Closest New Fret Wire to Original Spec 1959 ES-335 Frets

Sub City

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I'm thinking of doing a refret on my 58 ES-335(has the smaller frets) to the larger original spec wire found on the later 59s. I've read the original larger wire was around .098 x .047, which is not made today. A close wire would be the SM #0141: .095 x .045.

I'm trying to keep the wire size as period correct to a 59 and also get a wire that will allow decent bending. Is this the best choice, or is there anything else I should consider?
 

kimock

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12,520
I'm thinking of doing a refret on my 58 ES-335(has the smaller frets) to the larger original spec wire found on the later 59s. I've read the original larger wire was around .098 x .047, which is not made today. A close wire would be the SM #0141: .095 x .045.

I'm trying to keep the wire size as period correct to a 59 and also get a wire that will allow decent bending. Is this the best choice, or is there anything else I should consider?
I'd leave it alone and get an Epiphone or something for the bending routine.

I know it seems counterintuitive, but I've been through this "fret height = compliance" issue a couple of times, and it kinda doesn't.
The odds are the guitar won't really improve at all in terms of ease of bending, and it'll be no longer original and less valuable.

You'll figure out later it was radius, or action height, or some string gauge thing, and you'll be kicking yourself, so don't rush into it.

I've had occasion to refret some wonderful old guitars, and have regretted it immediately in every case.
You can't just take something that's been "of a piece" for 50 or 60 years, tear it apart and expect it to improve.
It'll change, for sure, but it'll be a long, long, time before it settles into a state of grace again.
You'll miss that, and you may not get anything in return.

.02c
 

walterw

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OTOH, for mere mortals like me, more than once bigger frets have meant the difference between gigging with a guitar and looking at it on a stand. sometimes i think a lot of the mystical "mojo" of old guitars is just what we bring to it ourselves as players.

if it were mine i'd refret it with bigger wire and go play it. hell, i'd put stainless wire on it!

(i could even make the argument that ss is good for vintage instruments because the frets won't wear anymore, meaning the fretboard won't have to suffer the wear and wood loss of repeated refrets over the long haul.)
 

jimshine

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1,594
The size of the factory wire aside, another big part of the old fret feel is the way they were dressed. Those old Gibsons were pretty shoddy by todays standards. They would install the frets in the board before gluing it to the neck. Then they leveled the frets and often enormous amounts of wire was shaved away to get things straight, then crowned by hand with a 3 corner file. The tops tend to be very flat and can feel wide as the top is rounded just enough to keep from buzzing.
 

Sub City

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1,459
My other 2 ES guitars have already been refret(1960 ES-345 & 1964 ES-335), otherwise they would be sitting in the case, unplayed. Most, if not all, of the Strad violins have been refretted atleast once, along with other repairs. If you're going to play them, might as well make them playable.
 

Rod

Tone is Paramount
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22,703
I'd leave it alone and get an Epiphone or something for the bending routine.

I know it seems counterintuitive, but I've been through this "fret height = compliance" issue a couple of times, and it kinda doesn't.
The odds are the guitar won't really improve at all in terms of ease of bending, and it'll be no longer original and less valuable.

You'll figure out later it was radius, or action height, or some string gauge thing, and you'll be kicking yourself, so don't rush into it.

I've had occasion to refret some wonderful old guitars, and have regretted it immediately in every case.
You can't just take something that's been "of a piece" for 50 or 60 years, tear it apart and expect it to improve.
It'll change, for sure, but it'll be a long, long, time before it settles into a state of grace again.
You'll miss that, and you may not get anything in return.

