SS frets!

Mark burgess

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Dec 19, 2021
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I no longer accept that SS frets are a luxury option . When Harley Benton and Shine both use them in guitars well below £500 as standard . I have previously owned a stunning Suhr 2003 standard ( custom) and had difficulty moving it on because Suhr now use SS as standard I have just bought my 1st SS fret guitar a Shijie STE ( cost me less than a grand ) and it is insane quality I bought is as an option to the PRS silver sky and that was down to the specs . I cannot tell the difference between SS and Nickel in sound and I’m not a cork sniffer just a working muso . If you buy pre cut frets from Dunlop or jescar there is not much difference in the price . But I do know I won’t be paying out for a refret any time soon and I’m now seriously considering as a final upgrade SS on my Bernie Marsden but a £250 - £300 refret is tragic on a guitar that should have the best to begin with on it where it might have cost £50 to do it at the factory.
 

Mike J.

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Nov 14, 2021
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I can believe the frets are harder than usual german silver ones. I string with 11's, I have a monkey grip and I like agresive fast vibratos. I usually use up frets fairly fast. All my Fenders had groove after a year while my Custom shows non of it. I also have over 20 years old PRS used by touring and london studio musician and same story, no grooves, heathy frets up and down. I care non for SS frets
Yep, I had grooves like crazy on my Telecaster frets. Sure didn't take long to get those grooves going. Either those frets are fairly soft or I too have a monkey grip. But I do believe my grip has loosened up to some degree lately. At one point I did ask the tech I go to about SS frets for my Tele. He said he'd rather not because they take a toll on his tools and it would cost me about $400.00 to have it done. I passed.

What you said about your PRS guitars is encouraging. We'll see how the frets on my Vela hold up.
 

bodia

Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved
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Just to muddy the waters more………
Well, and then there’s the great compromise EVO Gold frets made by Jescar… real long lasting. Harder than nickel Dunlops, softer than SS.. They sound more like nickel but last almost as long as SS.. Eastman uses them…..
. I used the Jescar EVO on my Swaim Guitar Works handmade Korina/maple top Les Paul . I played that guitar a lot and didn’t want to refret but then I bought my DGT and then that all changed..LOL……
I bought two CE bodies for rebuild projects, an ‘88 and a ‘01. I had to find necks for both of them. Got one from Ed Roman Guitars and had one built by a guy in Utah (can’t recall his name). I had EVO frets installed on both of them. Really liked them.
 
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Simon Says

A Dentist for the Lawyers
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Yep, I had grooves like crazy on my Telecaster frets. Sure didn't take long to get those grooves going. Either those frets are fairly soft or I too have a monkey grip. But I do believe my grip has loosened up to some degree lately. At one point I did ask the tech I go to about SS frets for my Tele. He said he'd rather not because they take a toll on his tools and it would cost me about $400.00 to have it done. I passed.

What you said about your PRS guitars is encouraging. We'll see how the frets on my Vela hold up.

See for yourself. Frets on my 1999 Standard. Same on Custom really



Why would I bother going SS?
 

Simon Says

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I can see why you wouldn't! Have those frets ever been touched up in anyway?

I only own this guitar since early last year but I don't think so. Edges still had finish on them and looks very much factory. You can spot refrets by looking on the side of the fretboard. This one shows no touch ups. 23 years old guitar but plays like brand new. You wouldn't believe the setup I have on this thing
 

Mike J.

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I only own this guitar since early last year but I don't think so. Edges still had finish on them and looks very much factory. You can spot refrets by looking on the side of the fretboard. This one shows no touch ups. 23 years old guitar but plays like brand new. You wouldn't believe the setup I have on this thing
If those are the original frets and they've never been been touched up, that is some tough fret wire! Now I'm really curious how long the frets will last on my Vela compared to my Tele.
 

Alnus Rubra

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Yep, I had grooves like crazy on my Telecaster frets. Sure didn't take long to get those grooves going. Either those frets are fairly soft or I too have a monkey grip. But I do believe my grip has loosened up to some degree lately. At one point I did ask the tech I go to about SS frets for my Tele. He said he'd rather not because they take a toll on his tools and it would cost me about $400.00 to have it done. I passed.

What you said about your PRS guitars is encouraging. We'll see how the frets on my Vela hold up.

Ach the frets on the mandolin were almost through to the fretboard at the nut end!

Nice wee fiddle though, with rosewood back and side. Just too much strumming for my taste. I bet Paul could design a mandolin with a bit of resonance.

In fact I think Tosca has a PS one.
 

RickP

Established 1960, Still Not Dead
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I had to get a Taylor T5 refretted after the original owner wore the lower register down prior to my buying it. That’s the only guitar I’ve had to refret. The PRS I’ve gigged most extensively is a ‘07 model 513, and the frets still look and feel fine years later. Works for me, though I’ve no doubt some manage to wear them faster than I do.

As I’ve said elsewhere, there are lots of things not on guitars of certain brands, and if you want them you add them. Your favorite frets are no exception. If you like them, you do, and you don’t have to prove any reason why. Just put them in.
 
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Simon Says

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I had to get a Taylor T5 refretted after the original owner wore the lower register down prior to my buying it. That’s the only guitar I’ve had to refret. Tye PRS I’ve gigged most extensively is a ‘07 model 513, and the frets still look and feel fine years later. Works for me.
I never hold to a guitar long enough to need to refret it but all my Fenders had grooves, even the ones I had from new. Just FYI - not shitting on Fenders, IMO Fender does amazing stuff and new models currently made are the best stuff they ever did, period
 

Alnus Rubra

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My MIJ F Strt was the only one I’ve had re-fretted. It had a lot of live use between 1994-2001, so I can’t complain.

