Why Stainless Steel Frets

KokoTele

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Yes, the process is the same, but it is harder on my tools. Working on them takes a bit longer, too. It takes more strokes with a file to round the ends the same as with softer frets, longer to crown and polish, etc. Is it a huge difference? No, of course not. Is it noticeable? Yeah.

A few SS jobs ruined the jaws on my fret cutters. I use diamond fret files for most jobs. Hard to say if my first one wore out faster because of using it on SS frets or not. (Contrary to popular lore, diamond tools do wear out over time. They last much, much longer, but they do wear.)

I charge a small premium to do a SS fret job to compensate for the extra time and wear. I charge the same premium for EVO because it's more expensive.

Really? What did they not like? The majority seem to like them.

My customers who have not liked them don't like the trebly zing that they hear on the attack. It's not just brighter, it's harsher. They have also complained that they wear out their strings a lot faster.

I've refretted a few necks with stainless frets because the owners didn't like them. That's a rarity, though.
 

SRHmusic

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You should see what's up with your neck supplier, as that sounds unusual. Both Warmoth and Musikraft charge only $25 or $30 more for stainless steel frets. Total neck prices are in the $160 to $330 range, depending on woods. Plenty of techs and shops have an up charge under $100 for refrets, where standard refrets are $200 to $300 (in my somewhat limited experience, but also comparing with other players).

All my electric guitars have stainless frets now. (I'm too hard on nickel steel, to the point where needed to level and recrown my two main guitars every six months.) I love the smoothness and low maintenance. With decent Stew Mac files, the spot leveling I've done on new necks was easy enough. On one neck that I had refretted the (very experienced) tech I used said he did spend more time and charges $100 more, but material cost was pretty small.

The only tone difference I notice is a little more 'pop' or 'spank' of the string on these frets, I think, but I'm thinking it's partly because these frets actually hold a good crown. In any case the ease of bending and overall experience is really good. Not going back!
 
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Ronkirn

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I was surprised to hear the man that works on my guitars say that SS frets are not much different to work on than regular ones. He said the process is exactly the same, and that his tools cut SS just fine.
Ive been saying the same since the inception of Stainless frets.. and the fret wire to do one neck costs less than 5 bux over that of Nickel, so you guys shouldn't let techs ripp ya off for doing a stainless fret job...
 

raito

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I agree about the tool. I started looking for better quality special files. may be you have some recommendations (links)
I am a jeweler. I will say that there is a big difference in the processing of gold and SS. Burs wear out quickly, as do files. The setting of stones in a SS (watch body) was carried out easily only with the use of a diamond-coated tool. I am currently thinking about automating the trimming of the ends of installed frets.
That watch case may have been hardened, which is an entirely different class of work.

I use older Nicholson files but I hear the quality has gone down in the past few years. I don't buy specialty files except nut files. I'm capable of doing things like grinding safe edges myself.
 

Ronkirn

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one a very noted player, who stated that they were too slippery & too bright/harsh to their ears.
he may be very "noted". but the ears were still his weren't they?

Didja know, very "noted" players are JUST as subject to confirmation bias as the greenest novice on this board....
 

schmee

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It's the wear advantage I think. I seriously doubt SS stays smoother than Cupro Nickel though. CN is noted for it's ability to maintain a smooth surface, corrosion resistance and durability. SS is noted for galling and pitting in abrasive environments. I worked in aerospace sheet metal for 35 years and can verify the galling issues.
Still, everything is a compromise and SS seems to work out fairly well for frets.
The last guitar I played with SS frets I could feel the abrasiveness, like 'grinding' when bending strings. Maybe it needed polished or something.
 

ruger9

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It's the wear advantage I think. I seriously doubt SS stays smoother than Cupro Nickel though. CN is noted for it's ability to maintain a smooth surface, corrosion resistance and durability. SS is noted for galling and pitting in abrasive environments. I worked in aerospace sheet metal for 35 years and can verify the galling issues.
Still, everything is a compromise and SS seems to work out fairly well for frets.
The last guitar I played with SS frets I could feel the abrasiveness, like 'grinding' when bending strings. Maybe it needed polished or something.
I have had the exact OPPOSITE experiences over 30-some odd years, nickel is the "abrasive" "grinding" one... unless properly polished.

My SS fretted guitar (3 years now) does indeed stay more polished and smoother than all my other (nickel) fretted guitars. It's not even close. In fact, I have never polished my SS frets in the 3 years I've been playing them, and they still have a mirror-like finish (compared to the others, which I HAVE polished).

