Woodsound Studio - Fretted Family Setup
 

Fretted Family Setup

1982 Fleta bridge that required filling and routing to correct intonation.

Router running in the jig to produce slot.

Setup of fretted instruments seems simple compared to orchestral setup, at least it is “by the numbers.” Fretted instruments warp, dip, and do all manner of contortions that shift the neck or warp the fingerboard due to being pulled rather than pushed downward by the strings. The principles are the same though: proper relief to allow string swing from equilibrium and the lowest possible string height that will play cleanly for a given player’s technique. As always, it is neck angle to the body that is critical, so the tops of the frets are in alignment with the top edge of the bridge. This will give a saddle height (approximately 4mm) that will allow adjustment for both summer and winter for many years of play as the instrument continues to collapse.

Neck angle may be step one, but well-installed frets, leveled or shaped into a relief because the truss rod moves the neck in the wrong place make the difference between a clean sound or a lot of fret noise. That also determines how high you have to set the action to play cleanly. Correct relief coupled with the correct string slot height at the nut enables the saddle to be set so the string is as close as possible, depending on the player’s power of stroke.

Intonation is the next step in the process. An old instrument’s scale will shorten as the body collapses. Many new instruments don’t have the saddle placed properly. They need their bridge slots filled or may need even a new bridge in order to rout a slot in the correct position to set the exact string length for a given string gauge. Math may tell us to put the saddle in a particular spot, but hearing is the true test for a given action and gauge of string. That is why we put down our bridges with no slot and determine the exact intonation spot with string brand and gauge with a movable saddle and then rout the slot. Small back and forth beveling, then we set each string to its correct intonation point.

New frets after truing a fingerboard.

1928 Martin Triple-0-28 with new pyramid bridge, neck set, and custom intonation.


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