Howdy Ya'll...

I thought to make a 4 string, fretted CBG for my first build.  I thought if I could build this one then any 3 string I did subsequently would be a cinch.  Well, I think I bit off more than I could chew.  

The build turned out pretty good for a first time ever making anything like this, but the frets are off, sort of.  The harmonics are dead on... beautiful, but using a fancy vibration tuner, and a stompbox as well, when fretted the strings don't ring true.  The notes fretted are wrong and it is hard to tune by ear.  Don't get me wrong, it actually sounds close and plays okay when chording and strumming.  But the intonation is wrecked.  


The top string is currently tuned to "A".  So open I get an "A".  Fretting the first fret I get an "A" at +150. 2nd fret plays "B" at -150.  3rd fret is "B" at +150, etc... etc... HELP! 

I am using a 5/8" bolt for the nut and bridge (only the bridge has a thin piece of wood below it).  I swapped out for a smaller nut bolt (the next size down) and took out the piece of wood under my bridge.  I even swapped out my tail piece for one with 4 holes.  I also added string trees/keepers to the headstock.  These all helped the sound of the thing, reducing some slight fret and string buzz, but that's about it.

Thoughts?  Advise? 

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Is the distance from nut to the 12th fret the same as the distance from the 12th fret to the top of the bolt bridge?  Your pic is at an angle, but it looks like your bridge placement is a few inches backward too far.

Secondly, once you get the 12th fret exactly in the middle of the bridge and nut, confirm that the total distance from nut to bridge is the same as the scale length you used to determine your fret spacing.

I'd make a guess that you need your bridge to be near the bottom of the loop in the T of the box logo or maybe even close to the vertical part of the T.  That's just eyeballing it off a skewed pic, but I think it's a good guess.

The placement in the pic is off (sorry, but the only quick pic I had).  Yes, the measurements all add up.  And you are right (good eye), that's about where the bridge does actually go.

With my harmonics right on the money (5th, 7th, and 12th fret) this has me really puzzled.  I would assume if my bridge were off then the harmonics would be too. 

How high is the action at the first and 12th frets?

How is the string tension?  Really tight or really floppy?  Try tuning all strings down a whole step then redo the tuning check.  If the strings seem too floppy then tune up a half step and recheck.

Just had a look at the pic, even allowing for the perspective, I reckon the bridge should actually be around where the pickup is, or even in front of it, so the whole thing looks wildly out. To get "in the ball park" the distance from nut to 12th fret should be the same as 12th fret to bridge.

I had a look at yer pic, too. I do LOTS of analysis of core photos that are taken with perspective, so have a pretty good eye for pattern distortion. I have to agree with Eric: your bridge should be at about where the indentation in the top crossbar of the "T" is. That being the case, and knowing that that Tabak box is about 9" long, I'd say you're looking at a 24 to 24 1/2" scale length, with what should be 22 frets clear of the body (even though I count 21, there's room for one more).

When you move the bridge to the "T," and check your intonation, does it improve? Fret buzz with lower nut and bridge may mean a coupla things: 1) assuming your top string, tuned to "A" you said, is the string nearest the stars on the box, it and all the other strings may be loose, or nor have quite enough string tension, causing one or more strings to buzz against the frets; maybe this git wants to be tuned to B or Bb? I have one like that. or 2) you have a fret, or maybe more than one, that is too high. Given your experience with the top "A" string, I'd start checking fret height at fret 2, and work your way fret by fret toward the bridge, checking intonation at each one, all the way to fret 12, with your new bridge placement.
Yeah, we need a good clean pic with the strings on and at least one showing us the action over the frets.

I agree with Oily on the tuning. I have a couple that need to be tuned up or down a step to be happy.

Cool build. Looks killer. Just make sure the nut is low enough. Not too low that it's buzzing, but pretty damn close to the 1st fret. The bridge should be a few milimeters back from the theoretical position.  This youtube video helped me out a lot with setting the bridge at the right place : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3GPARmX0C0.  Oh, and since you are using bolts, make sure you are taking your mesurements from the center of the bolt.

