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How to try out different fret sizes?

Boolywho
December 8th, 2010, 06:35 PM
I'm relatively new to the electric guitar world, and as such, don't have much of a feeling for the different fret sizes available for fingerboards.

This is a problem now because I'm planning a tele build and don't know what size fret wire to request when I buy my neck (currently planning on getting it from USACG).

USACG offers quite a few options, and it can be a little daunting for the uninitiated. I've tried out a vintage 52' reissue that had "vintage style" frets, and I liked those alright. I'm assuming Fender uses Dunlop size 6230 for those, right? Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm not such a big fan of the "medium jumbo" frets on a standard MIM tele; they're a little to wide for my liking. Are these Dunlop size 6130's?

I'd really like to try out the Dunlop size 6105's and the 6125's, but I have absolutely no idea how to go about doing this. When I started asking the some guys at my local Guitar Center about fret size numbers, they just gave me this blank stare, as if no one in the history of GC customers had ever asked this question. I'm not going back there again!

Does anyone have any advice for a person in my predicament? Are there certain guitars that will almost assuredly have a certain fret size, so that could then use those as a surrogate to help me in my decision? Thanks for any help!

Colt W. Knight
December 8th, 2010, 07:41 PM
Its tough to compare fret sizes on different guitars because the neck dimensions, fretboard radii and scale lengths differ.

If you are use to acoustic guitars, vintage frets or 6105s are probably the way to go. I am not up on dunlops sizes because I use Stew Mac wire. My favorite frets are Dan Earlwines, Medium High frets. They are in between vintage and modern medium jumbo.

After I switched from acoustic to electric, I preferred Vintage frets because the electric has lighter gauge strings. With taller frets, you press too hard and sharpen the notes. Larger jumbo frets kinda feel like speed bumps.

BigDaddyLH
December 8th, 2010, 07:56 PM
I wonder if anyone's ever bothered to make a neck with 4 or 5 different gauges of fret wire on it, as a demonstrator?

KokoTele
December 8th, 2010, 08:51 PM
I wonder if anyone's ever bothered to make a neck with 4 or 5 different gauges of fret wire on it, as a demonstrator?

As a matter of fact... my favorite guitar shop did exactly that to a surplus neck. It's a neat idea, but in reality it's kind of useless because there's not really a way to tell how a fret size will feel without strings.

If I'm remembering right, the Hot Rod '52 has 6105 frets, as do a couple of Custom Shop models, and probably a few strat models too. 6105s are big mothers, and I'm thinking that if the vintage style frets felt good to you, the 6105s are going to feel like railroad ties.

I'm assuming Fender uses Dunlop size 6230 for those, right? Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm not such a big fan of the "medium jumbo" frets on a standard MIM tele; they're a little to wide for my liking. Are these Dunlop size 6130's?

Fender sources fretwire from various places, and like all big manufacturers, it has more to do with price and availability than specs. Having said that, 6230s are a god vintage spec fret and most Fender brand guitars that are supposed to have vintage frets have something that's close.

There's no real way to say what's medium jumbo. They have used all sorts of stuff and called it medium jumbo. What Gibson used to call medium jumbo wasn't really much taller than Fender vintage size frets, it's just wider.

Boolywho
December 8th, 2010, 09:09 PM
Just got off the phone with Fender and the rep was pretty informative. Here's what I found out...

If you want to go to your local of guitar store to check out fret sizes here is your guide. Below, I've arranged what popular Dunlop fret size (on left) comes standard on a given Fender guitar (on right). Here's the info:

Dunlop Fret Size - Description --- Fender Guitar Model(s)

6123 - aka Fender "Vintage Style" frets --- American Vintage '52 Reissue Telecaster, American Vintage '62 Custom Telecaster

6130 - aka Fender "Medium Jumbo" frets --- American Deluxe Telecaster, American Standard Telecaster, Standard Telecaster (made in Mexico), [note: most modern Fender Telecasters come stock with this fret size]

6150 - aka Fender "Jumbo" frets --- Highway One Telecaster

6105 - aka "Narrow Jumbo" frets --- Stevie Ray Vaughn Stratocaster, John Mayer Stratocaster

6125 - aka "in between 6105's and 6150's" (USACG's description) --- [note: not found stock on any Fender guitars as this is a fairly new fret size to come to the market]


I hope this helps some people out!

2blue
December 8th, 2010, 09:14 PM
I would suggest you go to GC or a dealer who stocks a wide variety of Fenders, try and play as many models with different frets as possible until you settle on the size you like. Take note of the model, then go to the Fender website and do a little research see what frets are speced for the model you liked. USAG should be able to advise you which of the frets they offer are closest to the Fender fret.

Good luck, have fun and try not to obsess too much on getting the perfect size!

garrett
December 9th, 2010, 02:20 PM
You made it pretty easy on yourself. If you thought the standard Tele's frets were too wide, that just leaves the 6230, as it's the thinnest.

