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spreadsheet: string spacing layout: equal centers vs. equal gaps

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by pilotjones, Apr 12, 2005.

  1. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    I just did a bit of a revision on this, and I realized that the old rev was lost with the forum changover, so here it is again in case anyone wants it.

    For those who haven't seen it before, it is an aid to lay out string spacing, and to graphically show the differences between the two methods. Requires MS Excel or equivalent.

    While I'm at it, how about a pseudo-poll: Hey luthiers and builders, do you use equal center spacing, or equal gaps between strings, at the nut and at the bridge? Do post!

    Attached Files:

  2. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    Center to center spacing at the bridge since most of the bridges I use are setup that way and equal gaps at the nut. I figure out the spacing and make a little template in AutoCAD then transfer the marks to the nut with a pencil before I cut the grooves.
  3. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I've never understood why anyone would want equal spaces. Just like a fret your strings have a crown point and that is where the first and main contact with your finger is made. I know there are a lot of high end acoustic builders that swear by equal spacing but I haven't heard or played anything that's talked me out of the easier and more logic (to my mind at least) equal center method.
  4. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    Center to center spacing at the nut feels wierd, especially on five string and up basses. The higher strings feel like they're farther apart than the lower strings. Not so noticable on a four string with light gauge strings. Equal spacing is the way to go in my book.
  5. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    Hey, thanks for the resource.

    I agree with budman on this, it becomes more of an issue when you use larger guage strings in a smaller area. When you have four medium guage DB strings across a 1.5" nut it seems a little ackward to use center to center. the gap between the G and D is so much larger than that between the A and E. I don't notice it so much on BG's though.
  6. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    Thanks for the feedback guys, that makes a lot of sense. I pretty much stick to 4 strings with medium strings and 1.75" wide nuts. 1.5" may as well be a mandolin for my oafish hands.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    I've used both.
    I agree with bud and pain/8, that the feel is different with equal c-c @ nut. But it doesn't matter that much! Once played, and switched back and forth twice, you're comfortable with both.

    @ bridge, there's no difference in feel, with normal string distances (15mm up), which would be string gauge depending. I.e
    string distances > 10 string gauge = "who cares" ;)
  8. Out of curiosity, what do you end up with if you use the Stewmac string spacing ruler? Equal centers?
  9. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    I'd also like to know: What is Fender standard? Warmoth (since they now sell pre-slotted nuts)? What about fbb? Ken Smith? All you other guys?
  10. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    You end up with a graduating center to center spacing that's neither equal center to center spacing or equal spacing between the strings. The marks on the ruler get a little closer together (or farther apart, depending on which end you start at) which represent the center of the string. It's probably a best of both worlds solution, especially if you don't know exactly which gauge strings will be used or if someone is prone to changing string gauges from time to time.
  11. bwbass


    May 6, 2002
    So glad you asked! :)

    On basses, the edges of the outside strings are spaced .093" away from the edges of the fingerboard, and the remaining strings are spaced on equal centers.
  12. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    Thanks for re-posting that spreadsheet, Peter. That's a lot of work to put together something like that. :bassist:

    My vote is equal centers, for all the reasons Scott mentioned. I prefer it even on 6-strings, although the differences are really pretty slight.
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    FWIW, the max difference in position for a typical 5-string is .040", or 1mm. For a 6er it's .066", or just over 1/16", or 1.5mm.

    I can understand arguements for both sides: equal centers requires equal motion for the strings; equal centers however may feel closer on the bass strings, since the adjacent strings are closer (less gap for your finger to sit in). Also, equal gaps shifts the middle strings towards the treble side, which may possbly be easier for those with small hands, but harder for those with large hands?
  14. That is why I love the Wishbass... Just eyeball the suckers and let the chump on the other end sort it out :bassist:

    But seriously, I use the Stewmac ruler but never got out the calipers and compared the centers to the gaps. I just like the way the string spacing lays out with that gauge. I don't have any of the nuts that I made on an instrument that I own, but I can see how the spacing compares to the stock spacing on a few of my basses.

  15. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Lineā„¢ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    OK, first let me say that I had mentally answered this question earlier this morning based on a logical preconceived concept ... but I purposely didn't post it until I made it home and mic'd my three favorite basses, just to be sure. Here's the results:

    Original opinion: I would say that I prefer my strings equally matched center to center.

    Research results: I actually prefer my basses set with the string spaces equally divided! :eek:

    Believe me when I say that this was a complete shock to learn this a few moments ago, and am I ever glad that I didn't write a post proposing to know what I erroneously thought I knew.

    And to take things one step further, I was also off on the nut width I prefer for a 5-string. Guess I don't like them as wide as I originally thought I did.

  16. TapyTap


    Apr 26, 2005
    CTC spacing (at the nut and bridge) feels just fine to me on a 5-string Dingwall Afterburner II bass; the 5th string is a .130" gauge with a string spacing of 18mm at the bridge and a nut width of 45.5mm. In fact, I believe that using anything other than CTC on a fretted multi-scale instrument would screw up the intonation.
  17. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    You know you're responding to a 4 1/2 year old thread, right?

  18. dj150888


    Feb 25, 2008
    Belfast, Ireland
    Holy thread resurrection Batman!
  19. TapyTap


    Apr 26, 2005


    Thank you for joining me. ;)
  20. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    The spreadsheet's been downloaded 430 times - dang!

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