Why Stainless Steel Frets

VicUA

TDPRI Member
Vendor Member
Joined
May 27, 2021
Posts
80
Age
59
Location
Kyiv Ukraine
We use stainless frets on all of our builds by default and have never had complaints, only the opposite.

In all honesty the cost is not much more either and it’s a great value for the customer to not have to worry about frets for life. It comes down to what tools you are using and if they are quality tools like others have said you won’t have any problems.
We make parts and mainly use a fairly hard nickel silver alloy. We put stainless steel on our guitar models, with the exception of remakes 49-50, where we adhere to the rule - to use materials of that time. But I need to devote more time to working with the CC. You are right. I need upgrade my tools box a little. )
 

VicUA

TDPRI Member
Vendor Member
Joined
May 27, 2021
Posts
80
Age
59
Location
Kyiv Ukraine
Your answers contain so much information for gathering keywords that any SEO specialist will envy.
I am grateful to everyone.
This is a good kick for growing up.
 

Alex_C

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Nov 8, 2020
Posts
1,026
Age
57
Location
Florida
I have two guitars with SS frets. They feel great. Both are neck-thru so I can't say if the frets make it sound brighter, but both guitars are very bright. The tone control tames the brightness of these guitars when I want a more mellow sound. If I buy a new guitar and have the option, SS is what I'll get.
 

jays0n

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Jan 11, 2009
Posts
1,650
Location
San Francisco, CA
I guess I really mash when I play as I seem to wear the cowboy chord frets fast. I have tried (am trying) to play lighter and I have stopped doing any kinds of bends period. But even a brand new guitar I got recent, shows wear already. I am having anxiety about fret wear if you cannot tell.

I am considering changing all my guitars to stainless, so I can stop focusing on the condition of my frets. Just my problem I know (I am probably loosing my mind).
 

BigDaddyLH

Tele Axpert
Ad Free Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2009
Posts
61,665
Location
Kelowna, BC, Canuckistan
Looking at watches I realised there is stainless steel and then there is stainless steel.

There seems to be basic alloys and a step above it is 316L grade, which I think is what is called "surgical steel". Then above that is 904L grade.

Does any of this make it to frets? Or is it all "SS"?
 

KokoTele

Doctor of Teleocity
Vendor Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2003
Posts
14,647
Age
46
Location
albany, ny [not chicago]
Looking at watches I realised there is stainless steel and then there is stainless steel.

There seems to be basic alloys and a step above it is 316L grade, which I think is what is called "surgical steel". Then above that is 904L grade.

Does any of this make it to frets? Or is it all "SS"?

I've never seen any information on the specific alloy used, and it doesn't seem to be readily available. I'm sure someone at the factory knows, but getting that information might be tough.
 

old wrench

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Feb 2, 2017
Posts
3,124
Location
corner of walk and don't walk
My goal is always to build the best neck, in terms of performance, that I can.

Why wouldn't I select a fret material that polishes up nice and smooth and outlasts the other fret materials which are available?

Sure, stainless steel is a harder and tougher metal than nickel-silver - that's the very reason I use it

I've adapted my working methods to accommodate stainless, so it doesn't add much time at all to a fret job - it's just a part of the job that comes with using superior materials.

I could make my necks out of pine instead of hard maple - it would be cheaper and easier - but I don't ;)

I'll admit that my hearing isn't very good anymore, but for the folks that hear an elevated brightness with stainless - just turn your tone control down a notch and it'll be OK :)

.
 

moosie

Doctor of Teleocity
Silver Supporter
Joined
Jul 18, 2010
Posts
19,768
Age
65
Location
Western Connecticut
Hard, smooth like playing on glass. The main benefit is no visible fret wear even after a decade of constant playing.

I don't find stainless to be harder on my tools. Maybe just a bit. The biggest hassle is that they don't hold a radius well. It just requires different technique. I install a few, and clamp them with a radius block, until the glue sets up.
 

Ronkirn

Doctor of Teleocity
Vendor Member
Joined
May 1, 2003
Posts
12,803
Age
75
Location
Jacksonville, FL
there is stainless steel and then there is stainless steel.


that's true, but the alloy used in stainless frets is NOT the same as that used in your Cuisine Art Cookware, your Victorinox cutlery, or that stainless Katana over there on the fireplace mantle... which, incidentally is an anathema in the world of Kenjutsu, Sure, it's harder than the nickel silver, but only marginally so... ya don't want tool steel hardness on something like a fret... it's formulated so it CAN be worked on..

I look at it this way... sure it is MARGINALLY more labor intensive, but it's like the guy that does our lawn... sometimes, it grows like a SOB... it's like a jungle out there, other times, not so much... He doesn't charge me more becasue he has to remove 3 inches of grass as opposed to the times when it's only 1.5 inches.. he just deals with it... and that's exactly the same approach I have when one comes across my desk..
 
Last edited:

highwaycat

Tele-Holic
Joined
Jun 15, 2017
Posts
888
Age
34
Location
California
Look for old/discontinued tools.
The older nippers are super hard.
Look for a seller who has and is knowledgeable about old Nicholson files. Those are good and hard.
The new Swiss cut files are really good.
I personally wouldn’t use my diamond files on SS but I have a lot of old stock files that would be better.
Nicholson has a cant saw file, look for the old one, it’s killer.
 

Attachments

  • 09159B23-DE29-47BB-864F-7097C1762909.jpeg
    09159B23-DE29-47BB-864F-7097C1762909.jpeg
    87.6 KB · Views: 8

vintagelove

Tele-Meister
Joined
Oct 18, 2014
Posts
453
Location
NY
There is ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE in sound with SS frets. I have very similar necks, with nickel and with SS frets, I have swapped those around on the same couple of guitars, and there's absolutely no way that you could consistently tell which type of metal the frets are made from.

Also, necks with SS frets aren't twice as expensive - most places, like Warmoth, Musikraft, etc. - charge about 25-50$ more for SS.

As for the why? They last forever! One of my oldest partscaster necks is a Warmoth one I ordered in the mid-'00s, with SS frets that one is on a guitar that was my "number one" when I was still playing tons of gigs with a cover band - the frets on that one look exactly as shiny and blemish-free as when I first mounted that neck, whereas the rosewood fretboard itself has deep worn spots in the "popular" spots (first seven or so frets).

Also, I believe reports on SS frets being harder on tools are highly exaggerated - I dress my fret ends myself (since Warmoth necks come without a lot of work on the fret ends), I own five Warmoth necks with SS frets now in total, and I don't notice any wear at all on the single cheapo fret dressing file I own.
You should watch the warmoth YouTube channel, they do a video on this that demonstrates the difference well. Small, but definitely different.
 




Top