Hey everyone. I recently worked on an instrument with a Zero Fret. I was wondering about others approaches to these. I removed the Zero and dressed the frets. After dressing I put a new zero fret in that is about .008 taller. It plays well now.. Any dressing or re fret info is appreciated. Thanks


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Hi David

I have not done refretting but I have built 2 guitars with a zero fret.  I like them.  In my first one, like you,  I used fret wire a little taller than the other frets,and the setup worked out fine.  But I know some people who are very experienced with this arangement use the same fretwire for the zero.  It is exactly the same as using a capo, where any fret can become a zero fret - it doesn't need to be taller. 

Just out of interest, was there a lot of wear on that zero fret from continuous pressure?



Hi Mark,

I seriously do not get this: - if I have zero clearance with a standard nut I get open string buzz from strings contacting the first fret and when I dig in - what's the secret to having zero clearance with a zero fret as opposed to zero clearance with a nut (which doesn't work and is deliberately accounted for in setting up any instrument). 

This is not a Dorothy Dix question - I always set up a zero fret for the same sort of clearance I would afford a nut and allow a little extra for the inevitable string bedding into the zero fret- what's going on?


I agree with what Mark said - some people tend to put the Zero Fret a hair taller (ie - leave it higher when refretting or leveling, or use larger fretwire for the Zero fret).  Others install and treat the zero fret like it is just another fret, since it is... it's works just like a capo'd fret would work.  However, I believe leaving a bit taller, just a hair, is good practice - that is what I do.  I hope this helps.

Thanks Jason,

Yeah, I understand why a capo'd guitar can get away with it - that's geometry change due to the increasing angle of the string takeoff relative to the fingerboard and frets caused by the capo'd shorter string length and also the increase in string tension causing a smaller string excursion when plucked - but that, is a different thing from clearance at the nut or zero fret.

I trust I am not being unduly inquisitive or pedantic here, neither am I pontificating, but this is a straight technical issue for luthiers,particularly those with the high level of expreience who are on this forum, and it has an answer, one way or the other. 

I personally will continue to treat a zero fret as a nut and dial in standard clearance until such time as I'm convinced otherwise by a technical explanation.

Anyone?   Rusty.

Wow, ok... I am not sure what to say, other than I treat a Zero Fret like every other fret, as it is working like an uncompensated nut, but the break angle is entirely enough, with proper neck relief, to clear the first fret. Thus, the nut action doesn't need to be unduly high for the sake of the fretting hand. That said, it only works out if the neck relief and bridge action are within acceptable ranges.

I'm sure that's not technical enough for you, but it is for me, in this case anyway. I apologize that I don't have references or a bibliography of sources, but for me, in my own experiences - it's good enough and works out fine. Hopefully it will be helpful to someone that reads this thread. Thank you, and to the OP - again, good luck.
I realize that I just contradicted myself - sorry about that... In my earlier post I should have said that I leave them level on my own guitars, but if there's an instance where a customer wants it left a hair higher, due to picking with a heavy hand, leaving it higher resolves the risk of buzzing, so I usually do this. However, in the case of light handed finger pickers, like me, where fret buzzes not an issue with a level zero fret, than this is what I do. Ad stated in my first post, people do it both ways, depending on the need of the player, and the guitar itself. I am sure that there is an empirically correct way, but I personally do not know which it is. I apologize for the confusion, my bad. Thank you.

No drama Jason, it certainly made me think (which is something I should do about my spelling) a bit and it is very appropriate that we have these discussions to nail down the right stuff in a professional and friendly manner rather than just nod at the accepted saying.  It's one of the things that make me proud to be part of this group.

Thanks for your time and observations on this one,


Agreed. I just wish there was more of a concise explanation that exists... And there probably is, I just don't know where. Thanks, Jason

It could be that everyone is correct.

If it's a Gretsch that's going to played with medium to heavier gauge flatwound strings and there's going to be zero bending going on, I could understand using the same height as the rest of the dressed frets.

If it's a rocker's guitar, I'm with Rusty in prescribing a higher fret for the zero fret.  There's something about an unwound G string that just doesn't seem to agree with zero frets. AND...if you're a string bending fool like me, a zero fret makes no sense at all. Just for clarification....the zero frets I deal with nowadays are mostly on MIJ instruments (Teisco style) that I'm rebuilding for stage use by customers.

Rusty: to take a stab at answering your question: Capos put more downward pressure on the strings than a "guide nut" on a zero-fret guitar.  Perhaps that's why there's a stability difference?  That's just my instant guess.

Other than the occasional Gretsch, I haven't seen a quality production guitar with a zero fret in many years.  What kind of guitar did you work on, David?

Neophyte Ned here. 

 How do you set up the nut with a zero fret? Admittedly, I don't know much about them but it seem to me that a zero fret that isn't higher than the other frets must, by default, require a nut that holds the strings above the zero fret while one that is high than the other frets could mean that the slot height on the nut is a moot point.

That am I missing?

I just treat it as though it is yet another fret. I acutally use the zero fret as a baseline for making slotted nuts.

When I make a brass nut, refit a floyd nut or LSR (all scenereos that are more common than zero frets in my shop), I am comfortable getting the bottom of the nut slots stupid low:

I will adjust the truss rod so the neck is basically straight 0 - .006" relief before I dial in the nut slots.

I test the slots by pressing the strings down between the 2nd and 3rd fret and observe the gap between the bottom of the strings and the top of the 1st fret.

I then fret the strings between the nut and 1st fret and the 3rd and 4th fret and observe the gap between the bottom of the srings and the top of the 2nd fret. For a brass nut (glued in 24 hours prior to final slotting), lsr or locking nut, I want this gap to be the same (or a little larger on some strings when fitting an lsr or locking nut if necessary) than the gap when fretting at the 2nd fret. In my experience, any of the other common mateials are just going to compress and or break down too quickly for these sorts of tolerences so I leave a touch more room over the 1st fret.

FWIW, I can only recall refretting or doing LC&P on 6 guitars with zero frets. There are probably a few more that I have forgotten about but this hardly qualifies me as an expert on zero frets. Nonetheless, They have never presented a problem for me.

Always treated it as just another fret....And I do lots of Teisco's on the cheap , just to keep them out there...


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