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ShatnersBassoon

Stainless steel frets

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A few things that have been on my mind recently...Why are stainless steel frets not standard on guitars? It’s not like the fretwire is even that expensive (making me question why it is so often mentioned as a premium feature). Am I missing something? They just make so much sense to me, not having to refret periodically seems a huge bonus! Thoughts? I suppose some of it is to do with us guitarists being a rather traditional bunch.

Edited by ShatnersBassoon
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The main reasons I can think of is that the tooling and installation is more difficult, and the additional time it takes to complete the job makes it more expensive. Stainless being harder is less forgiving on the tools, so you either need to replace them more frequently or invest in better quality ones to begin with.

Some people might get all voodoo about the tone differences between stainless and nickel silver, but I suspect you'd be hard pressed to hear any difference in a normal playing situation.

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Yes, it does take longer. They're harder to cut, harder to shape, harder to crown, harder to level. I've done it a few times, but it is hard work. Although if it is done well, it'll last forever.

The frets need to be pre-curved to match the radius of the fret board, but not over-radiused as you would normally do for nickel silver frets. Stainless steel will spring back out of the slot if it's over-radiused, rather than wedge itself in place when hammered/pressed in.

You'll destroy most hand cutters if you try to cut stainless the normal way. Use a diamond cutoff wheel for a Dremel instead.

If you're intending to undercut the fret tangs (eg for a bound fretboard) you won't do it with a regular pair of tang cutters, so you'll have to use the diamond cutoff wheel and/or files, which is more fiddly.

Leveling and crowning will be easier with diamond coated tools too. Regular files work OK, but will take a lot longer and wear quicker.

The process of fretting with stainless is largely the same as nickel silver, just takes longer and is more effort.

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11 hours ago, ShatnersBassoon said:

Thank you for the detailed reply! I’m now somewhat tempted to either go for standard nickel frets, or to just buy a pre fretted fingerboard...hey it’s my first build 😁

If it's your first build I wouldn't fret (ba-dum tish!) and stick to standard wire :D

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Actually, you can use standard nippers and tang cutters, they just won't last as long. Maybe two fret jobs before you replace all your cutters. Small price to pay.

 

 I use SS on everything, including when I refret a regular guitar. Mark the fret length you need(a hair longer actually), nip the tang, then cut the crown. After installation I use a file to carefully flush the ends up with the fretboard.

 

The real key to a good SS fret job is to have the neck completely finished before fretting(minus the actual finish) and make sure the neck is perfectly flat before using a fret press to install the frets. Use a two way truss rod in your build so just have complete control over how flat the neck is. That way if you take your time and install them right you won't need to level and recrown, just bevel the ends and polish out any scratches you make with the press.

 

Then, once the guitar is finished, string it up and let it sit under tension a few days before readjusting your truss rod to create the setup you want. I prefer flat, but some prefer to leave a tiny forward bow. Either way, do the job right and you shouldn't have to level and recrown.

 

By far, the toughest part of SS frets is recrowning and polishing out the scratches, so take the time to avoid these things.

 

Also, try not to pair SS with too much "bright" sounding wood. Mahogany body with maple neck is fine, all mahogany is great, but avoid an all maple guitar.

 

Bubinga and SS pair well. For some reason, in spite of it's density, Bubinga is surprisingly warm. I think it may be the large pores.

 

As far as industry standard, it's becoming used more all the time.

 

Prefretted board won't help. You will still have to level and recrown after gluing to the neck.

Edited by westhemann

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On 3/8/2018 at 4:33 PM, ShatnersBassoon said:

A few things that have been on my mind recently...Why are stainless steel frets not standard on guitars? It’s not like the fretwire is even that expensive (making me question why it is so often mentioned as a premium feature). Am I missing something? They just make so much sense to me, not having to refret periodically seems a huge bonus! Thoughts? I suppose some of it is to do with us guitarists being a rather traditional bunch.

Thanks so much for asking this ; can't wait to red on !!! :)

I was wondering this just yesterday,,... And I now found it, but was looking for the answer (ritgh now) on finishing up fret boards but yeah !!! : * )

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On 3/8/2018 at 4:33 PM, ShatnersBassoon said:

A few things that have been on my mind recently...Why are stainless steel frets not standard on guitars? It’s not like the fretwire is even that expensive (making me question why it is so often mentioned as a premium feature). Am I missing something? They just make so much sense to me, not having to refret periodically seems a huge bonus! Thoughts? I suppose some of it is to do with us guitarists being a rather traditional bunch.

Haha ! Traditional bunch ! :)

Just now, Jadaegd said:

Thanks so much for asking this ; can't wait to read on !!! :)

I was wondering this just yesterday,,... And I now found it, but was looking for the answer (right now) on finishing up fret boards but yeah !!! : * )

 

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