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How Much Fret Wear Do You See?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by bgmacaw, Jan 4, 2021.

  1. cfreddy813

    cfreddy813 TDPRI Member Vendor Member

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    A couple of years ago I found this fascinating article about fighting fret wear. The science of keeping metal hard to improve its life and strength made total sense. I now use a Leather Stroupe at every string change. Despite excessive playing, fret wear has been pretty tame.

    "Leather mojo. Using leather to put a fine finish on metal is nothing new. If you’ve ever watched a barber draw an old-school straight razor across a leather “strop,” you know this is a time-honored technique that’s still being practiced in vintage barber shops (Photo 2). In contrast to sandpaper or hard abrasives, leather softly embeds the polishing particles into the frets’ surface, yielding a buttery-smooth playing experience.

    Essentially, leather polishing enhances the surface quality of the metal, making it more resistant to all kinds of corrosion. But there’s more: You may not realize that frets get harder the older they are and the more they get played. This is a similar process to forging, which results in material compaction. [Editor’s note: Wikipedia describes forging as “a manufacturing process involving the shaping of metal using localized compressive forces.”] This inherent hardening, coupled with the enhanced corrosion resistance offered by the leather stropping action, will noticeably extend the lifespan of your frets."

    https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/27420-mod-garage-fighting-fret-wear
     
  2. Fred-paris

    Fred-paris TDPRI Member

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    Fret wear will depend on your playing style and of course how much time you spent with your guitar(s). Moisture or sweat left by your fingers when you play is also a factor to consider. If you sweat a lot and don't swipe off your strings (I mean the underneath of your strings) after playing, chances are you'll get divots pretty quickly as there will be a redox chemical reaction between the frets and steel strings. I always use fret protection plastic sheets (those that come with ESP guitars) on my guitars when I don't play them and I believe that it prevents those ugly divots from appearing. Playing worn out / rusted strings may also have a bad effect on frets.
     
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  3. Terrygh1949

    Terrygh1949 Tele-Meister

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    I have a 45 yr old Tele, frets are still very good, no plans to do anything. I do have two CV Squiers each 10yrs old no fret wear at all.
     
  4. atoms

    atoms TDPRI Member

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    Wouldn't the dirt have to be harder than the metal of the frets for this to be the case?
     
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  5. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    For PHYSICAL wear, yes. for CHEMICAL corrosion/wear, no. Skin chemicals effect fret alloys in similar ways to strings. Frets can certainly corrode.
     
  6. pippoman

    pippoman Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    It’s probably cause you play “more oftener” than most players.
     
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  7. pippoman

    pippoman Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    You can replace just one fret if that’s all it needs. I had a Tele that fell forward off a poorly designed guitar stand at some out of town gig and landed on an object on the floor and dented one fret so badly I couldn’t play it. I took it to a tech who promptly checked the leveling on the frets and replaced just that one fret and leveled the others. Never had an issue with it afterwards. This was about 35 years ago and that guy is nowhere to be found unfortunately, but he was good and fast.
     
  8. pippoman

    pippoman Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    I had my 96 Strat Plus re-fretted with jumbo SS frets. It actually plays better and still sounds great. After several months of playing hard I don’t notice any fret wear.
     
  9. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    Brian May built the Red Special in 63’ and has never changed the frets. I go through frets about every 4 years. I am pretty much a mongoloid toying with its young when it comes to grip apparently.
     
  10. Frankentronics

    Frankentronics TDPRI Member

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    Some fret wire is in fact softer than others. I can tell when I work on the frets. Some guitars have frets like butter. The files just dig in and I have to be careful not to remove too much material.

    I recall that I recently worked on an Epiphone LP that had really soft frets. The guitar had a lot of fret wear after only 8 months of play and the owner brought it in for a level and crown job.

    I do remember encountering soft frets on other guitars but I do not recall what brand or model those were.