A few thoughts.

1. You will always get perfect harmonics visa vis the electronic tuner. Hit the right place on the string and it will ring.

2. Find your harmonic for the octave ( 12th fret) on one string. Then play the 12th fret fretted. They should be the same.

3. If the fretted note is lower than the harmonic, move the bridge up towrds the nut and try again. If higher do the opposite. When they are the same, you know that the 12th fret is half way between the nut and the bridge plus a small amount to account for depressing the string.

4. Then try that string on other frets and see if the intonation seems correct.

5. For steel strings, the bridge is usually at an angle with the treble side of the bridge closer to the nut than the bass side. Your bolt in the photo is straight. So repeat 2 to 4 for each string, changing the angle of the bridge if required.

6. After that, if it still does not play, check if a particular fret is off and check if the intonation is further and further off as you progress on the fretboad and the strings are higher off the fret board. If the second seems to be the case lower the bridge and/or nut. If the first, I'm not sure where you go from there.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for all your help and suggestions.  I think I really screwed up now.  I have a Luthier friend tell me it was something with the nut and/or the tailpiece.  So, I swapped out the original tail piece for a smaller hinge and I added the two middle holes.  Now harmonics only ring true without the bolt, making the new tailpiece also the bridge.

The 12th fret is close to 13 inches from the nut.  That puts the theoretic sweet spot for the bridge (and about where I attached my piezo buzzer to the neck inside the box) around where the cursive loop is in the "T".  

The measurements for the strings above the fretboard are 3/16" at the 1st fret and 3/8" at the 12th fret.

It's strange I tried chording it and playing with the tuner on.  An "A" chord is only slightly sharp.  A "G" rings true. What strings I can chord for a "D" ring slightly flat, but "D" noethe less.  An "F" chord rings as an "E" +150 (like an "E" Sharp, but not quite an "F") and a "C" shows up as a B +150 (like a "B" Sharp, but not quite a "C"). 

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Ok, so you're looking at a 25 1/2 to maybe even 26" scale (so I was off maybe an inch :-) )...your string height looks pretty good actionwise...your experience with chording, showing variably sharp or flat at different frets, with certain notes + / - 150 cents out, suggests a coupla things:

1) Like I said above, you may have some frets higher than others. Check to see that they are level, there are vids here, like Dan Sleep's for example ( http://www.cigarboxnation.com/video/how-to-fret-a-neck ), that can help show you how to find and level high frets.

2) Certain frets may be misplaced. How did you determine and measure your fret spacing, and scale length? Have you checked the mathematical distance, starting from the center of your nut, to each fret, always measuring in turn from the nut, not fret to fret? There are numerous online and free fret calculators available that tell you (the Phrygian Kid has a good one called JeFret for the iPhone or iPad, and Stew-Mac has one available online that many people use), once you plug in your desired scale length, the fret location measured from the nut, and from fret to fret, to both mm and 1/32" precision. If you measured from fret to fret, it is very easy to introduce cumulative errors that can give you the behavior you're experiencing. And when you say the 12th fret is almost 13" from the nut, how far is almost? Is it 12 3/4", 12 30/32"? It does make a difference. I was gonna suggest, that like all players actually subtly do, you very slightly bend each note a tad to compensate for micro imperfections in intonation, which happens even on commercial gits, but + / - 150 cents is way too much difference to solve with technique.

I used WFret if memory serves... I have battling this issue for months and even posted in other forums to no avail.  I think I remember measuring from fret to fret, and not from the nut each time.  The measurements weren't cumulative from the nut, if I remember correctly, but distances from fret to fret.  Sadly it sounds like I need to scrap the neck and start over on this one. :-(   

 I only said "almost 13"" cause it's around there, but by the time I got to my computer I had forgotten the exact measurement. I was fairly precise with the measurements, but I see what you mean. Oh well, thanks for the advice.  Now I know for the next build (which will be fretless to say the least)...  

Dude crank the strings a half inch off the neck, call it a steel and start again. We all screw up don't sweat on it :)

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