I think bar frets is one of the practices that was really good but abandoned for a quicker way to do the same thing - almost as good. Like the change to preslotted string pins when solid pins works better but takes more time to mount.

The barbs on the fret tang will not give the same uniform contact along the fretboard as a bar fret will, all along the fretboard there will be like a string of small "holes" drilled under each fret. With superglue, a barbless tang and a fitting thickness of the fret saw and using a fret press I think the barbs can be avoided and the fretboard will be a solid piece of wood and metal. An added benefit would be easier refrets.

Any thought about that and can you buy barbless tang frets anywhere?

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Roger, have you seen the articles Harry Fleishman wrote about what he called "semi-hemispherical " fret ends?  He stripped off the barbs, rounded the fret ends and glued them in with superglue.  Many builders picked it up and tried it.  I haven't heard much about it lately.  

No,I haven't. The round fret ends is not something I would do, I wonder why he stripped the barbs? Don't seem to be necessary for the fret ends.

He uses bound boards and wants each fret end to be .01 or so inset from the edge of the board.  Easier to place exactly there then when it pressing or hammering in the frets. So strip barbs, hold down and glue. At least that's the reason I've heard.

Hi Roger,

This has all the hallmarks of a solution looking for a problem.    The barbs are there to hold the fret in precisely the same position as it was put. The barb diamonds also give the fret a greater contact area with the fret slot along with a larger  superglue glueing area locked into the fret slot wall. The seating provided by the fret crown shoulder is also surface area for security, vertical location and sound transmission. 

These days frets are given a belt and braces shot of superglue to ensure they stay put under all stresses that modern playing techniques, trussrod adjustment and travelling/environmentals  put on guitar frets and fretboards.   Similarly, semi-hemispherical fret ends are quite common on modern playing surfaces and their smoothness while giving a good width of fret playing area is generally appreciated even if the guitarist is unaware of this fret end treatment.  They take time, like all good things. 

Obviously, the old word charm of ancient instruments/ acoustics requires traditional finishes and looks and what is appropriate for them is as dictated and requested by tradition and as desired.   However, I cannot find any good reason other than this to turn the clock back to unrestrained/unseated bar frets. 




My experience from having a stiff seating of the ball end of the string tells me that the initial stiffness of the support between the two string ends is very important for both volume and attack. The fretboard is a major player for that initial stiffness. Having a "solid" piece of wood and metal instead of perforations of the fretboard under each fret should give some extra stiffness. With superglue and a tight match between the cut in the fretboard and the tang along with a matching radius of the fret and the fretboard the barbs may not be needed. I don't have a trussrod, I suppose barbs are needed in that case.

Maybe you are right about this being a solution looking for a problem. But I will try anyway. I have been surprised before :-)

Hi Roger,

No argument there, neck stiffness is everything in our build book.  The role that fret tangs/slots play in that equation varies considerably with a whole bunch of other factors but I would submit that the grooves caused by the track of the barb during the initial seating process is inconsequential to overall neck stiffness when compared to the importance of matching fret barb width and depth to the slots at hand.

Given that the fret slots, if left alone,  do not increase in width over time as wood is very stable in longitudinal dimension and when the frets are glued in they remain snug I cannot agree that longitudinal neck stiffness is compromised by the barb tracks.   

Modern tooling allows necks and fingerboards  to be built with relief which is ironed out by slight compression fretting which ensures a positive pressure from one side of the fret slot to the other - which achieves a very good stiffness when under string tension.  This is particularly evident with jumbo frets with extended fret tang depths almost double the depth of shallow "traditional frets".

However, this is by way of explanation and discussion of why we are talking apples and oranges here - bar frets will work fine in applications where bar frets are suitable for the instrument or necessary for the look. But the discussion was worth having to break out a few points about frets that seldom get considered.  All good,


Thanks for the reply. I will do an experiment with two fretboards, one with barbless fret wire and see if it gets stiffer or not :-)

I'd like to see barbless tangs with holes in them, specifically for glue-in fretting.

That would be nice :-)

I like that idea Jeffrey. Somewhere along the line I saw photos of someone drilling tiny holes in the tang. Makes sense to me.

Well, that theory didn't fly. Made two rosewood fretboards, one with the usual barbed frets and another with the same frets with shaved barbs. With the barbs the tang was 0.9 mm thick, with shaved barbs 0.6 mm. All frets glued with Stewmac 20 superglue. Here is some pictures from the test, I measured the fretboard "relief" with and without a 5 kg weight. Pretty much exactly the same bend on both fretboards.

But to quote a famous Swedish rockstar the day after being to drunk to play for a huge audience; "Even a cancelled show is a show!".

The standard fret barb is a brutal thing. Crushing wood on the way down and making splinters on the way up. Without glue a great solution. I always use superglue and so do everyone I have ever asked about it. Maybe there is a market for frets meant to be glued with less brutal barbs? Sawing the thin notch and putting in the barbless fretwire was so much easier than the standard barbed fretwire and the frets seated much better. Maybe frets with a flat and slightly wavy tang for the glue to fill or maybe straight vertical spline like barbs instead of the horizontal standard ones. I have a feeling that the glue will keep the fret in place. I would buy them anyway :-)


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