But are you sure on the 6130? They're even shorter than vintage Fender style which are already tiny. I've always thought that was the Gibson type wire and that 6105 is the modern Fender wire which is noticeably taller than vintage wire.

Boolywho
December 9th, 2010, 04:14 PM
You made it pretty easy on yourself. If you thought the standard Tele's frets were too wide, that just leaves the 6230, as it's the thinnest.

But are you sure on the 6130? They're even shorter than vintage Fender style which are already tiny. I've always thought that was the Gibson type wire and that 6105 is the modern Fender wire which is noticeably taller than vintage wire.

Garret,
This is something that confused me as well. It doesn't seem like it should be the case, but from everything I've read, it does appear that the Dunlop 6130's are in fact what Fender calls "Medium Jumbo". This is even coming from a rep at Fender. And as you pointed out, the 6130's are even shorter than the 6230 "Vintage Style" frets... but they MUCH wider, like squat little mounds in profile, I guess.

With that said, please feel free to correct me if I've said anything misleading here, experts. I am by no means an expert myself, just a data collector on the matter at this point!

With that in mind, here is a good page concerning fret wire sizes from different manufacturer in case anyone is interested:
http://www.lutherie.net/fret.chart.html

garrett
December 9th, 2010, 04:19 PM
Oh yeah, and the later Highway 1 Strats (don't know on the Teles) used 6100 wire. HUGE.

Telenator
December 9th, 2010, 04:27 PM
I would suggest you go to GC or a dealer who stocks a wide variety of Fenders, try and play as many models with different frets as possible until you settle on the size you like. Take note of the model, then go to the Fender website and do a little research see what frets are speced for the model you liked. USAG should be able to advise you which of the frets they offer are closest to the Fender fret.

Good luck, have fun and try not to obsess too much on getting the perfect size!

Absolutely the best idea. It's too bad more people don't take this approach.

Vizcaster
December 10th, 2010, 05:17 PM
Just got off the phone with Fender and the rep was pretty informative. Here's what I found out...

If you want to go to your local of guitar store to check out fret sizes here is your guide. Below, I've arranged what popular Dunlop fret size (on left) comes standard on a given Fender guitar (on right). Here's the info:

Dunlop Fret Size - Description --- Fender Guitar Model(s)

6123 - aka Fender "Vintage Style" frets --- American Vintage '52 Reissue Telecaster, American Vintage '62 Custom Telecaster

6130 - aka Fender "Medium Jumbo" frets --- American Deluxe Telecaster, American Standard Telecaster, Standard Telecaster (made in Mexico), [note: most modern Fender Telecasters come stock with this fret size]

6150 - aka Fender "Jumbo" frets --- Highway One Telecaster

6105 - aka "Narrow Jumbo" frets --- Stevie Ray Vaughn Stratocaster, John Mayer Stratocaster

6125 - aka "in between 6105's and 6150's" (USACG's description) --- [note: not found stock on any Fender guitars as this is a fairly new fret size to come to the market]


I hope this helps some people out!

Thanks for that summary. Keep in mind that Fender isn't actually sourcing from Dunlop all the time.

The Master Builder from the Fender Custom Shop that came to the Music Zoo explained that most of their builds today use 6105 (narrow-tall) fretwire so I guess it's the current fashion.

Also note that "6125" isn't really a wire size, it's just a way that USACG came up with to list the .095 wide by .047 high wire. Actually it's Jescar wire. They've just changed over their designation scheme so the numbers mean something. Hence "FW47095." It has been available for awhile, although Jescar used to call it something else under the old model numbers. I have a funny suspicion that it's the same stuff (or spec) that Gibson is using on their electrics lately (for instance my '07 ES-339 and '09 Les Paul Traditional, two different factories, same size wire). USACG sent me some with a neck and body blank, and I do like this wire size a lot.

There are different approaches, of course, but my advice would be to find out what height you like, then tweak with the width. Taller frets keep your fingers away from the surface as if the fretboard was scalloped, and they can require a lighter touch so you don't press the string out of tune by stretching it too much. You also can't get any purchase against the fingerboard when doing a finger vibrato, and your finger just slides up and down the string without changing the pitch. And they're ugly. Not that I'm biased against tall frets, of course. Now I admit that with a taller fret it's easiest to get your fingertip alongside the string to push on it for bending notes, and with really small low wire that can be a real challenge.

IMHO the fret width is so much less important than the height, that my only reason for considering it is to go at least as wide as the old wire, or wider, so that I can cover up the chip-outs on a rosewood fretboard when I hack out the old frets. Not that I do it that often but you get the idea. Pick the height according to the player's preference, and the width would basically be the same or wider than the old stuff on there.