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Zero fret question

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by mid_life_crisis, Sep 27, 2010.

  1. mid_life_crisis


    Jul 8, 2010
    I'm pretty sure I can figure out the purpose of this particular item, but I can't quite figure out why it would be required on a headless system, which is something I have seen mentioned many times. Why wouldn't a properly made nut do the job?
  2. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    The function of the nut is two fold. First, it sets the string spacing at the end of the neck. That allows for an even margin down the sides. The second function is to define the scale length. It is important that the grooves are flat and most importantly, that TDC is at the bridge end of the nut.

    Headless hardware takes care of the string spacing issue. The zero fret defines scale length. The residual effect (some consider it an advantage) is that open strings tend to sound like fretted strings.
  3. i use zero fret on all fretted instruments i build... its just easier and more functional as i figure it... but a good nut works just the same
  4. mid_life_crisis


    Jul 8, 2010
    Okay, so a zero fret is only required if you forgo making a nut. You need one or the other with a headless system, but a zero fret sounds like a lot less trouble to make than a nut, so why deal with the unnecessary complication?
    Plus it makes open notes sound like all the rest of the notes so you get better tonal consistency?
    Is that about right?
  5. you got it!!! ;)
  6. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Yup. Sorta.

    It is critical that TDC on a zero fret is exactly on the scale line if the shape is round. In other words, the top of the crown is located precisely above the kerf.

    If the fret crown is to be flat, the kerf is must be located so that the bridge edge is at the same point in reference to scale. The kerf will be off set toward the head hardware by half the fret width.

    This is a game of thousandths of a inch. Accuracy counts.

    The other caveat is that zero frets suffer from fret wear just like any other fret. At some point, it will have to be recrowned.
  7. mid_life_crisis


    Jul 8, 2010
    So for true ease of installation, a zero fret should be as narrow as is reasonably possible to reduce the likelihood of throwing the whole neck off pitch?
    Would this become an order of magnitude less critical if the neck was also fretless other than the zero fret?
  8. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    For scale length purposes, width is unimportant. The critical items are like real estate: location, location, location. TDC (on round) or leading edge (on flat) must be located where the scale length starts.

    If the bass is a lined fretless, location is just as important. Unlined, only requires moving the fingers to get the pitch right.

    In all cases, the bridge/nut relationship must be correct.
  9. mid_life_crisis


    Jul 8, 2010
    What I was thinking about with the whole width question was that a narrower fret wire would make it easier to more accurately determine where the string comes in contact with the fret, which is the critical location from which you would be measuring, correct? If you have a flatter fret, this contact area would be greater, and you would measure from the bridge side of the contact patch?
    The best solution is something you learn with experience I guess. Wide enough to support the string properly, but narrow enough to allow setting up fretlines accurately with minimal fuss.
  10. remember to use the same wire for zero as for other frets... i have seen that some use bigger fret for zero but that's just not right!!! use the same fret wire for all frets including zero... be precise with cutting and placement of the fret slots...
  11. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    A zero fret is, in effect, a nut. I've ofter wondered why some builders use them, some do not. It seems to make sense to me that you'd want an open string to sound as much like a "fretted" string as possible...

    That said, none of the guitars or basses I currently have use a ZF, and they're all just dandy. Go figure.
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    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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