Hi folks. So I've built two 3-string box guitars so far and I've used a bolt as the nut both times. But each time I used nails as the frets and just glued them down after putting on the strings. This way I could use a guitar tuner to run the nails up the neck, mark their proper placement, and then super-glue them down.


I'd like to try frets on my next build and still use a bolt-nut (because their cheap/easy/and I like the look of them). I see a lot of people doing this and I want to know: how do you properly place the bolt so that the frets are the proper distance?


Do you find the diameter of the bolt and halve that to find the point at which the string sits? Or do the strings not sit center? I'm sure I'm putting too much thought into it and it'll be some super easy fix, because that's what I do.


Anyway, any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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I think you're over thinking it. I measure my frets from the top of the fret board. As I use a floating bridge, any tiny discrepancy can be adjusted later. I've used two different ways to measure, the first is using the Stewmac Fret Calculator (http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/Fretting/i-fretcalc.html), and the second is using a photocopy of the pattern from the Handmade Music Factory book.

I'm sure someone else will give you some advice if you want to be more exact.

Oh, I should have said I also use bolts for my nuts.

Hey Vin - What the heck is up there???!!???

As I never used bolts as the nut and bridge, I`m applying this from what I use...bone. The measurement goes from dead center on top of the bolt to dead center on top of the bridge saddle or bolt for the bridge.  That's your scale length. Easier to do a scale length with either whole numbers or 1/2`s like 25  or 25 1/2". 

Just find the high spot of the bolt and measure from there. The scale length and fret placement are essentially based on the distance that the string is "in the air".

Thanks so much folks. This is insanely helpful.

Can't wait to give it a try!

Same for me I just use a fret calculator, printed it out and mark the frets from the nut all the way up the neck.  I started using bone and plastic for the bridge but went back to bolts as I like the sound and the look of them.  I never have a fixed bridge if I can help it so that I can slightly adjust it if the intonation is a little bit off.

halve the width of the bolt and use that as a fixed point to the first fret and you'll not go wrong (-:

make sure you get the height of the bolt right with frets also...i usually get the bolt set in at the top of the fret board then measure the frets down from the said centre line of the bolt..


I think you should consider a zero fret, it'll almost certainly give you a sweeter intonation with less effort :)

That's what I love about this place! All the great ideas and helpful peeps.

I think I'll give my first try with a single string. Thin neck will save on the fret wire if it totally goes belly-up.


I'll be sure to let CBN know how it goes!

Let's say you shoot this thing completely off and you're 2mm out of whack on your nut placement.  It is really only going to matter on the open note and even that can be remedied by moving the bridge slightly.  If you know you are shooting for a 25" or whatever scale then that will determine the fret spacing from 1-2, 2-3 and so on.  Once you fret a string then the nut is taken out of the equation on that string.  So it is best to ensure your frets are placed accurately, your 1st fret should be pretty close to accurate on with the nut, but you use that one so infrequently (I'll bet) that you could almost leave it off.  

The zero fret suggested is popular, but you have to be sure you get a piece of jumbo wire or otherwise ensure the strings won't buzz due to the action being too low over the rest of the line.

Your idea to breadboard it with a single string and narrow neck is a good one.  Keep your action fairly low overall so the string deflection doesn't create too much additional tension and pulling the notes sharp.

Have fun.  There's no pressure to get it exactly, perfectly, dead-nuts right the first time.

Sorry ed but this is misinformation. A zero fret does not 'need to be' a bigger guage wire than the rest at all. In fact I've never heard of that practice except for here in this site. Arguing so is like saying a capo will only work behind a fret that is bigger than all the others.

Sure you gotta get a string ringing clear off it without fouling on subsequent frets. Just as you do on every fret on the entire neck, regardless if you did a zero fret or not

Mate make a one string neck to try things out if you like, or don't and just go for it. Frets are cheap.


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