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Thread: Fret wear...

  1. #1

    Default Fret wear...

    Can anyone testify to a time line of sorts for fret wear? I understand play time is what matters. For instance, how long until you first see it but can't feel it with a fingernail? How much longer before you start having nail catch, etc? Just a topic that seems interesting.

  2. #2
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fret wear...

    It's a good question, but I think it's impossible to have some kind of average baseline for comparison. We all play differently, with greater or lesser pressure on the frets, and different hours of playing time every year.

    The genre of music matters too. I practice or play with others almost every day, but just about *all* my fret wear is on the lower frets. The upper frets are pristine. That's because I play Irish/Scottish trad, where "fiddle tunes" are fingered in first position, except for a few upper-fret excursions for something like an O'Carolan tune, or a Venezuelan waltz or other exotica. A Bluegrass or Jazz player would cover more of the fretboard, and might have less wear in the lower frets.

    For what it's worth, and with all the disclaimers above -- I had my mandolin frets dressed by a very good luthier after playing for about 5 years. I'm almost 4 years later now, and could use another fret dressing very soon (and hoping there's enough metal on the lower frets that I don't need a complete fret replacement).

    P.S. don't get too hung up on whether you can see or feel the dings on the frets. It's when you start getting buzzing or you can't lower the action enough that you have to worry about it. Wait until you can hear a problem, not just see fret wear. Also make sure that it isn't a neck relief issue. You can play for a long time on frets that have obvious fret wear, if everything else is well-adjusted.

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Fret wear...

    I've had my Dearstone 18 years and it is needing a refret, not unplayable but getting there. I use a dressing file and touch up the frets when they start to brad over, have had the frets leveled and dressed by someone who knew what he was doing once beyond leveling now but I don't think 18 years is bad.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Fret wear...

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    It's a good question, but I think it's impossible to have some kind of average baseline for comparison. We all play differently, with greater or lesser pressure on the frets, and different hours of playing time every year.

    The genre of music matters too. I practice or play with others almost every day, but just about *all* my fret wear is on the lower frets. The upper frets are pristine. That's because I play Irish/Scottish trad, where "fiddle tunes" are fingered in first position, except for a few upper-fret excursions for something like an O'Carolan tune, or a Venezuelan waltz or other exotica. A Bluegrass or Jazz player would cover more of the fretboard, and might have less wear in the lower frets.

    For what it's worth, and with all the disclaimers above -- I had my mandolin frets dressed by a very good luthier after playing for about 5 years. I'm almost 4 years later now, and could use another fret dressing very soon (and hoping there's enough metal on the lower frets that I don't need a complete fret replacement).

    P.S. don't get too hung up on whether you can see or feel the dings on the frets. It's when you start getting buzzing or you can't lower the action enough that you have to worry about it. Wait until you can hear a problem, not just see fret wear. Also make sure that it isn't a neck relief issue. You can play for a long time on frets that have obvious fret wear, if everything else is well-adjusted.
    This is good advice. You will know when there is a problem.
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  6. #5
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fret wear...

    And, it also depends on the width of the frets and on the material that the frets are made of.

    Wider frets last longer -- there's more material to wear away.

    Nickel-silver frets from sometime before the 90s tend to last longer, harder alloy.

    Newer Evo frets last longer that nickle-silver.

    Stainless steel frets last longer than all the others.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002
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  7. #6
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fret wear...

    First few years of mandolin playing, I'd need at least a fret dressing every 6 months. I gripped the neck like a vise when I was in a group. Just got all stressed out and squeezed till my fingers hurt. I've chilled out a lot and that doesn't happen much any more.
    But at my first full refret, I got Stainless steel frets and nearly a decade has passed and there's hardly a scratch visible. And no, it didn't change the sound perceptibly to me.

    Just saying, chill, enjoy, and dress or replace as needed for buzzing.
    Phil

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    Default Re: Fret wear...

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    First few years of mandolin playing, I'd need at least a fret dressing every 6 months. I gripped the neck like a vise when I was in a group. Just got all stressed out and squeezed till my fingers hurt. I've chilled out a lot and that doesn't happen much any more.
    But at my first full refret, I got Stainless steel frets and nearly a decade has passed and there's hardly a scratch visible. And no, it didn't change the sound perceptibly to me.

    Just saying, chill, enjoy, and dress or replace as needed for buzzing.
    A decade, Phil! Amazing stuff, that SS.

    Have had my Skip Kelley EVO refret for 3 years now, nary a mark on any of them. Love it.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Fret wear...

    I'm often told that my various guitars need fret jobs, but they always seem fine to me, even when the divots are obvious. So I think some of it just depends on how fussy you are.

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