.02c
I've had the same experience as Steve Kimock. I refretted my 59 LP and my favorite 65 Strat and in both cases the guitars just never felt right or played quite right again....it was for the same reasons as the op. string bending and fairly wide vibrato....they just didn't have the mojo....
 

walterw

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Most, if not all, of the Strad violins have been refretted atleast once, along with other repairs.
ha! nuh-uh!

i agree with what you mean, though, from all i've read the old violins have been significantly worked on, even modded, throughout the years and centuries, with no loss of value.

this fetish for originality at the expense of playability is pretty much a late 20th century guitar collector thing, i think.
 

jimshine

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It is. Some of it comes from the furniture market and the love of old finish patina. Another large part of it is the old school repair work often left a lot to be desired. Refrets and refinishing were usually not even close to the factory original. Today, these can be done accurately or even better than original. Naturally there will always be a larger demand for stock, but over time I believe that quality repair work will not hit the desirability of an instrument as hard as it once did.
 

kimock

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this fetish for originality at the expense of playability is pretty much a late 20th century guitar collector thing, i think.
As a late 20th century guitarist, but not a collector, I'd say the notion that you can "get the guitar to come to you" shared by novice players dabbling in the vintage market is a contributing factor to your "originality at the expense of playability" assertion.

I guarantee you I could play the wheels off that '58, bending the stock '58 string gauges on the stock '58 frets, and so could pretty much every working guitarist I know.

Anyway, it doesn't matter who you are or what guitar it is, the guitar is NEVER going to "come to you".
There's not a damn thing you can do about that.
You have to go to it.

The idea that "you can make it easier to play" by modifying the guitar to better conform to a player's lack of technique will not net you a better guitar or a better guitarist.

There's three things for sure going on here:

1. The OP doesn't like the results he's getting bending strings on his guitar.
2. The guitar is a f*cking 1958 ES 335. .
3. The only thing guaranteed post re-fret is the OP's gonna get back a guitar he's never played before.

It'll be different. It won't be the same guitar magically transformed in one very specific area from "dog" to hammer of the gods.
There'll be a few percent improvement in some area, maybe, and a whole bunch of "oh ****. ." everywhere else.

It's just a mild version of the guy who commisions a build with all his favorite individual specs from ten different guitars.
This fancy wood neck "because", with this fingerboard "because", with these frets, etc, you know the drill, and then winds up with a 10,000 dollar dog.

This is just a slightly more mild version of that misunderstanding.

"If it's easier to play this guitar with 6100 wire on it, if I put 6100 wire on that guitar, that guitar will be easier to play too."

You're starting out with a logical fallacy, what are the odds?

Anyway, in my entirely non-humble, well earned, professional opinion, the OP should at least cough up some before and after recordings of that guitar so you guys can see what's gained and what's lost in this ill advised adventure.

Google some '58 ES 335 images, ask yourself what you'd do.
If the first thing that pops into your mind is "rip the frets out", may god have mercy on your soul.
 

walterw

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38,694
It is. Some of it comes from the furniture market and the love of old finish patina. Another large part of it is the old school repair work often left a lot to be desired. Refrets and refinishing were usually not even close to the factory original. Today, these can be done accurately or even better than original. Naturally there will always be a larger demand for stock, but over time I believe that quality repair work will not hit the desirability of an instrument as hard as it once did.
there's a concept from violin lutherie i've read of, the idea of the "honest repair"; you fix what needs fixing or mod what needs modding, and do a good job of it, but you don't try to hide or disguise that the work was done.

a good counter-example might be this stew-mac trade secrets tutorial, where erick coleman rebuilds and re-winds a busted vintage P-90 to look totally unaltered, down to using the old hookup wire and the old piece of insulating tape; very impressive work, but the result in my mind is almost disingenuous, a pickup that looks original but is not.
 

jkg

Gold Supporting Member
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5,277
Google some '58 ES 335 images, ask yourself what you'd do.
If the first thing that pops into your mind is "rip the frets out", may god have mercy on your soul.
Now that is sig worthy.
 

aflynt

Member
Messages
1,742
As another data-point I'll echo Kimmock's sentiments on this. Try giving the low frets a chance, unless of course they look something like this: http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/luthiers-corner/186179-1958-gibson-es-335-restoration.html. I've found that while little (or low) frets may initially feel off-putting with the friction of your fingers on the board, it's not that difficult to get used to them. I think a lot of it is just lightening up your grip a bit. You kind of just glide across them after a while.

-Aaron
 

walterw

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38,694
good stuff!
I guarantee you I could play the wheels off that '58, bending the stock '58 string gauges on the stock '58 frets, and so could pretty much every working guitarist I know.
careful, we're veering into "argument from i'm a badass and you're not" again.
Anyway, it doesn't matter who you are or what guitar it is, the guitar is NEVER going to "come to you".
There's not a damn thing you can do about that.
You have to go to it.

