Tore out my first stainless re-fret today

Khromo

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,459
I have been half-expecting this to happen, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow!

A treasured customer brought in a solid ash body guitar with an ebony board and worn nickel-silver frets. The owner found the guitar a little dark. It sounded pretty balanced to me, but I only played it for a minute or two. The owner wanted to try stainless frets.

I gave him the normal speech about how there may or may not be a significant change in the tone of the guitar. I gave him the typical warning about ebony boards maybe increasing his chances of getting a ping or a brightness that he didn't like.

In hindsight, I am hoping I didn't build any confirmation bias into the process.

The guy made a measured decision to go with stainless. I probably would have done the same thing if my guitar sounded dark to me and I was re-fretting a worn board.

The new frets went in and leveled nicely. And then I plugged it in. And I knew right away those little ******** were coming out.

The owner came over and plugged it in to the killer TopHat Club Royale I had in the shop. He immediately started tweaking the knobs on the guitar and the amp, played it unplugged, until he finally looked at me with the look on his face like he knew the undertow was going to carry him out to sea.

He took it home and used it for a while, but the effect was really objectionable even to my tired old ears. This particular one of all the stainless jobs I've done, sounded really tinny and plinky and kind of humorously nasal at the same time!!! A sharp, nasty, banjo-like envelope that didn't really sound like a guitar. Holy ******* ****!!!

It's probably a good thing that it happened with this guy, because a lot of customers would have been furious. We had an epic debate about payment for the re-fret. I told him I'd do it for nothing, he insisted on full price. I pointed out I hadn't used my neck jig since doing his, and the settings were probably close to where they should be, saving valuable time! He said it was his fault and his decision and I had warned him. I told him "I am an ******* and I should be punished, on general principle."

We spent an unusual amount of time arriving at a discounted price! Should have been easier, but maybe we both wanted to suffer, him for making a bad decision, me for all the sins of my past life. There are many possible explanations!

The re-fret with Jescar went great, and the guitar sounded great afterward. This guy can play, and he was really happy with the results. Which is all I care about! No unhappy customers!

I'm not sure what, if any, lessons can be learned here. Tearing out a fret job that I had slaved over felt like I was euthanizing puppies. I'd like to avoid having to do it again.

Suggestions are welcome!
 
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Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
37,169
Do you find that raising the action (above normal) mitigates the ping, and dropping it such that obvious fret rattle emerges emphasizes it?
 

Jack Daniels

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,381
Ah…someone that hears what I hear. A few years ago a client dropped off his #1 and #2 Martin guitars for a refret. Insisting on SS. I almost begged him not to. We did and he was happy….for a few weeks. Now he hates the tone and they are no longer his #1 and #2.
 

charliechitlins

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,024
I have been half-expecting this to happen, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow!

A treasured customer brought in a solid ash body guitar with an ebony board and worn nickel-silver frets. The owner found the guitar a little dark. It sounded pretty balanced to me, but I only played it for a minute or two. The owner wanted to try stainless frets.

I gave him the normal speech about how there may or may not be a significant change in the tone of the guitar. I gave him the typical warning about ebony boards maybe increasing his chances of getting a ping or a brightness that he didn't like.

In hindsight, I am hoping I didn't build any confirmation bias into the process.

The guy made a measured decision to go with stainless. I probably would have done the same thing if my guitar sounded dark to me and I was re-fretting a worn board.

The new frets went in and leveled nicely. And then I plugged it in. And I knew right away those little ******** were coming out.

The owner came over and plugged it in to the killer TopHat Club Royale I had in the shop. He immediately started tweaking the knobs on the guitar and the amp, played it unplugged, until he finally looked at me with the look on his face like he knew the undertow was going to carry him out to sea.

He took it home and used it for a while, but the effect was really objectionable even to my tired old ears. This particular one of all the stainless jobs I've done, sounded really tinny and plinky and kind of humorously nasal at the same time!!! A sharp, nasty, banjo-like envelope that didn't really sound like a guitar. Holy ******* ****!!!

