big Stainless steel frets

  1. jim_n_virginia
    Well it's been about 2 months now that I got my Fern completely refretted with large stainless steel banjo frets.

    I am COMPLETELY sold on them. I swear my playing has improved. It seems like I can play cleaner and faster with the bigger frets. I don't have to press down as hard. It seems like I can just barely touch the strings and it makes the note.

    And the best part is I have been carefully watching the frets under the strings and not only is the stainless steel undented but the frets are so hard there is not even a mark on them!

    I think because I don't have to fret as hard and the actual hardness of stainless steel I bet I won't need another refret for 20 years .... I hope! LOL!
  2. hank
    Hey Jim, If you don't mind me asking how much was the cost of your stainless refretting and who did the work? I get a little nervous any time I have to ship an instrument, especially this one but a radius and larger frets would be great. My frets are still good but when the time comes i think I'll take your advice on the jumbo stainless.
  3. Bernie Daniel
    Bernie Daniel
    I was kind of wondering too what the difference in cost might be.

    However, even if it was 2 or 3 times as much it would be more than worth it if it both aided your fretting and as well as lasted longer.

    ANY left hand aggravation I can avoid is worth a LOT of money to me! (and also might add to my potential life span!)
  4. Mike Romkey
    Mike Romkey
    Put me down as a big-fret fan. I'm curious about the total-refret pricing myself.
  5. Bernie Daniel
    Bernie Daniel
    mromkey: "Put me down as a big-fret fan. I'm curious about the total-refret pricing myself."

    I have "banjo frets" on my F-12 and I think it DOES play very easily --but then that mando also has a 1 3/16 inch nut so I am never certain how much of the benefit is from the frets versus the wider nut -- compared to my small frets and narrowef nut Fern that is.
  6. jim_n_virginia
    Well I had more than just the frets replaced. I also had the Florida scooped and where the frets used to be and silver wire was inlaid so if you look at the fretboard head on it doesn't looked frets are missing.

    Also I had a twangy E string that I just couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. It was the nut slot and with a little filing it was fixed.

    Then I had a small hump in my fret board around the 14th fret that could not be corrected by a truss rod adjustment, so when the frets were all out my fret board was sanded flat.

    And finally I had a complete setup with string change (I provided the strings) bridge was reseated and readjusted and repositioned.

    On top of all this is was a rush job. I was only in town for a gig on Friday night. So I did the gig Friday and first thing Sat morning I dropped the mandolin off and I picked it up on Sunday morning on my way out of town!

    Everything total cost me $320.00 and it was well worth it to me because I basically got a new mandolin back. I mean it played pretty good when I gave it to him but it now it plays better than any mandolin I have ever owned now.

    I am thinking just the refret alone with the big stainless steel frets would have cost around $200.00-$225.00

    Ward Elliott did the work. He used to make mandolins for Stelling. Heck of a nice guy. He lives in a little town of Riner, Va the next town over from Floyd, Virginia where they have the FloydFest every year.

    His email address is and number is (540) 763- 2327 in case anyone is interested.

    How I found out about Ward was Bucket got him to do a refret on a Flatiron mandolin with the same size fret wire and it was like a new mandolin too.

    I tell ya it's going to be hard for me not to want the big frets on any mandolin I ever own now because it just plays so easy.

    But the warning about making a note sharp if you mash down to hard are true. But you should not be mashing down on strings anyways. It didn't take me long to learn to play lighter. You REALLY have to press down on very hard to change the pitch so not really much to worry about it, but you still have to be aware of it.
  7. woodwizard
    I have larger frets on my 1919 A4 refret. Don't know if they are S.S. ...Starting to really like them. They were on it when I got the A4 a couple of weeks ago or so. It seems to make it easier to play for some reason.
  8. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    My luthier has never done stainless. I'm either gonna hafta talk him into it or find another guy. My refret was with comfortably wide frets, but I'm wearing them out TOO fast. I know enough metallurgy, and have read enough on the cafe, to know that stainless is not easy to work with, but I'm going through frets in about 2 1/2 to three years with one dressing halfway. Harder frets are going to be cheaper in the long run. Sure hope my guy bites on the stainless cuz I shore do NOT want to hand my mando over to Fedex or UPS.
  9. Bernie Daniel
    Bernie Daniel
    I am interested in these frets -- are they being used in guitars as well? If so probably most luthiers will get into it because they probably work on a hundred guitars for every mandolin.