The idea that "you can make it easier to play" by modifying the guitar to better conform to a player's lack of technique will not net you a better guitar or a better guitarist.
i'm stunned to discover that my day job is a logical impossibility and doesn't in fact exist :)

i take your meaning, and i've gotten plenty of folks wanting essentially silly mods or "repairs" for things that are really just a matter of them actually learning to play the thing;

i can't agree that fret size preference falls into that category, though.

besides, aren't those custom made elaborately wired monstrosities jerry garcia played (from the other thread) exactly that, guitars made to "come to him" to the highest degree?
There's three things for sure going on here:

1. The OP doesn't like the results he's getting bending strings on his guitar.
2. The guitar is a f*cking 1958 ES 335. .
3. The only thing guaranteed post re-fret is the OP's gonna get back a guitar he's never played before.
all true, but it's his "f*cking 1958 ES 335", and he apparently has already successfully been down this path with his other vintage semi-hollows. (agreed 100% that isn't something to be undertaken lightly, but if the OP already knows what works for him...)

still, IMO a perfectly planed board and pristine new frets on a great old guitar can be a thing of beauty and a joy forever!

it's not like we're talking about shaving the neck into an ibanez shred machine and painting it sparkle blue! nickel frets are wear items, i see no point in holding onto worn/too small/uneven frets for sentimental reasons.
"If it's easier to play this guitar with 6100 wire on it, if I put 6100 wire on that guitar, that guitar will be easier to play too."

You're starting out with a logical fallacy, what are the odds?
"fallacy"? if you're a 6100 guy it's patently true.
 

joejazzguitar

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The idea that "you can make it easier to play" by modifying the guitar to better conform to a player's lack of technique will not net you a better guitar or a better guitarist.
Since when does a player's preference for a certain gauge of fret wire automatically indicate a "lack of technique" on the player's part?

I've been playing for 40 years and have played everything from fretless wonders (my original '50's LPC and my 1938 D'Angelico New Yorker) to jumbo-fretted shred machines. In that time, I've developed a preference for 6105 fret wire. It's what I install on all of my builds, and what I use on most of my refrets.

If the OP is more comfortable with larger fret wire, and is comfortable with the tradeoff of having a more comfortable guitar vs. the possible financial consequences of modifying a vintage guitar, then he should by all means go for it!
 

kimock

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12,520
Since when does a player's preference for a certain gauge of fret wire automatically indicate a "lack of technique" on the player's part?
With all due respect, that's the OP's premise.
OP quote:
I'm trying to keep the wire size as period correct to a 59 and also get a wire that will allow decent bending. Is this the best choice, or is there anything else I should consider?


The inference being the stock wire is unsuitable for bending strings.
"Bending strings" is not a resident quality of the guitar, it's a physical technique the player uses.

The OP seems to be saying that a taller wire might be more in his comfort zone; it'd allow "decent bending".
Relative to the stock fret which doesn't quite make it all the way to "decent bending".
One side of that equation is the player's technique, the other side the height of the fret.

I do not know how else to read that.


I've been playing for 40 years and have played everything from fretless wonders (my original '50's LPC and my 1938 D'Angelico New Yorker) to jumbo-fretted shred machines. In that time, I've developed a preference for 6105 fret wire. It's what I install on all of my builds, and what I use on most of my refrets.

If the OP is more comfortable with larger fret wire, and is comfortable with the tradeoff of having a more comfortable guitar vs. the possible financial consequences of modifying a vintage guitar, then he should by all means go for it!
Absolutely.
He also asked if that was the best choice.
Hence, discussion.
 

whoismarykelly

Oh look! This is a thing I can change!
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8,039
The guy can do whatever he wants to his guitar to make it play the way he wants it to. He's probably paid enough for this guitar. He doesn't need to be forced into a struggle to play it just because other people think its wrong to change it.
 

kimock

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12,520
The guy can do whatever he wants to his guitar to make it play the way he wants it to. He's probably paid enough for this guitar. He doesn't need to be forced into a struggle to play it just because other people think its wrong to change it.
Yes, of course. He can and will do whatever he wants, for whatever reason he chooses and need justify his decision to no one.
Same here.
Goes without saying.

