This is only partially a "new"  article because this fretted 
5-string banjo is the exact same one whose construction is 
described in my fretless banjo article entitled, "Yet another 
simple, very inexpensive banjo -- this one fretless" except 
that I FRETTED it. 

Nothing against fretless banjos (I still love them) but I must 
say that when I put frets on this particular fretless instrument, 
I immediately fell in love with it's sound and playability -- 
so much so that it has become, by far, the very favorite banjo 
I've ever owned -- even over the commercial jobbies of mine. 
It's my main banjo now.

All that remains for this article is to talk a bit about how to 
fret the thing.

First of all, click here & build the fretless banjo mentioned in the first paragraph.

A word about the mysteries of fretting instruments. 
AIN'T no mystery!
It's quite easy & altho said many times, "anyone can do it", this 
is very true as concerns fretting. While fancy fret-saws & jigs 
might be nice, the job can be done easily with just "around the 
shop" tools. 

On this banjo, not having a  fingerboard as such, the frets are 
mounted directly onto the top surface of the neck itself. I placed 
a single layer of masking-tape over the entire 
neck before plotting where the frets-slots should go. 

Cut the fret-slots deep enough, but not too deep - lest you weaken the 
neck. Experiment on scrap first. The most important thing being 
to make the fret-slots the proper width -- not too tight nor too loose. 
It's pretty easy - just take your time.  When sawing the frets, you 
might use the simple jig I built that made the job easy. 

Carefully measure & cut each fret. Size, angle (+/- 45 deg)& de-burr the 
ends of each fret then carefully tap them in. When done, lay a good 
straight-edge at various spots along the fretboard -- any high spots will 
become very obvious -- usually just requiring a slight tap to settle things.  

In all my time clawhammering, I've never had the need to use more than 14 frets
but if so desired - just add more. There are many fret-calculators on the web.

I made the string-length a small bit shorter than when it was a fretless banjo 
to better accomodate the fret-spacing I used.

Dennis Havlena - 8/24/2011  

Click here to access my webpage