It's probably a good thing that it happened with this guy, because a lot of customers would have been furious. We had an epic debate about payment for the re-fret. I told him I'd do it for nothing, he insisted on full price. I pointed out I hadn't used my neck jig since doing his, and the settings were probably close to where they should be, saving valuable time! He said it was his fault and his decision and I had warned him. I told him "I am an ******* and I should be punished, on general principle."

We spent an unusual amount of time arriving at a discounted price! Should have been easier, but maybe we both wanted to suffer, him for making a bad decision, me for all the sins of my past life. There are many possible explanations!

The re-fret with Jescar went great, and the guitar sounded great afterward. This guy can play, and he was really happy with the results. Which is all I care about! No unhappy customers!

I'm not sure what, if any, lessons can be learned here. Tearing out a fret job that I had slaved over felt like I was euthanizing puppies. I'd like to avoid having to do it again.

Suggestions are welcome!
Dang!
I would have loved to hear A/B recordings.
My only SS refret sounds very different, but it also got a neck reset and some loose bracing re-glued...and it's a weird -sounding guitar to begin with! (Single pickup ES-225).
 

Khromo

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,459
Do you find that raising the action (above normal) mitigates the ping, and dropping it such that obvious fret rattle emerges emphasizes it?


I measured the action before and after the stainless job, and when I first tested it, raising the action was one of my first adjustments. It didn't seem to change the ping or the objectionably bright tone. We tried different strings, monkeyed with the amps, and did all the easy stuff.

It went from being the guy's Number One to sounding like a plywood import with the microphonic single coils. That's a bad feeling for a tech.
 

Khromo

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,459
Ah…someone that hears what I hear. A few years ago a client dropped off his #1 and #2 Martin guitars for a refret. Insisting on SS. I almost begged him not to. We did and he was happy….for a few weeks. Now he hates the tone and they are no longer his #1 and #2.

That's a shame. Old Martins!

I was getting ready to re-fret a personal bass of mine. This thing had the frets torn out from the top of the board previously and looked bad enough that there may have been more than one re-fret in this thing's lifetime. I figured this might be the last opportunity for a simple re-fret.

So I figured my life expectancy, and based on that I decided nickel-silver would last my lifetime! :rimshot I don't need any of that in a P-Bass!

I've read a few posts by guys who have just refused to put stainless in certain guitars. One of my buddies has his customers sign a freaking waiver that says if the guitar sounds like garbage after the stainless job, he is not responsible. That's way too adversarial for me. I'd rather give my best advice, and trust the customer to act right if the ping is objectionable.

It's definitely different in different instruments, though. I've done jobs where the change is imperceptible, and some where you can hear a difference. This was the first one that sounded this bad, and I wonder if the ebony board should have been a warning sign.
 
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Maguchi

Member
Messages
2,245
A few years back I bought a half dozen guitars from Kiesel. Their standard default frets on their guitars are stainless. However I've played a few stainless fretted guitars and didn't like the sound. To my ears stainless frets sounded comparatively bright and thin. So I had them use nickel silver which they offer as an option at no extra charge. All six guitars sound and play amazing with the nickel silver frets.

BTW, I've read about refrets here and other places and am a little baffled. I've been playing between 2-5 hours a day for 35+ years now (on guitars with nickel silver frets) and have never had to refret a guitar yet.
 

RLD

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,798
Weird...I'm changing over all my guitars to SS when they need a re-fret.
I'm a hard player (I guess) cause I see wear after 1 month on new NS.
I don't hear enough difference to matter, and by that I mean I've done a blind test and I can't pick out one from the other.
I do know that players I respect don't like them, so there must be something some guys hear...or it could conformation bias on full display. :dunno
 

el chuco

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
577
I have been half-expecting this to happen, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow!

A treasured customer brought in a solid ash body guitar with an ebony board and worn nickel-silver frets. The owner found the guitar a little dark. It sounded pretty balanced to me, but I only played it for a minute or two. The owner wanted to try stainless frets.

I gave him the normal speech about how there may or may not be a significant change in the tone of the guitar. I gave him the typical warning about ebony boards maybe increasing his chances of getting a ping or a brightness that he didn't like.

