Stainless steel frets

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by PlexiBreath, May 16, 2005.


  1. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

    Messages:
    1,200
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    I've heard a couple luthiers complain that SS frets make the tone painfully bright, but I tend to be very rough on frets and it would be nice to have something that would wear a lot longer. Are they really as bright as some say they are?
     
    Lespaulsignature 74 likes this.
  2. Stan Malinowski

    Stan Malinowski Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    458
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Southington, CT
    This topic has been discussed at great lenth over at the Anderson Forum. The general consensus over there is the effect of ss frets on tone is miniscule (with a capital M). I have Anderson Classics with both ss and normal frets and I don't detect any difference.

    Tom Anderson himself and Roy Fought from Anderson have the most sensitive ears that I have ever experienced, both feel there is no effect on tone due to the ss frets.
     
    slowerhand likes this.
  3. davesee

    davesee Guest

    i don't have any experience playing on ss frets yet, but i can tell you that as an apprentice luthier, they kill tools...which may be why your luthier is not to hip to them.
     
  4. GuitarNorton

    GuitarNorton Member

    Messages:
    1,599
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2002
    I had my Les Paul refretted with them and they don't seem bright to me. Wonderfully smooth to bend on and are showing no wear at all. I was worried about them wearing strings out quickly, but I've had Snake Oils on for months and they are holding up fine.
     
  5. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

    Messages:
    15,095
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think we all hear things a little differently. However, with the stainless steel equipped guitars I've played I detected a very slight pingyness in the very top end....almost like someone turned up the presence control on my amp one notch. It's subtle, but there....at least to my ears.
     
  6. mattmccloskey

    mattmccloskey Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,961
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    philadelphia
    SS frets are great, they last, they are smooth to bend on, they shine and don't tarnish. I don't think the tone really changes much at all. Andersons that use SS frets might seem a touch brighter than fenders, for example, but it is not because of the frets, it is because of the bridge. The bridge and saddles make the difference. I have 2 suhrs with SS frets, both alder with rosewood boards. One has the fishman made trem, the other a brass saddle tele bridge. The one with brass saddle tele bridge is darker, despite the same woods, frets, etc. I also have another strat with SS frets, but a callaham trem. It sounds darker as well, with a softer attack. I think people play guitars with SS frets that also have non-vintage type hardware and it sounds brighter, so they think it is the frets.
     
    Paleolith54 and gdane4 like this.
  7. Diablo

    Diablo Member

    Messages:
    1,438
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2002
    Location:
    Fort Worth, Texas
    I have been using stainless steel frets for the last 4-5 years. I had to have it made in Germany since it wasn't available at that time. It's fantastic! It is pure stainless steel. I think it's 304 or 316 stainless. Possibly 303 but I think it's 304. I love it. It's hell on tools and makes fretwork take about 4 times as long. The end result is great though so I think it's worth it.

    I had a guy in Los Angeles who wore out his frets in just a year or so. I looked into metals and finally decided on SS. Had to have it made but it worked out great. On his second guitar, he's played it to death and says that there is no fretwear that he can see. Since then, I put it on every guitar and can't really tell a sonic difference. It just makes them play better. It's hard on tools and your hands though. I had to get some tools to cut it without using your hands. Lever slicers to cut it to length and all carbide and diamonds. Otherwise, you had to make 24 cuts, then 48 more with had tools and SS is tough stuff.
     
  8. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    10,199
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2002
    Location:
    Gulf Coast, AL
    No negatives with SS frets. I have one Anderson with them, and had an older Anderson refretted with them. The guitar now sounds the same, but plays so much easier. If you are a big string bender, these are the way to go-----no question. The multiple benefits (durability, feel, no tarnish) FAR outweigh imagined negatives, IMO.

    This is a real advance in guitar construction, but not everyone is welcome to change.
     
    mcuguitar and MrAtomic like this.
  9. JustPlay

    JustPlay Member

    Messages:
    34
    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2004
    This is a real advance in guitar construction, but not everyone is welcome to change. [/B][/QUOTE]

    I agree~:cool:
     
    MrAtomic likes this.
  10. Strung Up

    Strung Up Member

    Messages:
    1,605
    Joined:
    May 16, 2005
    Location:
    Crazy, mixed-up world
    Love the feel (especially bending, where all reports of the ease hold true for me, but even without bending, the guitars just seem to take a lighter touch), LOVE the durability (long run = less cost for fret levels/Pleks/refrets).

