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sanktf
06-23-2010, 03:08 AM
I was wondering if alternative materials would work for making frets.

I was thinking along the lines of wood (obviously very hard), bone, horn, various plastics, etc.
I am mainly concerned about durability - I don't want the frets worn off after a few years.

What do you think?

Dusepo
06-23-2010, 04:00 AM
I had a Luiqin (now sold on - I was repairing it) that had raised frets made of some hardwood. They worked very well and gave a very clear, pure sound.

Lutes had similar wooden frets on the body and tied gut on the neck. Don't most plastic ukes also have plastic frets, too?

RevWill
06-23-2010, 05:24 AM
Don't most plastic ukes also have plastic frets, too?

Sort of. Most plastic ukes have molded fretboards, and the frets are actually part of the board, not added on later.

sanktf
06-23-2010, 07:03 AM
Sort of. Most plastic ukes have molded fretboards, and the frets are actually part of the board, not added on later.

That gives me an idea: If you don't care about building a slightly thicker neck, you could saw a zigzag pattern into it, so that the spikes are frets.

Ahnko Honu
06-23-2010, 07:10 AM
The Japanese lute or Biwa uses wooden frets:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Enmk5w3YaGE

koalohapaul
06-23-2010, 10:39 PM
Is there a reason why you don't want to use metal? Making your own frets out of anything hard enough to last will definitely be a challenge.

Dusepo
06-23-2010, 10:57 PM
The Japanese lute or Biwa uses wooden frets:


This makes me wonder what a uke would sound like played with one of those epic plectrums.

sanktf
06-24-2010, 12:12 AM
Is there a reason why you don't want to use metal?

I am currently thinking about building an all-wooden uke - no metal or plastic. You could make a very nice fretboard with contrasting board and fret colours.

Wooden frets could just be glued on, which I think is easier than using fret wire. For refretting, they could just be planed off and replaced.

How long do you think will wooden frets last?

fahrner
06-24-2010, 08:38 AM
I am currently thinking about building an all-wooden uke - no metal or plastic. You could make a very nice fretboard with contrasting board and fret colours.


How long do you think will wooden frets last?
The answer you are looking for is 'not as long as metal frets'.
Have seen this done with guitar. They either used round wood toothpicks or those small wooden skewers. You would probably still want to slot the fret board to help accurately position the frets.
As for longevity, they would probably last even longer if you managed to somehow use wooden strings. Then you could say it was pure all wood. And no glue allowed if you really want to be purest so you have to rely on some very good joints to hold it all together.

ksquine
06-24-2010, 08:51 AM
Sounds interesting. I'd be worried bout gluing them on straight and in the correct position. Such small pieces of wood would slide around while clamping. They may even warp after you cut them.
Maybe you could use hardwood dowels for frets. A 1/16" dowel sanded in half would be about the right fret size

sanktf
06-24-2010, 10:32 AM
And no glue allowed if you really want to be purest so you have to rely on some very good joints to hold it all together.

This would probably be possible with fancy Japanese joints. Anyway, I am rephrasing my idea: An all-natural uke. This means i can use gut strings and hide glue.:)

I will make some frets in the next few days. I have some lovely fever tree logs lying around...

fahrner
06-24-2010, 10:39 AM
Acacia xanthophloea Benth?

sanktf
06-24-2010, 10:46 AM
Yes. It grows here locally (South Africa) and I managed to get some from my neighbour. The wood is dense and hard with a beautiful grain. It is also a yellow/green colour. If I had bigger pieces, I would make a fretboard from it.

fahrner
06-24-2010, 10:58 AM
Cool.
And thanks for rephrasing your objective. I was struggling a bit with the wooden strings.:D

Dusepo
06-24-2010, 11:48 AM
Cool.
And thanks for rephrasing your objective. I was struggling a bit with the wooden strings.:D

Isn't there some African instrument that uses or traditionally used twisted strips of bark or wooden twine for strings?
Very adventurous, but I think wooden strings might actually work lol.

mzuch
06-24-2010, 02:25 PM
Nickle-silver, the metal alloy used in most frets, is a natural material. It comes out of the earth. It undergoes processing, but so does hide glue. I'd be very concerned about intonation with jury-rigged wooden frets.

Michael N.
06-24-2010, 02:56 PM
Wood, Gut, Ivory and Bone have all been used (historically) for frets. A hard wood will be fine for plain (unwound) strings. Of course they will not last as long as metal frets but they should still last a number of years.

Tikas
06-27-2010, 12:49 AM
my CBU used toothpick frets, it worked well for a while, but they are quickly showing signs of wear, wood is perhaps not the best material, but if you want to go for the "all natural" then surely Bone would be strong enough for frets?