The frets were stoned in 2007 and I had a refret in 2020.

It was my main instrument, so it doesn’t owe me a [email protected] thing. Poor lassie has a bruised bum from a fall I had from a table whilst trying to entertain some fine folks several years ago!
 

DreamTheaterRules

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My MIJ F Strt was the only one I’ve had re-fretted. It had a lot of live use between 1994-2001, so I can’t complain.

The frets were stoned in 2007 and I had a refret in 2020.e

It was my main instrument, so it doesn’t owe me a [email protected] thing. Poor lassie has a bruised bum from a fall I had from a table whilst trying to entertain some fine folks several years ago!

Common sense would say "don't ask, Howie. You THINK you want to know the answer, but you'll be sorry." But hey, it's Monday so I'm going to ask anyway....

How, exactly, do you get your frets stoned? And, how can you tell?

cheech-and-chong-up-in-smoke-blunt-620.jpg
 

Mozzi

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Unless I'm very much mistaken, the fret wire is an alloy of metals and whether its Stainless Steel or 'Nickel' frets, that doesn't mean that they all have exactly the same properties,the same hardness or 'wear' issues etc etc.

I have seen SS frets with corrosion and string divots too and I know that some Nickel frets, particularly low 'nickel' content and used for 'cheap' guitars that does wear very quickly - particularly with the 'ultra-hard' strong steel strings yet many Vintage guitars with 'nickel' frets, played hard for years and years and years with enough fret wire left to do several re-crowns when it becomes necessary. I think its that 'association' with cheap 'nickel' fretted guitars that people assume must be the 'same' nickel fret wire as used by PRS in their core. Like believing Ceramic magnet Pups must be 'awful' because Cheap pickups use Ceramics - they are all 'bad' by association to much cheaper, lower quality products.

It's understandable why some may feel 'concerned' if they have had a cheap guitar with low quality Nickel alloy frets that wear with every vibrato and need recrowning after a week of cowboy chords - but not ALL nickel frets are created equal.

That 'slinky' slippy feel can be achieved on decent Nickel frets too if you really take the time to polish them - I do think they maybe need a bit more 'polishing' over time than SS, but a quick polish with String changes keeps them feeling slinky and as smooth as SS.

From what I see, most of the people wanting SS want them because they are 'worried' about having to do 'ANYTHING' to their frets -even if that's just a quick buff with a polishing rubber when changing strings. The 'wear' issue is just an 'excuse' as they probably won't ever use that guitar enough to ever need a re-crown let alone a re-fret. They'll also happily drop some after-market Pups costing as much, if not more than a SS refret to 'mod' the guitar to what they 'prefer' so why not 'refret' it too if its that 'important' to you.

I would never buy a guitar (or not) just because of the 'fret material'. My attitude would be to buy the guitar that works for me as it is and then worry about fret wire material IF I ever need to 'worry' about it in the future. So far, I have NEVER had to refret ANY guitar I have owned and can't actually remember the last time I had to do anything more than 'clean/polish' my Nickel frets -but then I do play multiple guitars..
 

Brad737

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Without getting into an argument over whether PRS' use of bronze (nickel-silver is actually mostly nickel-copper, a form of bronze) frets vs stainless is a result of anything other than Paul Smith's tone preference to use more traditional materials, the question of desirability of stainless frets is going to depend on the player, both in terms of tone preference and wear.

When it comes to guitars, every materials choice has its tradeoffs. First, let's end the controversy over the tone of stainless vs nickel frets; it's quite clear that they sound different. Want proof? Here it is.

Warmoth did a test recording one guitar body, one set of pickups, one amp, same everything, with two necks cut from the same piece of wood, one with stainless steel frets, one with bronze. This is about as scientific a test as you're going to find in guitar-land.

Clearly, the two types of frets sound different, as the video posted below demonstrates. The stainless frets are indeed 'zingier'. That can be good, or it can create a tone you don't care for. That's up to you, the player:


In general, my preference is not to have quite the level harmonic overtones the stainless frets add. You may feel that the added zing of the stainless frets improves the tone. Personal choice, right? There are no right or wrong answers to this stuff.

On the topic of wear, by virtue of our anatomical differences and individual playing styles, and perhaps the number of guitars we play, we're all going to wear frets differently.

I have a light touch, and have owned a 1965 SG special since 1967. It was my only electric guitar for a long time, though it got most of its play time before 1991, when I got into PRSes. The frets show some wear, and could use a good leveling and polishing, but the guitar doesn't need a refret after 56 years.

If there's wear on my PRS frets (my oldest one has been here for about eight years), I can't see, hear or feel it. Doesn't mean, of course, that you aren't frustrated by fret wear. But for me, the tone disadvantage I feel comes with stainless frets outweighs the convenience of the longer wear.

Thanks for posting the video, Les. I’m a huge fan of SS frets…so much so that I even had them installed on my vintage 50s Les Paul Custom. I could easily pick out the SS frets on the video, but I’ve never been able to hear the zinginess in person. After so many years of airplanes and shooting, my hearing loss is such that I just don’t notice that sort of difference. For me, SS is all about the feel, and the smoothness of SS is amazing. The fact that I’ll probably never have to refret is an added bonus.
 
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