I am fixing to build 7 gits. 1 cb,3 license plates and 3 Wheel cover resonators. I have always used a bone nut on the 12 I built before this. I am considering using the zero fret,but I am not crystal clear as to how it works. I am going to use a bass guitar fret for the zero. I can't get my mind around how just sticking a same height all the way across fret, will allow any adjustment for the intonation.

      In the past, I have adjusted the intonation of frets 1-8 with the nut. 7-12 with a combination of nut and bridge and 12 on out with the bridge. If the string is sharp (I use a Snark as it never gets tired or has too many toddies and I am about 1/2 deaf) I deepen the string slot in the nut to flatten the note. I always use a 25 5/8" scale length. gdg for 3 strings and gdgb for 4 strings. I can't get my mind to wrap around having the same height for the zero fret will somehow magically make the slot depth irrelevant in setting the intonation of each string. Can somebody on here shed some light on my misunderstanding of the use of the zero fret. I have gone to the archives and looked at the pix and even zoomed in on some zero frets. Some look to be the same height and one looks to be tapered from the bass to the treble side. Can somebody help my misunderstanding of the zero fret? Also I need to know what height bass guitar fret will be the right height.


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You don't adjust the intonation at the nut, unless you are going to use something like a compensated Earvana or Feiten System nut. The whole idea of a zero fret is that it's an easy way to achieve a low action at the bottom of the fretboard, and it's easier to make a guitar that way rather than having to accurately cut string slots in a regular nut. With a zero fret, the nut acts only as a string spacing guide, so you need make the slots somewhat deeper then the height of the zero fret, in order to make sure the strings sit nice and firm onto the zero fret.

With a conventional nut, if the action at the nut is overly high, then fretting the guitar will cause the string to pull sharp, but on a properly set-up guitar, this isn't usually a major problem. Using a zero fret can help avoid this problem, automatically setting a nice low action and having the bonus of being less fiddly to install.

Think of it this way. The conventional nut does three things. First, it sets one end of the scale, the saddle setting the other end. Second it sets the string height at the neck end. Third, it spaces the strings at the neck end. Zero fret splits these functions in two. The fret itself sets the string height and scale length and the slotted string guide sets the string spacing. It makes things simpler.

I'm probably reaching beyond my knowledge here,but a few thoughts.Zero fret will most likely reduce the need for compensation at nut end to the minimum reasonable level,leaving you with only the saddle to mess with to get pretty good results,beyond that you probably need to start angling frets,but then with a string change your stumped again.I'm really just thinking out loud here,so any comments,yay or nay appreciated

Still thinking,but now i've added drinking,given all the above we should be pretty close,the next variable is string tension,if all strings were in equal tension[lets say 18 lb] to reach the desired open note,theoretically you should have a straight bridge,problem now being,when you fret the octave,[or any fret],although all the strings bend the same amount,due to gauge differences,there's a variation in added tension,which on a low action i'd have thought minimal.In the case of a 3 stringer,would setting the bridge to note,both open and the octave on the middle string,then tune the outer strings to the octave only be a better compromise?  B.T W for a good blog on string tension Harrison Withers did a fair deal a couple of years ago,and should be searcheable

Hi Wayfinder.

String tension is not something I obsess over, but it was interesting to check it out from time to time to get a "feel" for normal tension ranges.

This web site String Tension Calculator makes checking tension pretty much a no-brainer.

I also like to use it when I'm planning to do something out-of-the-box like putting a wound 0.022" high G on my three stringer (and yes, it does have a good bit of tension, but sounds great).

Have to admit,i'm not overly fascinated with string tensions,but if we're discussing zero frets,angled bridges,action height and intonation,but ignore string tension,it's sort of like playing baseball with a hockey puk


That is the blog post for fret placement that Harrison Withers had. I say had because I get a 404 error. Post not found. I see what is happening with the zero fret thanks to Wayfinder,Tom T, Chickenbone John,yourself and others.I am getting a low profile on my strings using the method I am using so I will prolly stick with what is working, using the old idea of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".Thanks to all that replied. BH

Hello Bama Hound.

When I first heard about zero frets I didn't think much of it. I couldn't see any big advantages and having ultra low action at the first fret didn't sound like a good combination for slide work. Slowly, I began to understand some of the big advantages of this design. But, in a slightly different configuration.

Instead of installing a fret at the zero position, I used a piece or round "music wire".

This offered several advantages.

First: Music wire is available in a number of different diameters, so I can set the action exactly where I want or I can change the action height without a lot of hassle.

Second: If I need to make small intonation adjustments, I can turn the wire at an angle until I get it right.

Once I have things adjusted like I want, I file a very shallow groove in the finger board to position the zero pin.

I've used this system on a number of guitars over the past year and like the flexibility and adjust-ability it offers.

So, now you have one more option to confuse things.

Good luck.

Interesting Tom,in your pic it appears the nut is set rearward on the bottom string,much like a bridge might be set,is that a working example,or am i reading it wrong?

The bridge (string guide at this point) is loose in this photo. I tapped it against the fret board with a touch of glue after I saw the photo. It is intended to be mounted the same as any normal nut (i.e. square against the end of the fret board).

Sorry for the confusion. That's what I get when I shoot photos before my third cup of coffee.

I usually use finish nails for my zero frets when building with medium height frets and the action has been very close every time.


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