HOW TO TIE FRETS
(Figures and explanation courtesy of
Dan Larson Historical Instruments)
- Place the
instrument securely on a table or other flat surface so that the neck
extends toward your left.
- Remove the
old fret by clipping the knot with some fingernail clippers.
- Tie the new
fret down the fingerboard, (toward the nut). The fret will be pulled up into
position when it is finished. This will help to hold the fret tightly on the
- Loop the
fret material and slip it under the strings as in figure A. We will call
this loop 2. The two ends should be sticking out from the strings toward
you. We will call these strand 1 and strand 3. Loop 2 passes around the back
of the neck and also faces you.
- Make another
loop in strand 1. We will call this loop 4.
- Pass loop 4
through loop 2 as in figure B.
- Now, pass
strand 3 through loop 4 as in figure C. Pull the knot tight. Don't worry
about getting it too tight. Just pull the gut and settle it so that there is
no slack in the fret.
- Now, make a
simple over hand knot with strands 1 and 3 as in figure d. Pull this knot
- Clip the
ends of the strands about 1/8 inch from the knot. Use a small flame or
soldering iron to burn the ends up to the knot. Be careful not to burn the
knot or the instrument!!
- If you need
to, rotate the fret on the neck so that the knot is more or less at the
joint of the fingerboard and neck.
- Pull the
fret up the neck into position.
Some commentary on Dan's instructions:
- Make sure
you tie that final bend in figure D exactly as shown. Notice that the end
marked "1" is on top of the rightmost vertical strand the last two times it
crosses it. Tied this way, when you finally tighten the whole thing up, it
will make a square knot. If you make the final twist of "1" and "3" the
other way, with "1" behind that vertical strand, you'll get a "granny knot",
which, as any Boy Scout can tell you, won't stay tight.
- To get the
knot good and tight, grip both ends with needle-nose pliers and pull hard.
- You have
considerable latitude to tighten frets by moving them up the neck--all but
the first one. Most of your frets will be made from old, broken or otherwise
worn strings. To get a tight first fret, sacrifice an unused string of the
right thickness. If you've got one that's a year or more old, and it hasn't
been used yet, chances are it won't play true anyway; gut doesn't age well.
Stretch it as tight as it will go, either on your viol or using any useful
winch mechanism (like the screw on a bench vise). You'll know it's at its
limit when you crank it just a little more but the pitch doesn't change.
Leave it like that for a day or two. Then take it off and tie the fret
immediately. The string will shrink back a bit, leaving you with a tight