If we are to take the OP at his word, what he wants to do right now is ask if there is anything else to consider.

In my opinion, what he should consider is the possibility that the refret may change some qualities of the guitar other than it's responsivness to bending.

And the possibility that the fret height won't provide the reward he's seeking.

Rather than risk being accused of erecting a straw man at this point, I'd ask the luthiers and players present to list those qualities or variables involved in compliance, and to what degree those variables might be at odds with each other.
Action height vs. radius relative to ability to bend, string gauge vs. scale length, fret height vs. leverage, etc.

It'd be a lengthy list.

At the end of that list I'd ask if fret height alone could be considered the single factor responsible for "decent bending".

I'd also ask what the single most dramatically irreversible change you could make to the guitar in search of decent bending might be.

I'd wonder if other less invasive changes might make just as big a diff. .

The OP's asking for other considerations, he knows it's his guitar and so do I.
 

kimock

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12,520
good stuff!

careful, we're veering into "argument from i'm a badass and you're not" again.
Walter you sly dog, trying to get me into trouble!

You know my regular set-up: 14 18 28w 38 49 62 concert pitch on a '60 Strat for the last 35 years.
About half of that time with frickin' mandolin fret wire on it too.
I didn't make the leap to vintage guitar frets until the 90's. .

There's no way in hell a 335 with any strings or frets on it isn't in my comfort zone, and there's zero badassery involved, I'm just used to bigger guitars with bigger strings and smaller frets.

On the other hand you just called the OP "not baddass" because that isn't his comfort zone.
i'm stunned to discover that my day job is a logical impossibility and doesn't in fact exist :)
When that guitar leaves your bench, it doesn't play itself.
In exactly the same way it didn't play itself before it hopped up on the bench.
i can't agree that fret size preference falls into that category, though.
Ok, I'm not getting the point for some reason, sorry. .
You mean fret height as relative to bending?
I'm not sure it matters personally, but is that what you mean?
besides, aren't those custom made elaborately wired monstrosities jerry garcia played (from the other thread) exactly that, guitars made to "come to him" to the highest degree?
Oh Boy is that my cue for a Jerry Garcia story, but. . maybe later.
Ever hear the guy play a Strat or an SG?
all true, but it's his "f*cking 1958 ES 335", and he apparently has already successfully been down this path with his other vintage semi-hollows. (agreed 100% that isn't something to be undertaken lightly, but if the OP already knows what works for him...)
Dude, it's a f*cking 1958 ES 335. And yeah, so what.
still, IMO a perfectly planed board and pristine new frets on a great old guitar can be a thing of beauty and a joy forever!
Yeah if the old frets were shot and the board was somehow hacked to unplayabililty.
it's not like we're talking about shaving the neck into an ibanez shred machine and painting it sparkle blue! nickel frets are wear items, i see no point in holding onto worn/too small/uneven frets for sentimental reasons.
Right. If the frets are shot and you need to play the thing, don't hesitate.
"fallacy"? if you're a 6100 guy it's patently true.
Ha, that's funny, and it might even be true, but it isn't, which is also funny.
That was an extreme example, but the idea is not incorrect.
Isolating qualities of different instruments and attempting to transfer and combine them into a single instrument is often a fools errand.
 

walterw

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38,694
Ok, I'm not getting the point for some reason, sorry. .
You mean fret height as relative to bending?
I'm not sure it matters personally, but is that what you mean?
i'm just saying that fret size preference, especially a preference for larger ones, is not necessarily a crutch for inadequate technique.
Isolating qualities of different instruments and attempting to transfer and combine them into a single instrument is often a fools errand.
this is OT, but absolutely agreed!

i want my les paul and my tele to each sound like "themselves", for the tonal contrast and because of how that "character" sort of pulls me in one direction or another as a player. no split humbuckers, stacked single coils or mixed sets for me thanks.

that both guitars have 6100 stainless frets applied by your truly has no bearing, they still very much have "identities" as two distinctly different playing and sounding guitars.
 




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