View Full Version : Fret spacing

03-26-2009, 06:15 PM
Is there a specific tool that can help with fret spacing. Im getting ready to build my first uke:rock:, but I'm clueless on how to go about spacing the frets correctly.

Pete Howlett
03-26-2009, 06:51 PM
I have one but it is only one of three built... See here. (http://www.ukulelecosmos.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=11035) Otherwise use a rule and pencil or rule and dividers...

03-26-2009, 11:32 PM
> Is there a specific tool that can help with fret spacing. Im getting ready to build my first uke, but I'm clueless on how to go about spacing the frets correctly.

What I've done for some similar problem (thought I don't know if that's precise enough for a guitar / uke) is that I designed it using any free CAD tool, printed it on some paper and use adhesiv tape to keep the paper in place. If you have a laser printer, you could also use a hot iron to transfert the drawing directly to the wood (see there (http://kaituanui.com/elect-pcb-hot-iron-1.htm) for some hints)


03-27-2009, 05:00 AM
there's a fret calculator here (http://liutaiomottola.com/formulae/fret.htm), if that's any use.

03-27-2009, 07:39 AM
MIMF.com has a free fret calculator that will print a template for you. I've used it and its really accurate. Stewmac.com has one the website too.
If you're using a standard scale length, it might be easier to just buy a pre cut fretboard from hanalima. I get them pre cut when I can....definitely worth the 10bucks or so.

03-27-2009, 08:06 AM
That tool Pete Howlett showed is for spacing the strings at the nut.

When I made my first uke, I worked out the fret spacing mathematically using a factor of 17.82, and it worked just fine. If you've looked on line at any pages on the subject, you will know what I mean. I quite enjoy the task - but that's just me!


03-27-2009, 09:37 AM
I download this program here (http://www.topshareware.com/Fret-Calculator-transfer-40998.htm). Enter in the scale and the number of frets and it will print out a template. I usually stick it on the fretboard with doublesided tape and saw on the lines.

03-28-2009, 11:10 AM
And here's another.http://www.manchesterguitartech.co.uk/fret_calculator.php

03-28-2009, 11:15 AM
That tool Pete Howlett showed is for spacing the strings at the nut
Also the bridge, on any size 4 string instrument incuding double bass fiddle..There is a six string version in the pipeline if anyone is intrested?.

Pete Howlett
03-28-2009, 11:31 AM
My apologies folks - I must have had a dyslexic moment when I read the post. Even if you have the facilties to measure accurately it is easy to build up cummulative error. However, there is a way that the old boys used.

Calculate the first fret distance and set a drawing compass to this measurement.
On a line that represents the scale length, draw an arc at the nut position with the point of the compass at zero. This marks your first fret.
From the saddle position connect the scale length with a very sharp pencil to the arc just drawn forming a tangent. The resulting 'triangle' as it were is used to draw subsequent diminishing arcs using the point at which the arc intersects the base line as the start point each time.
Check your acccuracy - the 12th fret is half the scale length, The 5th fret a quarter and the 7th fet a third.

I did my first guitar like this and it was fine. However, the first fret position must be spot on and a 2 ceimal place digital vernier caliper is good for this. Also your compass - chose a bow leg one with a fine adjusting wheel rather than the 'school-boys' kit (sorry ladies...) one.

03-28-2009, 01:56 PM
I used a steel rule, and a school "person's" pair of compasses. Worked for me.


03-29-2009, 08:03 AM
Thanks for all the replies. What exactly is the scale length that everyone keeps mentioning?

Pete Howlett
03-29-2009, 08:13 AM
The non-compensated distance from the nut to the peak point on the saddle is the scale length.Some accepted standards are:

Martin soprano - 13.625"
Other soprano - 13.75"
Concert - 14.75"
Larivee concert - 15"
Tenor - 17 "

A lot of modern makers use these as a guide and I am sure will post their own preferences if they are contributing here. Also, there is a trend to put long scales on small bodies like Dave Means who creates what he calls - 'mezzo-sopranos'. There are no rules - many early Hawaiian ukulele had a scale of just 13". With modern fret calculators, you really can do your own thing :music:

BTW I've downloaded that fret calculator mentioned earlier in Yopparai's post and did the test run - my printer needs no adjusting so I can make that one off pocket soprano the old fashioned way. I am looking forward to this dinky 'island' fun build... This is such an incredible tool for the complete go-it-alone builder. Gets 11/10 from me and a shortcut on my desktop! :shaka: