Fretwire for 1956 Duo Sonic

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Rebeat, Jun 27, 2020 at 2:37 PM.

  1. Rebeat

    Rebeat TDPRI Member

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    I bought a vintage ‘56 Duo Sonic awhile ago and have been enjoying it immensely. However, I’m not entirely satisfied with the fret height, as it feels like I really have to press hard to fret the high E string especially. It should be noted that the guitar is currently entirely playable, just not optimized for my touch. The frets are not pitted, but certainly worn from 60+ years of playing.

    I’m seriously considering getting a refret to make it more to my taste. I know that Fender used especially small fret wire back then, and maybe I’m reacting to the nature of this? So...I’m wondering what fret wire to use to get some more height to ease having to push down to the fretboard. The luthier I talked to suggested Stew Mac #148 (medium). Will this be tall enough to feel different from what is on the guitar now? I’m not a fan of wide or jumbo frets, btw.

    I know that Fender installed these in sideways back in the day, and the luthier would have to of course pull them out the same way so as to not damage the nice played-in maple fretboard. Perhaps the size of the slot limits the fret wire choice?

    I’m excited about refrets in general (had my 50’s Gibson some a few years ago and it made a world of difference), just want to make the best choice and not screw up a beautiful vintage piece.

    Anyone have experience with these old Duo Sonics and refrets?
     
  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Its also possible that in 60 years the frets have been dressed and crowned, maybe more that once. Any time I do a fret job I measure what is on and use that as a starting point. StewMac 0148 is a nice all around medium size wire, that is my go to for most refrets.

    I personally won't do a side fretted guitar and I recently did my first (and last) lacquered fretboard. There are people out there willing to take on the hassle, I'm not.
     
  3. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    What a cool guitar that is!

    I saw Johnny Winter at a festival in about 1971 playing one of those, just burned the place down. His group had to follow LED Zeppelin, and I'll just say afterward nobody was talking about Jimmy Page.
     
  4. Rebeat

    Rebeat TDPRI Member

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    Wow that must have been a show! Didn’t know Winter played a Duo Sonic...
     
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  5. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    He sure did that night. Just flat blew the place apart. I wonder if he had been getting an earful about how following Led Zep was going to make him look bad.
     
  6. Rebeat

    Rebeat TDPRI Member

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    Anyone else have any thoughts about StewMac #148 medium versus the vintage fretwire? I’m hoping for more height than what I have on now (they are worn but not drastically), but not sure if I should be requesting a higher wire?

    Not sure if there is anything else limiting my choices having to do with the existing slots, etc.

    Thanks!
     
  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Have you measured what is on it now?

    And for what it is worth, I measure the tang on the frets that I remove and use a little piece of the wire that I'm going to install (it has the barbs filed off) to confirm that the new wire is a perfect match for the slots. Tang dimensions vary

    0148 is a nice all around size, SM gives its dimension on their web site, but it may not be for every one

    You have another decision. You said its a nice old maple fretboard - I assume it has lacquer over the board and frets. You have to decide whether to try to save that or to redo it. There will be damage when the old frets are removed and probably when the new ones are installed. Refinishing is an option, but you loose the vintage finish. Its going to be expensive and I would suggest choosing your repair tech well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020 at 10:23 PM
  8. Rebeat

    Rebeat TDPRI Member

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    Thanks, Freeman Keller! That’s some good info. I will indeed find a qualified luthier as I want to save the play wear and lacquer in the 60+ year old fretboard.
     
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