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Thread: mandolin fretwire size

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    Question mandolin fretwire size

    what are the pros and cons of oversized fretwire on mandolins

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Quote Originally Posted by jim wilkes View Post
    what are the pros and cons of oversized fretwire on mandolins
    I can let you know by end of week as my new Eastman 915 has been re-fitted with .092 fret wire and will arrive Thursday! Anxious to try it out! My research on this has indicated that I will be quite satisfied!

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    The pros; if you like big wire, it's better.
    The cons; if you don't like big wire, it's not as good.

    It all comes down to personal preference, such things as experience and playing style can influence one's preference, but it's still personal preference.

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    I increased the size on my primary mandolin and really like it. I think it has better tone. Not sure why.

    Also, the smaller traditional fret wire can only be dressed (to get rid of fret wear) a few time. Thicker wire can be reworked at least a few more times.

    I find the big wire to be pretty confortable.

    Search on this. It's been discussed before.

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    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Quote Originally Posted by jim wilkes View Post
    what are the pros and cons of oversized fretwire on mandolins
    Pro: some find them easier to fret since you don't have to push down as hard

    Con: they could throw off your intonation if you press down too hard (perhaps more of an issue with medium or light strings?)
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    Registered User resophonic's Avatar
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Playing style is a factor. If you play with a light left hand, large frets may work well for you. However, if you grip hard with the left hand you will likely have intonation issues because you stretch the strings more with the taller frets. You can adjust the bridge to compensate for the extra stretch but you re-enforce a bad playing habit by doing so.
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    I don't know the gauges, but last year I had the original fretwire on my 1950 Gibson A-50 replaced with "standard modern" fretwire (my luthier's words), which I assume is the current default gauge. It's somewhat larger, a bit easier to play, and has no intonation issues.

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Thanks for your responses. The heavy hand intonation issue makes sense and might very well apply in my case as I have been into the mandolin for a relatively short time.Someone mentioned 92 guage wire, what guage is more often used on banjos.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    There's usually not much (if any) difference in the height of fret wire used on mandolins, the difference is mostly in the width. As frets get taller it becomes easier to pull notes sharp by fretting too hard, but the width of the wire doesn't really have anything to do with that.

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim MacDaniel View Post
    Pro: some find them easier to fret since you don't have to push down as hard
    How do wider frets make it that you don't have to push down as hard? I'm not doubting you, I just can't picture it.

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Here's my scientific take on the issue. It's all in the mind of the person holding the mandolin. And to further complicate matters, the mind is easily changed.

    I have four (or more) mandolins with thinner gauge frets and two with thicker gauge. When I look at the wall and begin the process of elimination to determine which I will grab, the first thing that enters my mind is that the thicker fret models are preferable.

    The second thing that enters my mind after I finish playing and hang up the thin fret model is that I didn't think about fret size while I played. The same happens when I play a thick fret model.

    Ya play what you got in your hands.

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    I use both widths frequently (two different mandos). Sliding across a fret is significantly easier with the wider, more rounded frets. That relative ease has an immediate effect on playing style.

    The narrower frets really demand that you be right up on the tips of your fingers for slides.

    I wouldn't venture to say which is better.

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    I get a bigger, stronger note from a bigger fret, and twice as much from double stops, which I use all the time. The idea that twice as much string (a doubled pair) requires less fret than a single guitar or banjo string has never made any sense to me whatsoever.
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Joe Val's 1923 Loar (#72207) has banjo wire on it. Not sure of the specs, but I'm told it's your average standard gauge for banjo.

    Had I been in charge of caring for Joe's mando -- before the wider fretwire was installed -- I would never have done it. Our mutual pal (banjoist Paul Silvius) did that job. I believe it was to help relieve some of the occasional pain Joe had in his left hand at the time, since the wider gauge makes it easier to play. Joe had no problem with the process. It's a fact that, while he indeed knew what he had in that mando being a Loar, he truly only ever thought of it as simply being a tool.

