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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com

Zero fret question

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Meshgearfox, Nov 1, 2012.

  1. kwerk

    kwerk Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 22, 2010
    New Zealand
    If you're dressing frets correctly, how do you go "too far"? You're levelling the zero fret at the same time as the other frets. Providing you have good crowning technique, there's no possible way to go "too far". Even if you did, it would be no harder to pull a fret and refret it than it would be to make a new nut.
     

  2. danharr

    danharr Tele-Meister

    171
    Apr 20, 2009
    Annapolis, MD
    According to Gretsch, you're both right...

    I've only got one guitar with a zero fret- a 1960 Gretsch Jet Fire Bird. This guitar has the original frets, has had very little use, and has fantastic action. I've been following this thread, and got curious to see how Gretsch did it 52 years ago. I was really surprised to find that on the low E string, the zero fret was exactly the same height as frets 1, 2, 3... On the high E string, the zero fret was HIGHER! In the photos, you can see the light below the frets on the high strings, but not on the low ones.
     

    Attached Files:


  3. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    There's a little distortion or cut-away in the binding of the Gretsch near the bottom E zero?
    This is puzzling and surely not original. It may be acceptable to have the bass side a little high (as with a nut) to prevent buzzing on the 1st fret. The top E is not a problem string for pulling sharp like the 3rd is.
    Of that age, fret-sprout is possible, wood moves with age, necks twist a little. The only real way to measure fret height on the Gretsch there is with a depth micrometer.

    My 1968 Yamaha SA20B has a similar zero but no daylight gaps at all.
     

  4. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    You're preaching to the choir mate :lol:
     

  5. moody

    moody TDPRI Member

    88
    Feb 25, 2011
    colorado
    I can see only a single reason that some builders use a slightly higher zero fret, or a wider one. Strings wearing grooves in said fret could cause problems, especially when the guitars are being tuned or restrung many times over a period of time. If the fret is just a little higher (not much) then there is more time to be had between fret dressings/replacements as the strings wear shallow grooves in the zero fret. This may help the guitar make it to a warranty period before needing service. It may not be ideal, but if set up correctly, the amount of difference may be almost undetectable to the average player. We must remember that we deal in measurements to the thousandths (or less), while the player deals in measurements such as "It feels good." and "That sounds really nice." This is not to say that sloppiness should be tolerated, but that most of these instruments are designed to be adjustable to a certain extent, and a couple thousandths at the nut is something that can easily be justified by a larger company.
     

  6. danharr

    danharr Tele-Meister

    171
    Apr 20, 2009
    Annapolis, MD
    -I was about to call you cheeky, telling me some part of my old Gretsch is "surely not original". I'd always assumed the binding shrank, and it has somewhat, but not that much. I never thought much about it, but now on closer examination, it was the nut that was replaced. I have no idea why someone would replace the nut on such a great guitar with the wrong size Fender nut. I can see some sort of old black wood filler filling the gap between the Fender-size nut and the Gretsch-size hole. So you may be cheeky, but you are also correct. I'm still quite sure the frets are original (I can only imagine how they'd look if the same tech changed the frets).
     

  7. kwerk

    kwerk Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 22, 2010
    New Zealand
    This is a great comment. I'll happily concede that whilst technically speaking there is no reason for a higher zero fret, practically this is a good consideration. I believe someone mentioned earlier about a zero fret that was higher on the lower strings, which I guess may be an insurance against string wear, which would be less of a concern with unwound strings.

    Course, a stainless zero fret would overcome the need for this. ;)
     

  8. elams1894

    elams1894 Tele-Meister

    Age:
    44
    259
    Jun 22, 2010
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Cool thread.. I love technical stuff like this. I had a session guitarist yarn to me about zero frets a good few years back. He is an amazing player and doesn't play guitars without them. The darn zero fret/nut height slot depth clearance thing has haunted my dreams ever since. This has been a fantastic eye opener to the topic. I always try to get the dam nut slots even with the first fret but have screwed it up more times than I can remember. Because of this I leave myself the smallest margin of error just so I don't have to redo the dam thing again. A stainless steel zero fret seems like a good plan for my next build and thanks to all the contributors of this thread.. really sheds some light on the whole thing.

    Good point by Moody, so easy to cut into nuts and frets with wear that it just seems economical for the big guys to give themselves that extra margin of error to stop people bringin em back.
     

  9. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    Having a well-used 60s zero fretter, ime the fingerboard frets wear much faster than the zero, and that leaves the zero appearing a little proud. Not the zero too low then, and no need to build in extra height from new to accommodate wear.

