Does installing stainless frets really ruin tools or?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by jhale, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. jhale

    jhale Supporting Member

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    Or do some luthiers not want to do them because it will be less return business as they last almost forever?
     
  2. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    I've noticed some extra wear on my tools with other than nickel/silver but it comes with the territory.

    Difficult to know what other people think...but it wouldn't surprise me if someone would think stainless steel frets would hurt their repeat business. But, from a customer perspective, I think refusing to do a job would cause me to seek out someone else.
     
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  3. trap

    trap Supporting Member

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    Maybe for some. And yet it seems a lot of positive feedback about Jescar EVO wire and that lasts very long and yet is easy on tools.
    I think it's just more of a PITA using SS. And some truly believe it doesn't sound the same - as good.
    I'm not crazy about it sound wise.
     
  4. Jack Daniels

    Jack Daniels Member

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    I have done my fair share of SS installations. It's definitely ruined my cutters. It's pretty hard on files too.
     
  5. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Yes, it's a bit harder on cutters, and if you try to cut some jumbo SS wire with the end nippers you may have used for years on nickel wire, it can destroy them quite quickly. That said, you just need different cutters appropriate for the job.

    Of course we do always prefer to use the crappiest materials available though, just to ensure you have to come back for more work. Just like how I use wheat paste when I reglue a bridge to make sure it comes off again, and make "bone nuts" out of Ivory soap to ensure they wear out and need replacement again quick. My favorite trick is to wiggle the wires as solder joints cool, guaranteeing the customer will be back needing it fixed again within a year.

    We're not as bad as amp techs though. Boy, do those guys have some great tricks for making sure your rectifier burns out in 1/10 the time it should last.

    Gotta run. Me and the gang are working on a tuning machine that will need replacement every six months.
     
  6. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Scratch that. Turns out that Gibson has already cornered the market on guaranteed to fail tuning machines.
     
  7. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Okay, joking aside, yes, SS fret work is a bit more labor intensive than nickel. I used to charge a higher premium, but have worked with it enough that now that I've refined my methods and tools for this material, it doesn't really take that much more time.

    It used to seem a lot more difficult to work with though, until I got used to it, and adopted some new methods, and even now it does wear on the tools a bit more, mostly cutters, nippers, and files for shaping the ends. I can understand why some may not want to work with it, but after a learning curve I personally don't find it that much a hassle.

    Even with that though, when I do a refret with nickel now, it does seem like a nice little stroll in the park.
     
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  8. jhale

    jhale Supporting Member

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    ^^^That was funny...Well I just ordered some tools and I'm going to attempt it myself with evo. Im going to start on my non les pauls first then get to them too. I was quoted 500 and 550 for evo and that's without a nut. I cant afford that. I'm sure it will take forever but I love tweaking guitars until they feel right so I will get it down
     
  9. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    EVO can be a bit tough on files, in the sense that your end files might wear out in a thousand or so refrets instead of 2 or 3 thousand. It's fine on most cutters though, as it really snaps rather than shears, not nearly as hard on cutters as stainless.
     
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  10. Sweetfinger

    Sweetfinger Silver Supporting Member

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    I gotta raise my prices. You can scoot out of my shop with two refrets for what they're gettin in L.A.!

    To answer- SS is kind of a pain to work with. One of my guys used it accidentally a few years ago. Just looked at the size and didn't see that it was stainless wire. He ended up bitching about it all through the job and thinking he'd lost his mojo 'cause he was having difficulty with it.
     
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  11. eSS eSS

    eSS eSS Member

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    If someone refuses to do a job, you HAVE to seek out someone else.
     
  12. K-Line

    K-Line Vendor

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    Do they ruin them? Not really. Do they wear them faster? Yep.
     
  13. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    I do stainless and EVO wire almost exclusively, and while it takes a slightly longer (harder alloys are simply harder to file/polish), it's nothing I feel like I have to charge more for. Over the course of a refret, it just doesn't add up to much. I don't have tool issues anymore, although at first I used to think I'd have to start buying cutters by the case. But, not too long ago I found these cutters that bite through jumbo stainless wire like it's copper...
    [​IMG]
    I mean, I have arthritis and I can parcel out a pound of 6100 wire into 2' lengths with my left hand, and eventually into fret sets. Just a joy. No signs of wear, and they've done a lotta cutting.

