Zero Fret? Thoughts Pros and Cons Please

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by C Squared, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. soggybag

    soggybag Junior Member

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    I have been thinking about using a zero fret on my current project guitars. I really like the idea. It seems to make a lot of sense.

    I was looking at this: ZerO Glide | Fretted Instrument Replacement Nut System

    It's a zero fret conversion nut. Has anyone used one of these? I was having trouble figuring out the right nut size, and the cost is $30, so I started to think I could make my own. Essentially I just need a regular nut with a step on the fretboard side.

    My first idea was to make a jig that would allow me to swing the nut over the top of the router table in the arc of the fretboard (12" or 16" for example). After some thought, I started to think it would be too difficult to hold something as small as a nut in place, and the router blade might knock it free.

    My second idea was to just sand down a regular nut and add a shim on the fretboard side. The shim would be as wide as the shelf of the fret, minus the width of the tang.
     
  2. geoffstgermaine

    geoffstgermaine Senior Member

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    I'm a big fan of using a zero fret. I've used them on a number of builds and have always found the setup to go smoother than on a neck with a conventional nut. The downside to me is the lack of adjustability and having to explain what it is and why it is there and why it is used instead of a conventional nut.
     
  3. cmjohnson

    cmjohnson Senior Member

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    To extend on my idea of using a zero fret with a nut that covers it, I would also mill off the body-facing side of the zero fret, so it becomes a half fret. This would probably best be accomplished with a side cutting file with the face of it that touches the fingerboard being smooth and non-cutting. This way, the fret and nut assembly would look like a conventional nut unless you were very observant. And that avoids the issue of it LOOKING like a zero fret design, which many people associate with cheap imported guitars from the 60s and 70s even though the design itself is quite sound.
     
  4. geoffstgermaine

    geoffstgermaine Senior Member

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    I might remove slightly less than half of the fret for wearing reasons. The other concern would be to ensure that there is enough fretboard material to hold the tang - making a solution that does away with the tang or has part of the nut sitting on the fretboard surface. For me, I'd probably consider this too much work to be worth it, but you might have a more elegant solution in mind.
     
  5. frankv

    frankv What Are You Waiting For? Double Platinum Supporter Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Isn't the Buzz Feiton system a better approach as it's much easier to maintain and install?
     
  6. ihavenofish

    ihavenofish Senior Member

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    ummmm.

    zero frets are not more expensive, not created by "the germans", and certainly not being used on all (if any) gibsons for 2015.
     
  7. soggybag

    soggybag Junior Member

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    I would say the Buzz Feiton system is something different. Where the Zero fret swaps the nut for a fret. In a way you could look at this as having a permanent capo on the first fret.

    The Buzz Feiton system changes the nature of the nut. You could look at the Feiton nut as a compensated nut, like a compensated bridge.

    I have tried the Buzz Feiton nut on a fender style guitar. I did not like it. The nut I had was two pieces, with the compensated upper piece attached to the lower piece with two small screws. It was made of a material similar to the graph tech stuff. It seemed to improve open chords, but didn't do a lot for the rest of the fretboard. So there was a minor improvement in intonation.

    The sound of open strings was weak on the other hand. I think this had to do with the two piece nature of the nut, the material, and the the way the slots were molded. I had a brass nut before which had a great sound.

    I see the zero fret as the easiest way to get the optimal string height at the nut. With the added bonus of having open strings sound like fretted strings.
     
  8. frankv

    frankv What Are You Waiting For? Double Platinum Supporter Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Yeah, I hear ya on that. I had a BF on my Washburn X50PRO.

    It is written that the zero fret, no matter how hard it is, still wears out at an alarming rate and causes other problems like fret buzzing.. Any word on this?
     
  9. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    My old Gretsch had a zero fret. It worked fine, and never had any problems whatsoever.
     
  10. ihavenofish

    ihavenofish Senior Member

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    it will wear, but it shouldnt be all that fast. less than the rest of the fret wire.

    as for buzzing. it makes it the same as a regular fret, so its entirely dependent on the setup and fretwork quality if it buzzes.

    a regular nut is high which gives some forgiveness on open strings but that's about it.
     
  11. KnightroExpress

    KnightroExpress Senior Member

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    I've never heard of that problem with a zero fret, though my experience is limited to a lot of reading and little else. I'd imagine if that is the case, you could use a stainless steel zero fret for durability and keep the rest of them NS or whatever you prefer.
     
  12. cmjohnson

    cmjohnson Senior Member

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    My opinion on the Buzz Feiten system is that it only has a single benefit: Putting money in Mr. Feiten's pocket. It changes the tempered tuning in an already well tempered tuning system, only applies to open notes and chords with open notes in them, and restricts you to keeping the guitar in the standard relative tuning. Change the tuning to something other than EADGBE (or something featuring the same intervallic sequence) and the guitar will play MORE out of tune, not LESS. So in short I'm strongly opposed to the usage of that particular GIMMICK.
     
  13. soggybag

    soggybag Junior Member

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    I don't want to knock Buzz, I'm sure he believes in his system, and he has some followers. I personally did not like it. Once you're on fretted notes it seems the effect of the BF nut, is close to nil.
     
  14. jiveturkey1

    jiveturkey1 Senior Member

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    Not an expert here but to clear something up......a zero fret SHOULD be higher than the first fret. The same distance a nut slot is, right? If not you would need a he** of a neck relief to clear the 1st fret. Or am I missing something? What's the best way to do that, one taller fret wire at zero?
     
  15. soggybag

    soggybag Junior Member

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    That's a great question. I'm not an an expert. That said, if you can have great action from the second fret onward, it seems that if the zero fret were the height of the other frets it would work fine.
     
  16. cmjohnson

    cmjohnson Senior Member

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    The zero fret is levelled and dressed as part of the fret job. It yields the same action height as a fretted note. It is NOT left higher than the other frets.

    Ideally, the slot depths of a conventional nut are equal to the height of a zero fret in its place.
     
  17. jiveturkey1

    jiveturkey1 Senior Member

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    Thanks for the clarification. It took me awhile to wrap my head around this. I thought the bottom of the nut slots had to be slightly higher than the first fret. Makes perfect sense when you consider fretting the first or any fret when the frets are level with each other. Or using a capo. Neck relief and or bridge height takes care of the rest........I think.
     
  18. jiveturkey1

    jiveturkey1 Senior Member

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    You said, "Ideally, the slot depths of a conventional nut are equal to the height of a zero fret in its place."
    So a guitar with a "higher action" at the nut, the slots would be higher. The lowest action at the nut would be slots level with first fret. Any lower would result in first fret buzz. So to get perfect "low" action with a zero fret would be pretty easy when leveling frets...... I think?
    Am I getting it now?
     
  19. jiveturkey1

    jiveturkey1 Senior Member

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    Sorry for 3 posts in a row but while I'm thinking about it, could someone provide a link to explain how to get the perfect nut slot height with feeler gauges? Not entirely off subject I suppose.
     
  20. LtDave32

    LtDave32 Sua Sponte Super Mod Premium Member

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    Gretsches used them, and who, if they love old guitars, doesn't love old Gretsches? Wobbly, wonky, funky ol' things they are, and I'm not a big fan of zero frets, but I do love them ol' Gretsches, zero fret and all. They for some reason to me get a pass. The rest of the zero fret guitars, meh.
     
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