    Mine has bee re-dressed a few times and re-fretted at least once by me, hence no gap apparent.

    We may well engineer to a thousandth of an inch but wood moves, shrinks and swells again, so it is really only workable to 0.5mm, about 0.020-in. When you plane wood it compresses and springs back up, a bit like putting a saddle on a horse.
    So you could stone those frets optically flat and level to within a nanometre, and next week they could be back where there are now. If it ain't bust, don't fix it.
     

  10. micpoc

    micpoc Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2007
    Louisiana
    I'm just discovering this thread, and haven't read every post yet, so I don’t know if this has been discussed (apologies for being redundant if it has), but has the topic of behind the nut/zero fret “break angle” been brought up? On a Fender-style neck, I think you might want the zero fret to be a bit higher than the other frets, but on a more traditional, angled headstock like a Gibson or Gretsch, the angle created will exert sufficient tension - MUCH closer to the situation created by a capo - to allow the zero fret to be leveled at the same height as the other frets. A full string tree on a Fender-style neck could also create the same effect.
     

  11. Meshgearfox

    Meshgearfox Tele-Meister

    349
    Jul 29, 2012
    Montague, mi
    The neck that started this thread looks like it was originally fitted with a full string tree, but I haven't found a replacement ( other than the floyd rose style, which isn't quite what im going for). Any suggestions for sources?
     

  12. micpoc

    micpoc Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2007
    Louisiana
    Other than scavenging one like pictured below, I don't know. Found this by googling teisco string retainer.

    [​IMG]

    You could use multiple Fender-style string trees or use graduated tuners. You'll be able to pull out another bag of tricks from your scientific box, I'm sure.
     

  13. elams1894

    elams1894 Tele-Meister

    Age:
    44
    259
    Jun 22, 2010
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Not to try and start a debate on string retainers as I think its been covered to death in other threads but I try to avoid them at all costs. They make it near impossible to stay in tune. Too many obstacles for the string to negotiate. Some may like them but they don't make any sense to me.
     

  14. micpoc

    micpoc Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2007
    Louisiana
    I'm inclined to agree, certainly in the way Fenders implement them. The issue isn't just retainers, though; it's string break angle. When you're dealing with a zero fret at the same height as your other frets, they probably help.
     

  15. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    You have not read the posts. ;)
    You never want the zero to be higher than the other frets.

    My Teisco did have a zero and that too was same height as the others. The headstock relief on a Teisco being less than a Fender, hence the full string retainer. Headstock also longer before tuners. My Teisco has received an Earvana nut replacing the zero fret, I suspect fret spacing not quite spot-on - cured.
     

  16. donh

    donh Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 25, 2010
    Oh Aich Ten
    Again again, this is completely correct. Like jefrs, I have had zero-fret guitars long enough to observe the wear patterns and at no time has the zero worn down on any string faster than the normal wear-and-tear from simply playing the guitar.

    There is plain and simply no good reason whatsoever (tho there are surely plenty of bad ones) for treating the zero any differently than any other fret on the instrument.
     

  17. axedaddy

    axedaddy Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 7, 2011
    Winter Haven, FL
    The string / break angle on a fender style neck is a valid issue. As I have stated in this thread and my 2012 build challenge thread, it is the key to the whole thing working properly.

    My solution was to used staggered tuners with the 2 shortest ones on the low e and a strings. Then 2 standard string retainers. Works like a charm, zero tuning issues. I think a Floyd Rose retainer bar would work good to, although not the most popular solutions.
     

  18. micpoc

    micpoc Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2007
    Louisiana
    Yes, I know... that's exactly what I said. ;)

    Again, this isn't really contradicting what I said, but perhaps I didn't write it as clearly as I could have. A slightly elevated zero fret WILL work - after all, traditional nut slots are slightly higher than the frets, correct? ;) - but I agree, it isn't ideal. Sufficient behind the fret angle - either by headstock angle, graduated tuners, or a full retainer - is the best way to go.

    On the other hand, Brian May's Red Special has a zero fret, no string retainer, and a pretty shallow break angle (about five degrees), so. . . there's that. ULTRA light strings, too.
     

  19. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England

    No, properly cut nut slots are not slightly higher than the frets.

    If they are then the strings pull-sharp when fretted.
    Same with zero fret too high, atrocious intonation.

    Most new nuts are always cut too shallow and they are indeed higher than the first fret, but this is a fault to be rectified on setup.

    It is partly deliberate because the manufacturer does not know what strings you will use and you can only file material out. Top-end instruments, set up and finished to customer's specs, do not seem to suffer this problem.
     

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