    As for files, I've always spent the money to get diamond files wherever possible, but even the standard steel ones generally go quite a while before I feel like I might want something fresh.

    For me, the only time stainless or EVO presents an appreciable hit on time is when I'm doing progressive (compound) radius necks. The stuff really doesn't want to bend, so you almost have to radius each fret for its position or you run the risk of springback, even when they're glued in. Can't have that. So, I've taken to creating/keeping pre-radiused sets in inventory of the more popular sizes. A pound of fretwire will always parcel out to at least 22 2' pieces, usually more like 25+. Set up the bender to radius for fret 1, bend a 2' length, and chop it up into fret-sized pieces. Adjust the bender for fret 2, do the same. Keep going until I run out of fretwire. Stash 'em all in a partitioned parts tray drawer like this...

    [​IMG]
    Works well. Doing them all at once saves a TON of time, since you don't have to keep readjusting the bender. Yields roughly 18-20 sets of frets. I put stainless and EVO both in the same tray since they're easy to tell apart and it cuts down on how many trays I have using up real estate. Only time it doesn't work out is if I get a call for a size I don't stock, or if somebody has either a straight radius or a progressive radius that isn't 10" to 16".
     
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  14. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    How close to flush will these cut?
     
  15. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    Not very. You still need some good flush cutters. I've had mostly good luck so far with these Summit Tools 8001 cutters from Jescar...
    [​IMG]
    They ain't cheap, but they work. Oddly enough, their regular cutters aren't so robust. Not sure why. Anyway, these are effective and cut very flush, but they have two "relief" notches to accommodate different ranges of fret size, so the face is a bit wide and you have to be careful you don't bite down on an angle or you will dent the fretboard. First time I used them, I didn't notice that was happening until I was done, and I ended up having to refret the damned thing because repairing the damage required removing all the frets I had just put in. Pissed me off, as you can imagine. But, forewarned is forearmed. Be careful, and it's a good tool.

    While you're at that site, you might want to look at the tang nipper they sell, too. That's also a very effective tool.
     
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  16. stratamania

    stratamania Member

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    @KGWagner that's a fine idea pre-radiusing the different frets in batches. Good to hear those Knipex are holding up.
     
  17. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    Actually, I think it was you who told me about them, wasn't it? If so, thank you again! Wonderful tool. I've been singing their praises every chance I get. Surprised the luthier supply outlets don't carry them, as they're vastly superior to anything any of them sell.
     
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  18. stratamania

    stratamania Member

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    As I recall I did indeed mention the Knipex brand to you.
     
  19. Rich b in tempe

    Rich b in tempe Member

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    No doubt about is . SS frets are the future. They last so long, they pay for themselfs in no-time. The DO SORTA dull my files & nippers!
     
  20. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    Yeah, but they're a joy to play. I remember being apprehensive about the first set I got, wondering how they'd sound/feel, whether I'd like the difference and whether I was setting myself up for an early refret to get out from under them. As it works out, they feel fantastic. Not just subtly so for those blessed with magic fingers, but dramatically so for anyone who plays the instrument. Contrary to a minority of reports that they affect the the sound of the instrument, they don't. Finally, their lifespan is remarkably long. I've seen them wear under the constant attention of professionals who put extensive hours on them, but I suspect for most people, they'd be the last set of frets ever installed. So, outside of their tendency to prematurely wear out tools that weren't designed to work on them on the first place (which really doesn't count), they're all upside.

    It's an evolutionary change for the instrument. Nickel/silver frets won't go away because there will always be a market for $100 high-volume production line Strat knockoffs from the Pacific rim, but I think we'll see SS frets increasingly becoming the standard on the better instruments aimed at the more discerning players. Kinda like radial tires on cars now.
     
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