But hey- people do what they do and think what they think. I'm sold on SS frets. Forever. Based on personal experience of the last 3 years. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me stainless steel or give me death!
 

Boreas

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It's the wear advantage I think. I seriously doubt SS stays smoother than Cupro Nickel though. CN is noted for it's ability to maintain a smooth surface, corrosion resistance and durability. SS is noted for galling and pitting in abrasive environments. I worked in aerospace sheet metal for 35 years and can verify the galling issues.
Still, everything is a compromise and SS seems to work out fairly well for frets.
The last guitar I played with SS frets I could feel the abrasiveness, like 'grinding' when bending strings. Maybe it needed polished or something.
There is abrasiveness of the strings and frets, then there is the abrasiveness of the filth on player's fingers. I doubt you have a hygiene issue, but a guitarist who routinely plays with dirty hands will wear both strings and frets - even SS frets. He/she may not wear them OUT, but certainly can take the shine off of them in a short period of time. When the shine is gone, the smoothness is gone. SS frets are certainly more resistant to this, but they aren't indestructible. People wanting good wear on any fret/string combination need to keep the strings and fretboard clean, and the frets shiny.
 

RomanS

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Same here - the SS frets on all 5 of my Warmoth necks are smooth as glass, and I have never ever polished them even once (unless you consider wiping them down with a rag, after applying fretboard oil, "polishing").
My nickel frets - not so smooth...
 
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RomanS

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Wonder how I can tell if I have or not..
If your frets have akind of "cool", blue-ish shimmer (like chrome hardware), and a very mirror-like shine, they might be SS.
If they have a "warmer" color, and look slightly dull/matte (unless you just polished them), they are nickel.
 

RolandG

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The stainless frets discussion always fascinates me. Like any other discussion about guitar sound there are people who are convinced about their personal view. Let me tell you my personal experience, and then you can decide whether I’m deluded or not.

To my ear when I play legato, hammering on into an absolutely clean and bright amp, I hear a difference in the attack of the notes. There’s a slight ping. Add a touch of overdrive and you can’t hear it. Back off the tone control and it’s gone. My conclusion is that very few guitarists play that way.

When fretting a neck I use Jescar Gold wire. It’s not stainless, just a harder alloy. To my ears it doesn’t have that ping.
 

Peegoo

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I've been doing fretwork on stainless steel for years now and I use diamond files. They have not worn out after years of use. Plain tool steel files will get shiny and stop cutting after one or two jobs on SS frets.

Yeah, good diamond files are expensive. But if cost is the reason you're avoiding them, then you are devaluing the time you spend working on fret jobs because you will use more tools, materials, time and effort to get the job done. You know the rule about good tools: buy once, cry once.

I happen to love SS fret wire. I have it on all my custom builds, as well as my two CS Fenders.
 

Robert H.

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I Favor them - have them on a 2007 Suhr T style guitar and have played them regularly for 14 years. Zero wear. Hard, slick, fast. I doubt I can hear a difference plugged in and turned up.
 

memorex

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About the price. I have two necks from Musikraft with stainless frets and they cost only a $40 upcharge per. Stainless fret are smoother, they require little maintenance other than polishing when you change strings, and they last three or four times as long as standard frets. The little bit of a tone change would only be noticeable in an acoustic instrument and it isn't that much, just a little bit of a metalic ting when the strings hit the fret, and only when the strings are new. I don't know why guitar makers still use nickel-silver, they have no advantage over stainless frets.
 

Dennyf

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To my ear when I play legato, hammering on into an absolutely clean and bright amp, I hear a difference in the attack of the notes. There’s a slight ping. Add a touch of overdrive and you can’t hear it. Back off the tone control and it’s gone. My conclusion is that very few guitarists play that way.
The guitar in my avatar is my #1 which I had played for over 18 years when it needed a refret. I went with SS, and I immediately noticed a difference in the sound when I got it back. As you noted, it was just in the attack. I wouldn't have called it a "ping," but now that you mention it, it's a good description. The initial impression is that it's brighter, but that's not really it. It does give it a sharper, more immediate attack. Maybe it's just my guitar, but I am very familiar with the way it sounds from so much use, and there definitely is a noticeable difference to me. FWIW, I did and do not see that as a negative.
 

VicUA

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I switched to stainless steel frets and found my installation speed went up. You need to alter your installation methods. Like pre-cut the frets to length so you make one cut for each from the spool rather than overhang the frets on both sides of the fretboard and make three cuts after pressed in.

I also switched from medium jumbo (to get more wear life) to medium wire so less crowning.

.
Thank you for sharing your experience.
 




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