In hindsight, I am hoping I didn't build any confirmation bias into the process.

The guy made a measured decision to go with stainless.

The owner came over and plugged it in to the killer TopHat Club Royale I had in the shop. He immediately started
I told him I'd do it for nothing, he insisted on full price. I pointed out I hadn't used my neck jig since doing his, and the settings were probably close to where they should be, saving valuable time! He said it was his fault and his decision and I had warned him. I told him "I am an ******* and I should be punished, on general principle."

The re-fret with Jescar went great, and the guitar sounded great afterward. This guy can play, and he was really happy with the results. Which is all I care about! No unhappy customers!

I'm not sure what, if any, lessons can be learned here. Tearing out a fret job that I had slaved over felt like I was euthanizing puppies. I'd like to avoid having to do it again.

Suggestions are welcome!
I admire your excellent customer service, honesty & professionalism. Kudos to you!!!
 

MKB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,318
Wow... this is great info. And thanks for the details; maybe SS just doesn't work well with ebony? The brightness of ebony and how the upper harmonics are emphasized might have something to do with it. The Martin refrets mentioned above that didn't sound good were probably ebony as well.

I have a few SS fret guitars and are madly in love with them, but they all have maple necks and fretboards. They all have ash bodies as well. To my ears maple fingerboards are bright to a point, but then have a low pass filter effect in the upper treble. Maybe that mellows down the SS fret brightness a bit.

It would be interesting to hear if players like SS frets with rosewood. My next SS refret was going to be a rosewood fingerboard, but I'll hold off for now.
 

joebloggs13

Member
Messages
4,365
Wow... this is great info. And thanks for the details; maybe SS just doesn't work well with ebony? The brightness of ebony and how the upper harmonics are emphasized might have something to do with it. The Martin refrets mentioned above that didn't sound good were probably ebony as well.

I have a few SS fret guitars and are madly in love with them, but they all have maple necks and fretboards. They all have ash bodies as well. To my ears maple fingerboards are bright to a point, but then have a low pass filter effect in the upper treble. Maybe that mellows down the SS fret brightness a bit.

It would be interesting to hear if players like SS frets with rosewood. My next SS refret was going to be a rosewood fingerboard, but I'll hold off for now.
I have an ebony FB acoustic that is going to need a re fret...and I will be going with nickel/silver.
 
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frankencat

Guitarded
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
13,988
Man I have done a ton of SS refrets in my shop and I have never experienced a drastic change in tone of a guitar. Maybe I’m just lucky or maybe it’s something else. In any case, good deal on taking care of your customers. All’s well that ends well.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
40,637
I have a few SS fret guitars and are madly in love with them, but they all have maple necks and fretboards.

It would be interesting to hear if players like SS frets with rosewood. My next SS refret was going to be a rosewood fingerboard, but I'll hold off for now.
i love them on my own rosewood guitars; done right they sound just as "buttery" as regular frets to me. if anything the maple board is more prone to that "ping" effect if the leveling isn't absolutely perfect
I have an ebony FB acoustic that is going to need a re fret...and I will be going with nickel/silver.
stainless would make sense if you were gigging with that guitar 4 nights a week and couldn't afford the downtime to have it be in the shop for fretwork

if it's just an acoustic you like for playing at home or whatever i kinda don't see the need
 

hogy

Member
Messages
14,767
Yep, that's what stainless steel frets sound like. I hate those things.

I, too, do a lot of refrets. I try to steer customers away from stainless, but I'll do it if they insist.

EVO wears just as slow, maybe slower, and sounds much better. Strangely I get a lot of push back over the gold color when I suggest it. It does look out of place on a vintage guitar.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
37,169
Yep, that's what stainless steel frets sound like. I hate those things.
One might think the question should be settled by now.
What is going on with SS? does it always ping? only in certain combinations? only if inserted/glued a certain way? only if the setup aggravates it? playing technique? ears?

Why can't we get a pingy SS guitar and a regular sounding SS guitar together and figure this out?
 




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