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fretless nut idea

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by davepack, Feb 1, 2005.

  1. davepack

    davepack Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    Denver, CO
    I've been thinking about the "zero fret" concept on a fretted bass...and was wondering if anyone has tried the same principle on a fretless?? Instead of a nut, just have something that keeps the strings spaced properly, but have the strings touching the actual fingerboard instead of a nut.
    Has anyone ever tried this, and if so, how were the results?? Also any details as far as how this was approached would be great.
  2. ...an actual 'zero fret' made of the same wood as the fingerboard?
  3. davepack

    davepack Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    Denver, CO
    well, not an actual zero fret...something above the end of the fingerboard that spaces the strings properly, then the strings will simply rest on the top edge of the fingerboard.
  4. The drawback that I see first is that zero frets will wear. If a zero fret wears and eventually needs replacing, a softer material like the fingerboard itself would wear away even faster and make itself difficult to replace in the process. Two strikes. The third strike is getting enough relief in the fingerboard high enough in the scale to be playable. A regular nut or zero fret gives you just enough to keep the strings vibration pattern far enough off of the fingerboard to let it ring yet close enough to get that "tone". I've cut a nut down as close as .040" before it ran out of room to move - after that the neck couldn't be twisted into a shape to compensate for a lower slot.

    I'm doing a zero nut on my latest fretless - due to be completed here in the next few weeks. Nothing as forward thinking as a fretless zero fret but instead using a piece of the fingerboard material as the spacer and a jumbo fret as the zero. I'm anxious to try this for the simple reason of laziness - I don't want to have to fool around with tuning the slot depths on nuts anymore. I can do it and I can do it well but I don't enjoy it even though making the nut is one of the tasks I really look forward to.
  5. Status (and I think Vigier too) use the zero fretline/nut idea-

    (closeup of a status Groove bass)

  6. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Steinberger did this too, as I recall--the end of the board looked very much like the Status pictured above, and the strings angled down into the headpiece.

  7. davepack

    davepack Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    Denver, CO
    Thanks for the picture...that's exactly what I had in mind.
  8. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Has been done on fretless.
    Actually, way back it was rather common.
    Hambone does have a set of points re. wear, though. You could put in a strip of harder wood, even compressed and coated with CA glue. Just don't make it more than 0.05 mm higher above the fingerboard, then you will have too much tonal difference between open and fingered tone.