My first build is a banjo ukulele based on a rectangular cookie tin. I want to fret it, because I want to use this instrument to learn to play the uke.

I originally planned to do zip tie frets, but my test runs reveal that they are wide, don't lie flat, and are just plain ugly. I've read some threads on CBN about fret alternatives, and given several ideas some thought. I don't want to buy fret wire because I'm cheap. :-)

I have some 18ga wire, and I'm thinking about spiraling it around the neck. I'd make V-shaped grooves on either side of the fingerboard at the proper position, so the wire would lie flat across the board, but would run diagonally across the back of the neck to the next fret.

Has anyone tried something like this? I can't imagine I'm the first to think of it. Pros? Cons?

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Real fretwire is easier. Bite the bullet. Buy some. Mr gitty does it real cheap
Ps no its Been done (spirallling wire around) since the middle ages

There's a so-called 'lute fret lute fret knot.

I chose to copy the cord frets of my dombra and did this:

and it works. The downsize is - it wears off. The advantages: it's cheap, it's customizable - you want other fretting (e.g. a dulcimer-like one, or chinese) - you just "re-wire" the instrument. If your action is too high -- you can fine-adjust the calculated fret spacing. And when you're mentally ready for "real" frets - remove your wire/cord and fret it. 

But wait, don't listen to me. What Kid said is the "One and Only Proper Way to Fret a Cigar Box Guitar"(tm) ;-)

Hey man I aint no dogma king. But. There seems to be a stigma bout bashing frets lately. It is not difficult. You can do it. Let's not forget te guy who pays for the site... Sells the wire. It really isn't as hard as ppl make out. You see omg don't slot too deep and omg you need a special saw... And you shit... Fretting is easy baby. It's inevitable. Bite the bullet

Got to agree with the Phrygian kid. It's not hard. I did a test with some old frets from an old guitar, just slotted them into a fretless cbg I had, where I'd marked the frets ages before. It worked fine even though I'd only marked it as a fretless (not with much accuracy).

My latest worked well too. No special calculations (I just marked it against my telecaster neck.) No special saw (just a £2 hacksaw from our hardware store) a rubber mallet, some glue where needed, some tin snippers to cut the frets and I used my wetstone to file it down. Nowhere near as scary as some people make out. 

Bravo rev.. Big fan of recycled fretwire..

Alot of middle eastern countrys use that same fretwire design on their stringed instruments, it`s an old way of attaching the wire. Some are wire, cording, gut, if you research those instruments you can see for yourself.

And despite the ease of installation and availability of real fret wire, other ways do work. If you simply feel inclined to play around with 'em, ain't nobody stopping you. The wraparound Nylgut or nylon fishing line method works, and is frequently used here in the Middle East for low budget ouds and student instruments; they are also sometimes used for the same purposes on the oud's lineal descendent, the European lute. Go ahead and try it for your build; as Rafal sez, it will work, but the nylon will wear through relatively quickly; it's easily replaced and adjusted for different scales / tunings. The anonymous pick just posted a neat, cheapo household item solution using Superglued bobby pins that involves no fret slotting. Several of us are gonna try it out, just because. I like real fret wire, and now use it routinely, after building my first two with bent finishing nails ( which also worked just fine). But there's something about the humble bobby pin idea that appeals. Lots of different ways to go. No Rules ( just guidelines ;-) )!

I'd like to hear how the bobby pins work.  I like the idea.

Dr. Dave,


Check out the anonymous pick's vid on the bobby pin method:


Be prepared for some CBN weirdness as you read through the responses.


Thanks.  I'll have to try this.


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