Time for a Stainless Steel fret experiment

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by smithguitars, Mar 13, 2020.

  1. smithguitars

    smithguitars Supporting Member

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    I got a # of stainless steel fretwire. My preferred widest/highest and i have all the regular tools. How Is fret crowning with SS? Same procedure? I’m kind of looking forward to a good excuse to hide in the shop and whack on some necks. I am not going to do the tang nip until i get a few ss fret jobs under my belt.
    Please share your SS Fretwork flow. Thanks!
     
  2. larry1096

    larry1096 Member

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    My limited experience is that you'll find a minimum amount of difference between NS and SS. Typical abrasives and files work effectively on SS, albeit just a bit more slowly.
    From what I've seen, I'll never do NS again.

    Larry
     
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  3. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    regular fret cutters and end-nippers might not be enough, i went with mini-bolt cutters from mcmaster-carr:

    [​IMG]

    ground almost flush (you gotta leave a little more meat on the blades) they nip ss wire easily without killing your hand.

    aside from the tang-nipping conundrum the leveling and filing and polishing is all the same, just a little more work to do.

    oh, and you gotta pre-bend to match the radius as close as possible rather than over-bend like you might with regular soft fretwire. otherwise it'll want to spring back out over time.

    you also need to be very exacting in your leveling step (which we all should be anyway, right?); regular wire can sort of "break in" and even itself out with playing wear, while ss needs to be perfect out of the gate or it'll ping and buzz, and those buzzes will not go away.
     
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  4. RLD

    RLD Member

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    I second the bit about fret cutters...get ones rated for SS...SS frets will destroy regular nippers.
     
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  5. smithguitars

    smithguitars Supporting Member

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    My stewie red fret cutters are from 2008, so they tell me those should be ok. Prebending is going to be a pain on the compound radius necks. I’m also going to give a fret caul in the drill press trick this time around. I have a couple of Squire & Washburn necks to do first, before Fenders get the business.
    I’m going to try a non-stewie fret bender, there are a couple of beefy ones on the bay I’ve been looking at. wish me luck.
     
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  6. frankencat

    frankencat Guitarded Silver Supporting Member

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  7. jvin248

    jvin248 Member

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    .

    Too many frightened little boys and girls around Stainless frets.... Here's what you do:

    -use the nippers to cut through the 'wings' of the fret and just score the tang, then bend and snap the fret at the break, they are quite brittle -- I suspect from work hardening when squashed through the roller dies to get the shape and then not annealed back soft because we want the tough wear characteristics.
    -measure each fret over the groove you will put it in, measuring file allowance length on the far side and near side and then cut it as noted, right from the big spool of wire.
    -put that fret into the fret number hole in a board you have laying behind the neck on the table. The board is drilled with 22 or 24 frets plus a nut. That way you keep the frets all matched up to the neck and the fret slot they belong to.
    -press the frets in (don't be a cave dweller who hammers them in)
    -run the side/angle/chamfer file down the line of frets until just touching the fretboard. I use a 20deg angle on my fret ends to give more top surface for the strings. Most use 45deg. Figure out what you want to do.

    If you buy pre-cut fret lengths, then adjust the far side so you have file allowance and nip all the excess off the near side of the neck so you are only cutting once per fret.

    If you watch most fretting videos, you'll see traditional wire gets cut to the same width in a batch for all the frets, then pressed into all the slots, and then nipped off both sides of the neck close enough for filing which results in 44 nipper actions per neck. Be clever and only cut 22.

    When traditional methods are used iin nipping all those frets after pressing into the slots rather than before the frets go in, you are risking mangling the ends of the fret slots depending on how forceful you are at nipping and twisting ... and swearing.

    Crowning and polishing are all the same as regular frets.

    I used to get Jumbo fret wire so I could maybe get a few more level/crown/polish cycles out of them. But with Stainless I just buy Medium and my crown and polish steps go a lot faster. So my total job time between the two wire materials actually goes down.

    Don't let the big babies frighten you off of Stainless. I won't use anything but Stainless when doing frets because I don't want to do them again when they wear out -- and even 88 cuts per neck in conventional fret wire causes nippers to get dull.

    .
     
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  8. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    :jo
    i like it! anything to reduce steps without sacrificing quality

    i've been hesitant to pre-cut to exact length, i want to avoid having a fret that ends up a little short, or where some of the deformation from the cut still shows when i'm done beveling. also i don't like it when i end up with just enough overhang to take forever to file down but not enough to catch with the end nippers
    agreed, not a ss thing but a tall fret thing. too much bevel and you lose fret top real estate. the typical angle is i wanna say 35° like the stewmac beveling file has, so i glued a wooden rail to the bottom of mine to tilt it up some and get me back more fret top when i was done.
     
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  9. skydog

    skydog Supporting Member

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    You fret gurus, what exactly is ‘German nickel silver’?
     
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  10. stratamania

    stratamania Member

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  11. smithguitars

    smithguitars Supporting Member

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  12. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    it's "regular" fret wire, and apparently also gibson humbucker cover material.

    some sort of brass alloy variation, harder and less electrically conductive than regular yellow brass
     
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  13. bojocatkite

    bojocatkite Member

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    I beg to differ, those are the worst junk ever.
    I got one from Stew Mac months ago, it was dented after cutting the second fret (Ukulele Fret wire from StewMac, not SS). After 5 frets is was completely destroyed.

    Of course they have awesome return policies so I was able to get a refund but I told them to stop selling that crap and they didn't really care.
    They must get those from China and it must have been good quality for a while and the one I got must have been from a crappy batch, maybe it returned to be good quality, who knows... like I said StewMac have the best customer service so at least you can take your chance.
     
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  14. larry1096

    larry1096 Member

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    'German silver' and 'nickel silver' are synonyms. "German Nickel Silver" is the equivalent of 'American steel steel.' :)

    Nickel silver has no silver in it; the name refers to the color. The typical formulation is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. It was created as, and is sometimes referred to as 'white brass'.

    Larry
     
  15. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

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    This seems to not be brought up in SS fret discussions but I have noticed it.
    I don't have enough exposure to verify it as common but still think it could be a factor in the SS zing debate.
     
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