Fanned Fret Guitars

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Philip Secrist
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Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Philip Secrist »

I am considering building a fanned fret or multi-scale 6-string guitar. I have built several dozen successful guitars with standard scale lengths and the fanned fret guitars intrigue me. Does anyone have experience you can share with a fanned fret build. I am wondering specifically about the modifications to the X-braced top (obviously to have the ends of the bridge overlap the x-braces the pattern either has to be rotated or adjusted or the bridge design has to accommodate the wide saddle angle if the bracing is not adjusted). I am trying to decide if I should undertake the project and what the pitfalls may be. I am looking at a OM or a grand auditorium-like body style with a 6th string scale length of 26.something inches to get down to a B or C and the treble side at 25 inches. Thanks in advance for all of your help!

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Philip,

I've never build an acoustic guitar, but build several electric ones with fanned frets, and I really love playing an instrument with fanned frets.
I've did a quick google search and there are several builders who supply (some) info on how they braced their guitars.
I guess that with an inch of difference in the scale lengths you don't have to alter your bracing much.

I would really love to see your progress.
Good luck!

Alan Carruth
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Alan Carruth »

I use a symmetric top brace system, and all I really change is the bridge plate. You do have to make sure you don't hit any of the braces with a pin hole, though! Pinless bridges are a good match here.

David Boehnker
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by David Boehnker »

I made a fanned fret acoustic 15 years ago and still play it. I placed the perpendicular fret at the 12th, but if I had to do it over I would move it down a few frets to get more balance in the fingering. However, I still think it plays great. I used my regualr bracing and found it covered the bridge ends with no interference from the pins. Pay attention to how you do the headstock/nut, I think there are some past posts on that.

Michael Lewis
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Michael Lewis »

Alan, that seems to me a good opportunity for a zero fret. What do you think?

Jason Rodgers
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Jason Rodgers »

David Boehnker wrote:I made a fanned fret acoustic 15 years ago and still play it. I placed the perpendicular fret at the 12th, but if I had to do it over I would move it down a few frets to get more balance in the fingering. However, I still think it plays great. I used my regualr bracing and found it covered the bridge ends with no interference from the pins. Pay attention to how you do the headstock/nut, I think there are some past posts on that.
What scales did you use, David? On my 7-string electric I used 25.5" and 27" with the neutral fret at the 7th. I'm actually planning to put the neutral on the 12th on some upcoming instruments because I found the frets above the 12th to be a little awkward as the frets tilt toward the body on the bass side. What is it about 12th fret neutral placement that you don't like?

And yes, zero frets make setup a breeze with fanned frets.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Hans Bezemer »

+1 for the zero fret.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Alan Carruth »

But then you can't compensate the nut.

David Boehnker
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by David Boehnker »

Jason, I think used 25.5 and 24.5 for my scales. I don't have any particular problem with the neutral fret at 12, I have just thought that it might be more playable have the neutral fret near where you hand sort of pivots as you go up the neck. But I haven't tried a guitar with that setup.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Alan Carruth »

My students and I have been putting the perpendicular fret at 7; it seems to make sense. A lot depends on how you hold the guitar, of course.

Joel Nowland
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Joel Nowland »

Here's a crazy fan fret project.

Built an 11 string electric about 10 years ago, according to the customer's blueprints, and the main problem was the bass side needed a lot more compensation than he originally calculated.

You have to build, at least I did, a special adjustable miter sled to cut the frets on the table saw. There is only one 90 degree fret and the rest are all on different angels.

Granted this is a way out there guitar but if I ever built another I would find a way to check intonation before placing the bridge.

Joel
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Jason Rodgers
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Jason Rodgers »

That's some serious fan-age there, Joel! But it's the best solution for such a wide range instrument.

With the 1-1/2" difference in the scales I used, and neutral at 7, I know what it feels like to have the frets tilt away in the lower positions; the guitars on the bench right now will only use 25" or 25-1/2" to 26", so that splay will be considerably less. I'm not noticing an ergonomic benefit to having the frets tilt toward me anywhere on the neck, and if anything, the more they're tilted toward the bridge, the more trouble I find in chording. Actually, I considered making the bridge the neutral point and letting the whole fretboard fall away (and I could use any stock bridge, too!), but my body outline sort of "requires" the bridge to tilt to look "right" in the whole scheme.

It's interesting to see that most of the folks who employ fanned frets - Novax (obviously), Toone, strandberg*, Dingwall, and Ormsby - put the neutral fret on 7 or 9. This is from folks who have built and played these machines much more than me, but I'm thinking (for my own tastes) that the placement of the neutral fret has a lot to do with the difference in scale lengths. 7-9 might be fine for 1" or so difference, but 1-1/2" to 2" difference in scale lengths might feel better at the 12th. If I do another like my 7-string, that's what I'll do.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

Philip Secrist
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Philip Secrist »

Alan, I too am thinking of using a symmetric top brace system and just changing the bridge plate. I am also thinking that the pin less bridge is the way to go. Any help on how to make the bridge so that it is not too massive to accommodate the saddle angle? Also, the person interested in this guitar wants to play in open tunings where he wants to tune down to a B on the 6th string. Would the 26 inch bass side scale length and a 25 inch trebles side allow him to get there?

Joel, I figured I would have to hand cut the fret board using some kind of jig, but I would love to know what you built for the table saw. I cut my regular fret boards that way.

Paul E Buerk
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Paul E Buerk »

I'd posted a thread on the slotting jig I made:

http://www.mimf.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=2669

Joel Nowland
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by Joel Nowland »

Philip

My sled is basically the same idea as Paul's.

I made a sled and cut all the way through the base. I marked the sides of the fingerboard where the scale lengths meet the edges then line up the marks for each fret on each side of the fingerboard with the cut in the sled and clamp it down with toggle clamps.

I kept screwing the clamps down to the sled in different locations as needed to hold the fingerboard down for the cuts.

Joel

David Boehnker
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Re: Fanned Fret Guitars

Post by David Boehnker »

I got my fingerboard done at a friend's machine shop using CNC. I gave him the two scales (treble and bass sides), and the fret spacing for each side, and he used a 0.023 bit to do the slots. He did it as a favor to me (I built him a guitar), but I imagine it wouldn't cost much if you don't want to build a jig.

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