Building a Fretless Guitar
Glenn from Abbortsford’s fretless build from readily available components
Hi, I’m Glenn, from Abbotsford BC Canada. This guitar was inspired by Chris Shaffer’s Area 51 Debris made for Infinite Ego and Gary Corcoran’s penchant for readily available materials.
Well this is a baritone guitar- scale length 28″ or 711.2 mm. Tuning from low to high; C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db all P4 intervals.
The string Guage is 12-45 although I’ll go heavier next string change, Probably 14- 54.
Body – Paduak finshed with Tung oil. Thickness is 27mm. Ultra thin with no excessive carving out of the body. Only 1 small cavity for 2 guitar cord plugins.
The magnetic pickup is surface mounted.
I got the idea for ultra thin guitars from a boutique guitar maker in England.
The neck is made from vertical grain compressed bamboo. Why bamboo? It’s a man-made product combining bamboo with glues under high temperature and heat. The end result is it’s 12% harder than maple, dead flat, and resistant to humidity, doesn’t twist or bend, and is very easy to work with. I love it. On the musical app side check out Emmett Chapman Stick website to see how he uses the material.
I epoxied 2-5mm x 5mm x 533mm solid square steel rods into 2 slots in the bamboo and covered the rods with a piece 80/1000 brass for the top plate of the neck.
The neck doesn’t move at all and hopefully never will!
I angled the neck to be closer to my body using a japanese saw – “dozuki” to cut the angle on the neck. The angled neck gave me the distance needed for me to surface mount the guitar pickup The neck I glued to the body. as I wanted a solid firm connection, I don’t like bolt ons. It’s just my preference.
Nut & String Fixing
Top of the neck string fasteners – I got these from a local electrical supply store. The fasteners are called connector lugs. They are made of copper with a stainless steel set screw on top. They work very well with no slipage. They cost me $1.90 Canadian each. Good value I thought.
The nut is 3mm x 3mm steel bar and acts like a zero fret, it’s filed so low a piece of paper barely goes between string and brass plate.
The bridge is a 35mm x 3mm x 85mm piece of flat steel with 6-25mm aluminium angle iron on top to support the strings.
On the horizontal side of the aluminium angle bracket I grooved slots so they could slide between the positioning screws on the flat bridge plate. The screws serve as guides and are tightened when the string intonation is set.
On the top of the aluminium bracket I filed a “v” groove for the strings to sit in, the depth of groove depended on what the string height is at the 12th fret. Vigier sets the 12th fret string height at 1.0mm on the treble side and 1.2mm on the bass side. Mine is 1.12mm treble and 1.32 bass. So I slowly filed alway checking with feeler gauges until I was close.
Tailpiece – 3mm steel angle-iron (19mmx 19mm) with 6 holes drilled according to the string spacing you want.
Threaded the holes. Before putting tuning bolts on, I worked on the other half – the U channel to hold the strings. The holes on the bolt side I oversized so the bolt shaft can rotate freely. I placed 2 plastic washers (lovely green colour) on to keep the U channel from rotating with the bolt. This part works fairly well, I’m not totally happy with this however I’ve designed another solution which I’ll put on when I change strings.
The other side (string side) of the U channel I drilled holes large enough so the strings can go through easily.
Before assembling the tailpiece I glued a small angled wood block on the guitar body to get the proper angle for the tuning bracket. Screwed the tuning bolts through the angle iron and epoxied nuts onto the ends of the bolts.
Fender Lace Sensor Blue- this I had laying around plus also it’s a blade style pickup so string spacings were not as critical.
A Piezo film pickup is attached to under side of bridge plate. Got it from experimental musical instruments
No volume or tone controls on the guitar. I rarely ever use them and prefer volume pedals adjusting the tone with hands and pick.
Glenn from Abbotsford