings) are not dependent on each other where intonation is concerned. Anyway, here is a site I found on how to throw one together involving the use of 1/2" aluminum angle stock. Just measure out for the 2 outside strings and everything in the middle will fall into place.

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Just measure out for the 2 outside strings and everything in the middle will fall into place.

Yeah, I just posted something like that in my thread. No way I'd pay \$75 for something I could easily figure out. With me it's just cutting the slots I dread, especially Ebony, which I love using. I just think it would look cool, make the instrument look (and be) more expensive. Also, I'd have the nut level, like on a regular guitar/bass, it's the bridge where I'd have the low B of a 5/6 string 35", while the highest string would be 34".

Not sure if the stringswould even fit though...It looks like with D'Addario's the lower strings would have the fuzzy thread wrapping right at the nut. The bass I just finished is about 33.8 scale, because of an unforscene(sp?) bridge issue.

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I love the idea and am totally jazzed about trying it on an 8-string. Soapbarstrat is right about it not being really necessary on a 6 string. I have some guitars with both scales, and I like them each for what they are. But on a 7 or 8 you're trading too much off in either end. Either the lows are too flabby or the highs are too tight for classic soloing.

I met Ralph in the mid '90's and he's awesome. He's a total "nerd" as far as the science of it goes. He's dead right with all his conclusions, though. Except maybe the clang tone. He says people comment on the string to string clarity and depth within a chord and he attributes it in part to the reduction and displacement of the clang tone by the multiple scales. But guess what? He's using individual bridges and that alone minimizes crosstalk. Plus, the longer scale for the lows IS clearer. Not to mention a well built guitar doesn't hurt.

I've played them and if you don't think about it, you don't even notice it. If you look at your hand, as you extend your reach it fans out, so widening your reach as you go to the bass notes is a natural occurrence. Dare I say it felt more natural to play on, in that it seems more suited to our anatomy, and the expansion of our digits. The scale expansion was like a bonus. So don't anyone worry about converting. I was playing it "regular" with total success. You don't have to learn "angled chords."

What I'm still trying to figure out is that it would seem that you could pick any point as your "center point" where the frets meet. It just changes where your bridge is located. In other words, if you cared more about the low chords being natural than the high solo area on the low strings, you could have the "straight" fret be inthe 7-9 range. If you use the 12th, you'll have a more dramatic "fan" on the first few frets. That doolan pic looks like the first frets are almost in line and the fan is most apparent in the upper frets. I think on an 8 string, too large of a fan down low would make chording too difficult.

As for paying Ralph, he deserves it, and if I could press a button and make him rich, I would. But for me to try one 8-string (for myself, not resale) since I already know how to do it, and could do it with the tools and skills I already have. I probably won't pay him. Plus I'll be doing it my own way, regarding the "straight" fret, and the custom scales I'll use. Like I might measure for a 26" scale at the low B (string #7) and let the 8th string fall wherever that is along the trajectory. But my marking points would be on the B and high E.

By the way, when you said "can it be winged" in your post, I thought you meant could the scale expansion be "arched" in, like as an exponent. In other words, go from one scale to the next, but that the top three strings are less affected than the bottom ones. The scale extension would be progressive. Then I also thought of how you could have the first three strings be straight, say 25" scale, and then start the fan after that to get to a 26 by the low B. You'd need to CNC the fret slots and you'd have to custom bend each fret. I'm up for fretting it if anyone can cut the slots!

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As far as your winged idea goes, its seems to me like it would be possible to do 4 strings straight and 4 fanned, etc by slotting the two sections seperately and then gluing the two halves together. I guess it would be extremely difficult to get the fret slots to line up perfectly and getting the fretwire to bend exactly might be a hassle but it is definately doable without a CNC.

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I thought about that as I was typing. It's the curved ones that need to be CNC'd. I don't like the idea of a "split" fretboard that much, for stability reasons. I guess it would be okay, but with a double action truss rod the rod would be pushing up right at the split, or just a little to one side if it was a 7 string. You could also drill a little hole (3/32nds or so) a the junction for relief, and try sawing right in to that point by hand from each side. (one straight, one fanned) It would be a real pain though. Then you'd still bend the fret and there'd be some relief with that hole for the bent tang.

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Interesting,

I kind of figured that the theory was 'sound', but given how bizarre intonation issues are with a non-fanned system, I thought that figuring out the bridge position would be a bit trickier-- but even on the Novax website, if you look at the screen shots (maybe they're not 'set up' just to make the photos prettier...?) the bridge is pretty much a straight line between saddles, as well.

As for having 'multi scale', to be honest I never really thought of it that way. To me, the whole 25.5" vs. 24.75" thing is a fairly substantial argument over something that is essentially arbitrary anyhow. I'm sure when PRS moved to a 25" scale, many consumers (ie. non-luthiers) even thought, "I didn't know you could DO that!" without even realizing that the classic scale lengths aren't based on any particular science.

Instead, I think of the fanned system not as a way to have multiple scales on one neck, but rather to accomodate the natural shape of the hand, as Brian and Frank have already mentioned. Also, it would look kinda cool. Having tighter lows isn't such a bad idea, either.

I don't think that a fanned system of 25.5 - 24.75 would throw off your string guages enough to make them feel out of whack, but if one wanted to spend a bit of time and barely more money, one could assemble a custom set of strings and just buy 'singles' in bulk to keep the costs down.

Regarding Ralph/Novax-- interesting information there, Frank. Even just from exchanging a few e-mails with Bill, the GM, I'm convinced that Novax is a company that is more concerned with respect and getting the idea out there than just money. He even advised me that Allparts will be stocking Novax retrofits, for less than Novax sells necks for. Sure, they still see a portion of those profits, but not as much as a true Novax neck. Maybe I'm just too generous by nature (and have no head for personal finance! Hence, I'm broke) but \$75 doesn't seem like much when I shelled out more than that today to get my oil, wipers, and transmission line fluid changed in my car today, none of which are exactly difficult mechanical operations, and which I could learn if I were so inclined.

I guess it depends on your perspective-- there are people out there who would also say, "You paid \$200 for THAT small hunk of wood???"

Glad to know that my observation isn't half-baked, though... I'll take that as my first step into understanding the 'mysteries' of guitar crafting.

That 'winged' fret system sounds interesting, too. Since I haven't even fretted a normal fretboard, though, that kind of thing would be way out of my league.

Cheers,

Greg

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ok, ok, I'll quit being a grumpy old man about it. I hope I can try one out, but I'm too busy/lazy to make one.

Ralph is the first one I ever heard of using two different fret-wire sizes on the same neck. (heard that back around 1990)

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Just measure out for the 2 outside strings and everything in the middle will fall into place.

Not wanting to step on SouthPa's toes (because he knows FAR more than me) but as a matter of principle:

If you are drawing a line you should measure a minimum of 3 points and draw your line through them. That way you can easily see if one of the measurements is off as your line wont pass through all the points

Would it be possible to alter a mitre saw to cut the slots? Obviously the tang of the saw blade would need to be addressed, but if you could utilise the guides.......

Good luck with the projects guys

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Would it be possible to alter a mitre saw to cut the slots? Obviously the tang of the saw blade would need to be addressed, but if you could utilise the guides.......

There are blade with the correct kerf you can get for a table saw, I don't know if it would fit in a mitre saw.

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Kerf, that's what I meant, not tang........Nice one Lex

There ain't nothing that you can't do if you've got a big enough hammer

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