    Just can't seem to get past that little bit of 'zing' that I hear on top playing clean, especially with the treble rolled down for jazz playing. Similar to previous post about 'presence' on an amp. Mind you, this is less discernable (and even desirable as a bluesy 'bite') with any grit or O/D on full-on guitar tone pot settings, but for clean playing with the treble rolled off, these frets seem to me to add some presence that won't go away.
     
  11. mattmccloskey

    mattmccloskey Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,961
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    philadelphia
    strung up, what guitar is it, and what is the bridge?
     
  12. Strung Up

    Strung Up Member

    Messages:
    1,605
    Joined:
    May 16, 2005
    Location:
    Crazy, mixed-up world
    1 swamp ash/maple strat with strat single coils, 1 hollow mahogany/ mahogany&Brazilian Strat w/ 'buckers; each by (different) notable builders. Both bridges are Gotoh 1088's.
     
  13. mude

    mude Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,495
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2002
    Location:
    USA
    Luckily it is a choice at a place like Suhr. My Suhr has them and I am pretty sure I will get them on any guitar that I can. I like the feel and durability. I have not noticed a tonal difference, although I have not spent time looking for one either. I like the sound of the guitar that they are on, but that is just part of an overall package that I selected.

    Evan.
     
  14. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

    Messages:
    1,200
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    Thanks for everyones opinion! Normally I would play and decide myself but I have no access to a SS fret guitar. To me, unless the brightness was so strident as to noticeably compromise the tone, I'd prefer the longer fret life of stainless steel.

    I have noticed in the past that even with regular nickel silver frets, that the larger the fret there is a brighter coldness to the tone. And from my understanding you can't get SS in vintage size fret material, the smallest is the skinny tall frets. Is this so? If so, it might explain the brightness of a comparison between the small vintage style frets and larger SS frets, maybe if SS were available in the smaller vintage size, the slight brightness would be negated.
     
  15. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,374
    Joined:
    May 5, 2005
    Location:
    Madison WI
    There must be a small tonal difference, even if very minimal.

    Perhaps the difference is for the better even but its hard to imagine (and somewhat illogical) that there wouldn't be at least a very slight tonal difference
     
    eliot1025 likes this.
  16. Raoul Duke

    Raoul Duke Member

    Messages:
    47
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2002
    Location:
    Atlanta
    I wish one of our onboard luthiers here would refret a guitar with half nickel/half SS frets...ya know 1,3,5, etc SS and 2,4,6, etc nickel...or instead of alternating, do groups of 3 or 4 frets in each metal and alternate those. Then you can do chords where each note is using only one alloy...then you'd have 'em side by side and any differences would be OBVIOUS!;)
     
  17. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,374
    Joined:
    May 5, 2005
    Location:
    Madison WI
    I think thats the key point: compared to ALOT of other variable, the difference is extremely slight
     
    eliot1025 likes this.
  18. fullerplast

    fullerplast Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,792
    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Same here. Loved the feel and the idea of never needing to refret, but swapping necks on the same guitar I heard a high end difference that I never have heard on any other neck swaps. I went back to the stock neck strictly on tonal preference.

    Think of it like a fretboard material. You are exchanging "x" grams of one type of metal that are part of your fretboard with "x" grams of another type of metal. It's an integral part of your fretboard and by weight, it's a pretty good percentage. If you can hear the difference between something like an ebony board and a rosewood board you may also be able to hear the difference between fret types and fret sizes. Truss rods, neck wood, fingerboard wood, neck carve, nut material, tuning pegs, neck joint all contribute to a neck's tone, each to a different degree. Fret material is no different IMHO. It's just a matter of degree. You might hear it in some necks and not others.
     
  19. ccteleman

    ccteleman Member

    Messages:
    573
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2002
    Location:
    Around-Here-Somewhere
    I have a couple of each.

    I like the feel of the SS, I like the tone of the standard wire.

    The SS to my ear is just a hair bright, Vaughn put it best, like a "ping" on top of the note that you can't get rid of.

    But hell John, I'll take one of your guitars with bailing wire....... Pleked of course.



    :cool:
     
  20. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

    Messages:
    1,200
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    What custom size? I hear it only comes in two sizes, the smallest of which is the skinny/tall. I'm surprised it's not available in the smaller vintage size, like originaly equipt Fender. But if this is what you mean by custom size, that that would be fantastic.
     

Share This Page