    Performance: It definitely notes easier, once I got used to it. I would keep it on any new mandos that should come my way. I expect to claim a nice distressed Gibson once this Loar sells. I'm guessing I will want this size wire on it.

    Side Note: Derrington (and later David Harvey) both told me that wider tangs on fretwire can often be used to help straight a slight bow in a neck.

    Amazing stuff, that "luthiering" business.
    Last edited by Mandoist; Dec-09-2009 at 11:39am. Reason: additional info

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Quote Originally Posted by San Rafael View Post
    Sliding across a fret is significantly easier with the wider, more rounded frets. That relative ease has an immediate effect on playing style.
    I used to believe this more than I do now. What I've found is this;
    It is not as easy... well, lets say we have to learn how to properly crown smaller fret beads. Larger wire seems to be crowned better than narrow wire, but once I thought about the situation enough, and what is going on when a fret is crowned, I've learned to crown fret wire as narrow as the Loar replica wire (.043"?) so that slides are much easier than I thought possible. I believe the difference in the feel of slides has more to do with the fret work than the fret size because many luthiers haven't learned to crown narrow frets as well. Many just never thought about it.
    Having said all that, wider frets are easier for many payers to slide on, particularly players who press hard with the left hand fingers and/or don't have firm callouses.

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    Registered User resophonic's Avatar
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    I suppose this will all boil down to personal preference - some like it hot, some like it cold.

    I generally install what is sold as banjo wire but also have requests for guitar size wire installations as well as partial re-frets with vintage, salvaged wire. I do instrument repair part time to supplement my income and most of my repairs are for working musicians. These people know what they want and wouldn't have their particular set up done any other way, it's what works for them. My advise to anyone wanting to experiment is to go to the music store and start test driving the options. I'm betting you'll be forming an opinion about wire size after doing this.

    I have to agree with John about dressing and crowning the fret wire. I am amazed at how many instruments come across my bench with previous fret dressing and the frets are all flat on top, no attempt at crowning them at all. The vintage wire is no exception, it needs to be round on top.

    So far as doing slides, try your favorite fret size combined with flat wound strings, zip-ity-do-da!
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    Registered User MojoMando's Avatar
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Personally, I feel that .043 width Loar wire is way too thin for modern playing styles. I am currently using StewMac's .053 on my mandos, but have been afraid to take the big jump up to .080.

    Does anyone make something somewhere in the middle, like .065 to .070 in width?

    MojoDreads

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Quote Originally Posted by MojoMando View Post
    Does anyone make something somewhere in the middle, like .065 to .070 in width?
    I think I can say "no" with certainty because I've wished for and looked for fret wire in that range as long as I've been making mandolins. I keep hoping that the recent popularity of mandolins will get the attention of some fret manufacturer and they'll see a potential market, but I'm not holding my breath.
    (Shucks, no blue faced smiley...)

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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    Thanks again for all responses. I am in the process of getting a refret job on a 1975 handmade f style. This mandolin has pretty nice workmanship and pretty impressive sound not to have an arm and leg invested. The lutherier that I have been extremely pleased with on guitar work suggested banjo fretwire on the mandolin.Now that being said a friend who is a mandolin instructor and knows Alan Bibey quite well having grown up in same area tells me that Alan used to have larger wire on his frets but now on the Bibey edition Gibson uses standards whatever that might be.

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    Henry Lawton hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: mandolin fretwire size

    I had .070" frets on my first F5 and when I got my Gibson Goldrush with the smaller frets it seemed harder to play. After some time this went away and I grew to like the smaller frets better.(Go figure) The only way I can describe it as after I got used to the smaller frets the larger ones seemed a lot like my old mondo picks(clumsy) compared to my thinner frets and Blue Chip CT55 pick. I had gone to the rounded style pick during the process of learning to play tremolo. But after changing to the Blue Chip I found I could still play a decent tremolo with the much more agile pick. I described it in the pick thread like going from a bread truck to a sports car. The smaller frets have that same feel to me now. I didn't see this coming and frankly am still surprised by it but I guess it's just a personal tactile feel effect different on each individual.

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