I am building a 21" scale cbg using the zero fret method for the first time. So last night, I finally get to the point putting one string (old guitar string I found while cleaning up the shop) on it to test tone and troubleshoot any problems. There was a little bit of buzz noise when I played it open. Then I tried to play the note in the first fret and it just "dank plunk dank" buzz sound. not even a musical note. same with second fret. The third fret is a bit cleaner and then down the fretboard from there it is fine.
The frets on this git are narrow low (like mandolin/banjo style). The zero fret is medium/medium. The frets appear to be seated properly. I am open to any suggestions for fixing the issue. so far, everything I have done is to no avail. Thinking of pulling the zero fret and building a nut and replacing the frets with medium/medium.
Even if the frets are seated properly one fret could be slightly higher than the others. A fret rocker or another short straight edge can often identify which fret it is. From your description I'm gonna guess it's fret #4. Sometimes slightly raising the action at the bridge can help but often I'll have to remove the offending fret, clean out or deepen the slot and replace fret. Other times I've simply filed the high fret down and re shaped the crown. The zero fret is rarely the culprit. Very handy tool here to help with these problems.
Don't give up on the zero fret. There are many (including me) who use it exclusively.
The trick it to find the reason for the buzz and fix it.
First: Have you leveled the frets? Use a sharpie to color the top of all frets then use a flat piece of metal (like a 3 ft level) with some 400 grit glued to it to check that all frets are level with one another.
Second: How high is the action at the first fret? If it is less than 0.020" you will likely get some buzzing. Try setting it up around 0.30" for a test. You may have to shim under the zero fret to get the action up enough to test.
Third: if there is no buzzing with one strings, but buzzing when fretted (after leveling the frets) then raise the bridge a bit and re-check.
If you used a fret for the zero fret, it may be difficult to raise the action at the nut end. That's why I use a piece of music wire for the zero fret. That way I can change action height just by putting in a different diameter piece of music wire.
It's normal to have to do some tweaking after first stringing a build. Work through it methodically and you'll find the core issue and fix it.
That's a very nice looking zero fret Tom!
Thanks, Jim. It's actually an evolutionary thing. One of the first ones I did was by cutting a fret slot at the zero position, then placing a piece of music wire across the slot. A simple fret slot is enough to hold the wire once strings are installed.
That approach might work for Bamma Jelley if he heeds to raise the action at the first fret. The nice thing about using music wire is that you can change action height without making any permanent changes. Lets you play around with action height til you find something you like.
Hmm, I'm not exactly sure music wire is but I've done the same thing using various size finish nails.
Not sure why it's called music wire. It's a high carbon spring steel that is used a lot in hobby and craft projects. The nice thing is that is comes in a lot of different diameters.
Jim and Tom,
Thanks for all of the practical suggestions and encouragement to keep working through the issue. I will spend some time in the shop tonight and work through some of them. I don't recall having this bad of an issue with my previous builds and have never done any extensive fret leveling, so I was quick to blame it on the zero fret, but you guys are right that it is not the likely cause of the issue.
First, I will measure the action to the first fret (with feeler gauges?) and then if around .02, I will pull the current fret and replace with a medium/high. Then I will start checking them with an improvised rocking tool (small metal straight edge) to identify the culprit. Then I will work on leveling the rest of them.
This is what is so great about the cbg nation. I was really frustrated yesterday when I posted this and was ready to give up on it. But by sharing your ideas and encouragement you have adjusted my attitude and I am now excited about this build again.
I will post updated results asap.
Also, to Tom, that is a pro setup on your zero fret. I might try that next time instead of my current method.
Hope you get it figured out. I've been frustrated by this same problem in the past and haven't always solved the problem to my satisfaction. There are a few times I've made it better to where the fret buzz isn't as bad but there are still mysterious (to me) forces at work that make one build great with nothing to fix and the next build one headache after another. I usually blame it on a full moon or sunspots, lol.
I'm forecasting that by Monday, you'll have it all sorted out.
I worked on the frets over the weekend and replaced the zero fret with a taller fret and leveled the frets as suggested. I found 6 high frets on the git using the rocker method to identify. The main culprit was the 2nd fret and 3rd fret. It is not completely buzz free now, but is much better. being that these frets are so low already, I am scared to file them down any more. Thanks for all of the help!
Good to hear that you've almost sorted it out. At this point you might try shimming the bridge up ever so slightly and it may get rid of the last bits of buzzing.