    It would be interesting to know just what kind of "stainless" steel they use for these frets -- there are many kinds of stainless steel.

    To make iron stainless (or rust/corrosion resistant) chromium is added -- based on the amount of chromium (10 - 30% not sure about the range here) the metal has different properties for different uses.

    To get hardness you have to add carbon -- but carbon alone does not stop rusting.

    Since these frets are apparently harder (don't wear down) there must be some carbon in them also?

    The only stainless steel type I know about (there are many many types) is
    Martensitic stainless steel. -- it has chromium (~12%) and also lesser amounts of other metals including nickel and molybdenum and of course carbon for hardness. It is very hard but it is also compatible with machining because it works well and you can get clean edges on it. But it seems this would be good fret material.

    I assume this has been well researched out by fret makers.
  10. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    And discussed in several old threads on the cafe. Type "stainless frets" into the search feature.
  11. Tom Mullen
    Tom Mullen
    My local store got a "The Loar 600 VS" in, so I went in and tested it, along with my 94 F5L. The"Loar" ( I HATE SAYING THAT ) had big frets on it and my F5 has small frets. I asked the repair man if those big frets on the "Loar" were banjo frets...he pointed to my F5L (set up by Mr D himself) and said "those are banjo frets" The "Loar" frets were HUGE, so I am now curious if banjo frets are big, or if he was mistaken.
  12. Tony Sz
    Tony Sz
    They might have been guitar frets. Randy Wood uses standard Martin guitar frets on his mandos. Works fine, and they last longer between dressings or re-frets.
  13. jim_n_virginia
    Well now it's been 6 months of solid hard playing every day and there is not even a dent in those SS frets ... I think I am definitely impressed now! LOL!

    I have been known to wear out frets to the point of buzzing in 2 years! I play too hard and am heavy handed (I am working on it) and frets don't last with me but I swear not a single divot or mark on the frets.

    I will ALWAYS get SS now when I get a refret from now on!
  14. hank
    Hey Jim could you or any of the folks you play with notice any difference in the way your mandolin sounded after changing to stainless frets?
  15. briant50
    hi I am a newcomer to this group...i just picked up a Gibson F5 The Fern....what an great instrument... i went from a 1916 A model Gibson.....
    this is a used instrument (2005) which is in terrific shape...
    i recenlty had the frets done (up to #8) and have brought it back to the lutherier a couple of times because i am getting a buzz when i play the A string...or the description may be "twangy" as someone earlier said....we've tightened down everything and cant seem to get it to stop... the guys i play with tell me its not that noticable but i would like to get rid of it....
    i was interested to hear that someone had to build up the nut to get rid of the do you know if thats the problem...what should i look for
    also find your discussion on banjo frets really interesting...i play with a really fine 5 string player.....he'll be interested to hear this as well
  16. Tony Sz
    Tony Sz
    .we've tightened down everything and cant seem to get it to stop... the guys i play with tell me its not that noticable but i would like to get rid of it....
    I had what sounds like the same problem, only on my E string. I took it in and the problem was that the string was too tight in the nut. The luthier fixed the "Twang" in about one minute by just widening the slot a bit. I can't say for sure that that's your problem also, but it might be.
  17. mandomadness
    Stainless steel frets are the only way to go, I had a Va. luthier put them on my F-5 up to the 12th fret about a year ago since I play the thing constantly, they are showing very little wear at this point, lovin' it....
  18. frshwtrbob
    My luthier recommends stainless steel frets and installs it without any complaint. He just re-fret my '03 A-9 with Jescar FW43080-S wire.
    I'm getting used to "not" being paranoid about fret wear while playing the same riff a million times. I will never go back to the old stuff.
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