1 peice bridge, fanned frets?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tdogg, Dec 29, 2007.

  1. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    im planning to start my first build soon and i have been doing alot of research, buying tools and drooling over lumber. :D
    but i still have a couple of unanswered questions.
    i am seriously thiking about making this build a fanned fret bass, possibly 34"-32" (four string). the question is, if i do a subtle fan stretch (only 2 inches difference between high and low strings) could i get away with using a normal bridge? could a badass II or other similar bridge have enough room to work on a fan like this? i hope i explained this right.
  2. No...when doing a fanned-fret instrument, you have to choose the 2 scales of the outermost strings, then choose which fret will be your "perp", the one that is perpendicular to the centerline. The only way you can do this is to make the bridge your "perp", so that all of the difference in the two scale lengths is taken up at the angled nut. Although it has been done, this would not be very playable IMO.

    There are loads of single-string bass bridges available all over the net, you use one for each string and angle them however you like. They normally allow for either top-load or string-thru.

    Now....I would not really advise a fanned-fret for your first build. To get this right including string compensation, you really need some exprience with both neck construction and CAD layout. Best to take small steps IMO, but its your build. I didn't take the fanned-fret plunge until my 6th scratch build (including neck).
  3. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    yeah im not really sure if im gonna do the fanned fret thing. im gonna use MM style pickups and i dont like the idea of perpendicular pickups with fanned guages. this problem could also be solved by using te bridge as my perp "fret". i also thought about only fanning it 34"-33" but then whats the point of going fanned at all?
  4. Nelson Guitars

    Nelson Guitars

    Aug 14, 2006
    Novato California
    Custom builder
    Erik had some great advice but I think he is being a little too polite here. I would actively advise against doing a fan fret until you have at least 4 or 5 instruments under your belt. It is difficult enough to build a straight forward fretted instrument without complicating matters to this degree. Once you do have several instruments complete you may actually be humbled enough not to try this until your 50th. ;)

    If you use the bridge as the "perp" then all of the fan will exist at the nut. Very uncomfortable to play unless it is a minor fan and then what would be the benefit? Starting with the "perp" at the nut would make more ergonmic sense. Doing it somewhere between the 5th - 9th makes the most sense to me.

    Greg N
  5. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
  6. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    ive been thinking about it and ill probably pass on the fanned fret thing for now. i wish there was at least one fanned fret bass at a music store around here so i could at least try it. chances are i would probably try it once and not like it.
    this might sound bad, but i figure that my first build attemp is going to hit the scrap pile ayways so i was gonna give the fanned fret thing a shot just to check it out. but nah, ill pass for now. ive been planning this all out and realizing that i have enough to worry about already.
  7. Nelson Guitars

    Nelson Guitars

    Aug 14, 2006
    Novato California
    Custom builder
    That's a common fear but one I am sure won't happen. While most builders who continue on look back at that first one and see the flaws they are still amazed that they did it at all. I was afraid that my first one was going to fold up on itself when I brought the last string up to pitch. After that I thought it might sound like a shoe box with a piece of twine stretched across it. It didn't. Actually still sounds very respectable to this day.

    This is a process as much as it is a result. Planning is good, but be ready for change if need be. Even experienced builders run into unexpected problems along the way. The only difference between a craftsman and an apprentice is that the craftsman gets around his problems gracefully.

    Greg N
  8. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    My first bass was fanned fret. It went great, except that somehow I got the 23rd fret slightly out. It now sits as a reminder of the old adage: measure twice, cut once...

    For a fan that small, you *might* be able to use a standard bridge, *IF* you made fret 12 your perpendicular fret. That would make the rougn compensation from the highest string to the lowest just 1", and IIRC the Badass bridges have more travel than that.
  9. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    so what do you guys use to cut your fanned boards? the stemac.com fret saw? freehand or with the miterbox?
  10. The board on my 8-string guitar was cut freehand using a StewMac slotting blade on a radial arm saw. Here's a photo of the dry run I did on MDF.


