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Some Questions For Those Who Have Worked With Stainless Steel Frets

Mind Riot

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Ever since I heard about stainless steel fretwire, I thought it was a fascinating concept. Little to no wear, holds a polish well, virtually indestructible as far as the normal rigors of guitar and bass playing. Nowadays it seems to be becoming a bit more common, so I had some questions for those who have installed it, leveled and dressed it, just worked with it in general in the event that I end up using it someday.

I've read all I can find on it, both on this forum and anywhere else I can find information. I apologize if I missed some information and some of these questions have already been answered.

First off, as far as installing SS fretwire. I've read some posts where people have said that SS fretwire is virtually impossible to install with a hammer, and a press is essential. They stated that SS has a much stronger tendency to develop popped up fret ends due to it's stiffness. Is this the case? Is a press the only real viable way to install them, or has someone done it with a hammer successfully?

Also related to installing, is there some kind of special end nippers people use when dealing with SS wire? Or do the normal flush ground nippers like from Stew Mac work, but just wear out faster?

Now, as far as leveling SS fretwire. I have radius blocks that I'm going to use with the gold Fre-Cut sandpaper for leveling frets. Would this kind of sandpaper cut SS fret tops, or would I need to get myself some kind of flat diamond file to make into a traditional fret leveling file? This sandpaper is supposed to be for cutting metal, but SS is a whole other ballgame from nickel silver frets.

And lastly, I've read that for recrowning SS frets, a diamond crowning file is essential. Other places, I've read that you can do it with a traditional file, but "you won't like it". I don't really know what that means. I have a traditional double sided toothed file for recrowning from Stew Mac, but I've only had it a week or so and I could probably still return it and get a diamond recrowning file. Is a diamond crowning file a must have for SS wire?

The reason I ask all of this is that as my guitars age and are leveled and dressed, eventually they will need a refret. And I would strongly consider refretting them with SS wire when that time comes, but I want to invest in the right tools, and not in tools that I'll have to supplement with specialty stuff later when I can get the right stuff for the job now.

Thanks in advance for any information, I really appreciate this forum and all the experience there is to draw upon here. :D

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I don't know what the big foofarah is about stainless frets. The only difference between standard stainless and regular mild steel is that stainless does not rust and is non-magnetic. Unless you are using extreme hardened stainless then I expect it to perform the same as regular steel. I've made pickguards and various cover plates from stainless and found it can be cut, bent, formed, filed and sanded just as easily as regular steel.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think Warmoth said it was harder to install stainless frets but no different than regular frets to dress. I would not use a plier type tool to cut stainless, use a reinforced cutting wheel of a dremel... as for leveling and crowning do not use regular files... stainless is so hard that you will break your file almost instantly. You pretty much have to buy a diamond fret file and just use sandpapers for leveling.

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