I get asked quite often about how I figure out where to put the frets on my instruments. Building proper guitars takes incredibly precise measurements, the length of the neck and the height of the nut and all sorts of different factors go into measuring the exact placement of guitar frets.
My stuff tends to be much harder to accurately measure distances and figure out heights and how much a neck will bend under tension. So, over the years, I’ve realised that the best way to do it with oddball instruments like mine, is thusly:
Frets are the last thing I do to my instruments.
I string them up, tune them, leave them for a day or two and tune them again. Sometimes the strings need to stretch out a bit or the neck needs to settle down for the winter, so it’s good to take your time at that bit.
The next step is to take whatever you’re using for your frets (I tend to favour round nails at the moment) and to simply plug in your tuner and go up and down your neck with your loose fret on the neckboard, pushing the strings against it until you hit an in-tune place. Mark it with a pencil and keep going up until you hit the next note.
The video should clarify what I mean if that doesn’t make sense.
Be patient and slow while trying to find the right spot, my tuner is good but often gets confused and jumpy. Also, it REALLY helps if your nut and bridge are exactly 90 degrees to the neck, this way your frets will be more consistent if they’re all at 90 degrees also.
I’ve been having some fun meetings over at Machines Room, in Limewharf about running some workshops with their scrap materials. And I’m happy to announce the first (hopefully of many) workshop will be on March 21st!
“During this 4-hr workshop you will learn how to build your own 3-stringed, fretted instrument from scratch, from scraps! With the application of very basic woodwork and a simple bit of electronics take home your very own, SCRAPITAR. Suitable for 12 years and up (under-16s must be accompanied by an adult).”
“The Great Home Hack will make its debut at Fulham Palace on March 13-15 and will feature new and original works from leading designers, artists and creators within the world of upcycling. Curated by Channel 4’s Max McMurdo, the weekend will include workshops in home hacking and upcycling, live demonstrations and of course, tastings of Brancott Estate’s award winning wines.”
It’s been a while since I made this one, but things have been very busy over here and I never got around to playing it much!
It’s made entirely from a broken piano stool! The neck was one of the legs and then the body is made from 3 planks that surrounded just underneath the cushioned seat.
The burnt design is one of Phil Mann’s tattoo designs, he recently added to my little collection of inked bits of skin and his designs are utterly incredible. His site is here, and 100% worth a look at.
There is a small piezo embedded in the inlay underneath the bridge, which goes directly to the amp. The strings are strimmer wire and the tuning pins are from a piano.
I’m not quite good enough to carry a tune on a bow yet, so I hooked up my loop station and made enough textures with it to hopefully cover up my awful technique!