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FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Zero fret nut



stigg "Geezer, and still lov'in it"!
Jun 12th, 2018 09:21 PM   Edit   Profile  

Pros and cons.
I have an old zero fret bass which worked well but I would like to try the stew mac zero fret as advertised over the web.

Contributing Member

Ooo that sandwich

is gonna get et
Jun 13th, 2018 04:55 AM   Edit   Profile  

Howdy Stigg

For me, it's all cons, because a zero fret requires some careful nut tweaking.

First, I'm not 'anti-zero-fret' because they do work fine if done correctly. I am against zero frets as a drop-in modification because certain steps are necessary that most guitar techs are unaware of. They even come improperly set up when you buy a brand new instrument that has one on it. I'll explain all this below.

Most instruments currently fitted with a zero fret will require modification of the fingerboard because the instrument has a gap between the face of the nut and the zero fret (see pic below).

The ZeroGlide nut is intended for installation on guitars or basses that currently have no zero fret installed; it goes where the current nut sits.

If you currently have a zero fret on your instrument similar to the pic below, you'll need to remove the zero fret and saw off the end of the fingerboard at the zero fret's slot to install the ZeroGlide there.

The ZeroGlide installation video states there's no need to file the pre-cut slots in the nut because they're lower than the height of the zero fret. This ensures sufficient down-force on the zero fret for clean noting of open strings.

But this creates problems.

A standard nut (whether on an electric or acoustic) has some thickness to it, and the slots for the strings are long enough to support a short length of each string. This is critical for the wound strings.

For instance, a 1/8" thick nut on a Fender guitar supports six to eight wraps on a typical low E string.

A metal fret, with its rounded top, supports only one or two wraps. This reduced support concentrates the total down-force in a very small area and it increases the rate of string and fret wear.

On a guitar with a vibrato, this abrasion is increased because the strings slip across the zero fret and through the nut (like a file or a saw) as the vibrato is used.

It also wears the zero fret when bending strings, because of the down force on the string as it slips lengthwise along the top of the zero fret. The strings cut grooves in the zero fret, and over time, string action drops.

This is the reason why many Gretsch players in the 50s and 60s had their zero fret-equipped guitars modified to use a standard nut. Over time, open strings begin to buzz at the first fret because the zero fret wears, dropping the string action over the first few frets.

Careful tuning of the nut slots can help prevent this accelerated wear. The goal is to file the slots in such a way that the strings are still in full contact with the bottom of the nut slots and supported by the nut, but at the same time, the depth of the slots allows sufficient string down-force over the zero fret to make for clean noting of the open strings.

Done correctly, the nut supports most of the down force, which reduces the rate of wear in the zero fret. Ideally, the nut allows the same down force at the zero fret as the amount of force your fingertip applies to fret a note on any fret.

Zero frets are fiddly, but with some TLC they work fine.

If done according to the ZeroGlide vid's instructions, the only thing the nut does is maintain the strings' equal separation. This is not optimal if you intend for your guitar to maintain its proper geometry to play well and sound good over time.

A zero fret as a drop-in mod is not such a good thing.

...added a picture

Zero fret on a bass

(This message was last edited by Peegoo at 07:06 AM, Jun 13th, 2018)

Contributing Member

Ooo that sandwich

is gonna get et
Jun 13th, 2018 05:17 AM   Edit   Profile  

Here's a link to the ZeroGlide installation video.

The tech doing the work in this vid has HUGE ones.

He's squirting CA adhesive on something while *holding it over the guitar* he's working on!

Most adrenaline addicts jump outta planes and stuff.


Contributing Member

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
Jun 13th, 2018 09:04 AM   Edit   Profile  

Never a good idea to fix something that isn't broke.

FDP Data Goon

We all want

our time in hell
Jun 16th, 2018 04:53 PM   Edit   Profile  

I've never particularly liked the concept and I got the 2016 LP High Performance that came stock with one (and a Plek job), I'd never encountered one worth a spit.

They got it right on those at least, but it's not a drop-in affair (titanium zero fret) to say the least.

Doc Sarvis
Contributing Member

USA/Salt Lake City

Tuned Strings and Tight Lines
Jun 16th, 2018 06:59 PM   Edit   Profile  

I've owned two guitars with zero frets, both were Burns. I liked them and I think the zero fret concept is sound. I wouldn't consider converting to a zero fret on any of my guitars with nuts> It just doesn't seem necessary to me.

FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Zero fret nut

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