    For this I used a paper template that I drew up in CAD and printed out, stuck to the work piece with double-stick tape. The printed line widths for each fret slot were the same width as the blade kerf (0.023") so it was relatively easy to sight down the blade and align the cut.

    With CAD, a fret spacing calculator and some trig, you can calculate the X-Y coordinates of the ends of each and every fret at the edges of the fretboard, including the neck taper for your bridge/nut spacings and any extra fretboard width outside the outer strings. It took me most of a day to get the CAD template exact, and about an hour to actually cut the slots. The intonation is perfect.

    I went with 28" & 25.5" as my outer scales, I made my perp fret #12, but I'll go with #9 or #7 as my perp next time. I have to say it is taking awhile to get used to playing the fan.

    Here's a shot of the instrument, its flamed mac ebony carvetop over black limba with birdseye maple board and pup covers (EMG 40TDCs). I ended up making my own laminated wood bridge (birdseye over ebony) because I wanted to use the Graphtech piezo saddles.

  11. In the fan fret setup the hardest thing is the layout for me. And if you are careful you can do it. I cut my first one by hand and will never do that again. I did bite the bullet and got the stew mac blade on a sliding miter saw, the laser makes it much easier to follow the cut well.

    When I took the tour at Hipshot I got to see them making the Dingwall bridges. They are a one piece that is specially CNC cut for them. I didn't if I could buy one but I doubt they would sell someone else one of theirs. In any case there are many single bridges out there including a few headless solutions. If you're using a headstock there should be many choices.

    I will say the pickups are a whole different issue, to get the angle right and coverage of the pickups correct are difficult. It took me buying the wrong pickups and on a 6 string my low b and high c were hardly there. Once I got the quad coil with a wider than normal coverage they were fine. I just used the pickups in another project but it was an expensive lesson.

    To me the benefit of the fan fret is worth any troubles you may encounter. Just be smart and think things out.
    Good luck,
  12. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - PerĂº
    Nice bridge.
  13. Nelson Guitars

    Nelson Guitars

    Aug 14, 2006
    Novato California
    Custom builder
    Damn Erik, I hope that photo of your saw had the guard off to show what was happening and not your common practice! We'll be nick naming you "Lefty" soon if that's the case.

    Greg N
  14. Nope...when you need to sight down the blade to line up a printed fret line, the guard is an impediment. Switch it off, line up the next cut, switch it on and pull slowly. Just pay attention. In 5 years of building I've never even had a close call with any power tool, and I don't plan on playing guitar like Django.
  15. i wonder if there is a way to tweak a tremolo bridge and use it for a fanned design
  16. Son of Magni

    Son of Magni

    May 10, 2005
    Builder: ThorBass
    Seems like a laser guide is in order...

    Yeah, well this will be tough. I think it would be possible if you took something like a Kahler trem, cut off the shelf with the saddles and made your own shelf and used your own roller saddles. There's be a fair amount of custom work there.
  17. Been there, done that, it's sitting on the shelf unused. Show me one that throws down a 0.023" wide beam centered on a 0.023" wide blade for under $50, and I'm game. Until then, I'll trust my judgement, saw on the line, and be happy with the intonation.

    Don't get me wrong, the guard goes on with the 10" blade...but not the slotting blade.
  18. after looking at the kahler tremolo, i think i have an idea. what if we just mounted the roller saddles directly into the body, remove the top part of the frame and then attach the rest of the bridge just below the low string? i've never fooled around with a kahler trem before, but it doesnt look like those saddles move.

    anyways, my idea is to have a 6 string sub piccolo bass hehehe. tune that thing C#, F#, B, E, A, D. thats kind of a bass, right? anyways, if i could throw fanned frets on there, that would be one sweet axe
  19. msherman


    Nov 20, 2002
    Connecticut, USA
    FWIW, I have the first kahler Fanned fret 8 string guitar tremolo at the shop, so they probably could do a bass version.
  20. kahler built one? whats the cost?