    Someone mentioned cobalt Ernie Ball strings.... do those strings have actual cobalt in them? Cobalt is a toxic element and some products containing cobalt are banned in some places. For example, cobalt is found in photoresistors, which are light sensors. Those are banned in Europe, because there's cobalt inside, but they are not banned in the US (possibly might be banned in California). I am not sure if the word "cobalt" in the Ernie Ball strings means that there's actual cobalt in the mix, or if that's just a marketing word (like some companies might use the word "platinum" for the same purpose). I wonder what the case is.
     
  11. Chuck berry

    Chuck berry TDPRI Member

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    You have some bad gouge's there. Refretting is a must. Through the years l've learned if your strings are too high because you play hard thats where you damage your frets. If your planning on keeping that particular guitar you might consider installing steel frets. From what l've heard they'll never gouge. If thats true can't say never tried them.
    Maybe someone on here have them could tell us what they think.
     
  12. SoK66

    SoK66 Tele-Afflicted

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    I've noticed this on newer Fender & Gibson guitars. I bought a new Eric Johnson Strat back in the 2007. I played it regularly and it exhibited significant fret wear within a year. At virtually the same time I bought a new 2006 '59 Reissue Les Paul. It has never been played regularly and I have it at the local luthier getting a fret crowning & polish right now. He says he's seen an increase in fret crowning and replacement jobs in recent years and attributes it to the manufacturers saving some pennies on fret wire. Something has changed, I've never had to have fret work done on new guitars like these.
     
  13. Diytelecaster

    Diytelecaster Tele-Meister

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    .
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2021
  14. Diytelecaster

    Diytelecaster Tele-Meister

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    I hope not. My wedding ring is cobalt.
     
  15. Fuelish

    Fuelish Tele-Holic

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    He did have the zero fret replaced at some point, couldn't tell you the year.......guess no matter wher you fret, if you use the vibrato, it's gonna saw on the zero fret every time, and time took it's toll. Dr. Bri's likely comfortable with the wear on the rest of the frets and a refret may make it feel different? I've had many guitars over the decades, never did a refret, even though there was obvious wear in some spots....if it played well, in tune, no pinging, no need to "fix" it. I do have a BMG (Brian May Guitars) Special.....I can see a minute amount of wear on the zero fret, but it affects nothing at this point, so it shall remain as is
     
  16. rand z

    rand z Friend of Leo's

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    I rotate 9-10 guitars on a daily basis.

    (I figure why have them if I don't play them.)

    Most of their fret wear is minimal.

    However, on my gigging acoustic guitar, a Martin 000 Cutaway, there is noticeable fret wear and I have to re-crown them at least once a year.

    Eventually, the first 6 frets will have to be replaced.
     
  17. lidesnowi

    lidesnowi TDPRI Member

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    For some reason i have slight wear between 10th and 22nd fret after 25 years of playing on all of my guitars , though very very slight.
     
  18. slimfinger

    slimfinger TDPRI Member

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    I've been playing my '56 tele pretty hard since I bought it from its original owner in 1974. The frets are very worn, but it still plays fine, never had a fret job or frets replaced and wouldn't do it now because it might affect the value. I've always kept the action super low on this guitar, and am wondering if frets wear less when less pressure is required to fret notes.

    I do rotate with two other teles for gigs, both 20+ years old and also playing fine, still.
     
  19. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I would expect it’s the corrosion that comes from letting strings get dirty that causes most harm through friction. I guess the grease and oils could help lubricate that action as the string moves back and forth with pressure, so a rough string cuts rather than binds? On other forums I’ve heard people swear by regular cleaning/string changes to prevent wear. I don’t really wear frets much since I started changing strings before they lost their colour.
     
  20. teletimetx

    teletimetx Doctor of Teleocity

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    Might get a little complicated once you start thinking about what dirt or soil is made up of. Dirt is typically sand, shale and/or clay is some kind of mix. Sand, made out of quartz is harder than most metals. so little particles of sand could cause fret wear.

    Soil has some dirt in it, but other organic material as well. I don't think worm poop will be typically considered abrasive. Just my opinion, though :twisted:

    Does that actually happen? I don't know - might depend on where you live and what's in your local dirt. Might be overthinking this a little?:rolleyes:
     
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