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Thread: Fret Size Opinions

  1. #1
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    Default Fret Size Opinions

    What do most builders use? Do you think there are advantages to small or larger frets. I have a 2015 F9. I assume its considered to have the small frets. I have heard larger frets may play easier? I dont know. Just curious. Thanks, EE.

  2. #2
    Registered User Walt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    Hey EE,
    Talk to as many builders and players as you can to get their opinions, and if possible try out a few different mandolins to see what you like. I too had always heard that larger frets felt better, but after putting them on one of my mandos I decided they weren't for me. That's just my personal preference. I can feel the larger fretwire under my fingers more when I'm sliding between notes. Narrow wire feels better in that regard. As a caveat, I will say that the wire I used was wide and tall, so it may be the height rather than the width that is uncomfortable to me.
    If you talk to someone else, I'm sure you'll get a completely different opinion. My guess is that if the fretwork is properly done and the mandolin is setup well, it should be reasonably comfortable to play regardless of what wire you use.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    2 cents. I have one with medium guitar frets, one with smaller mando wire. The one with larger wire seems, for me, much easier to play. It's like my left hand fingering has to be more precise and deliberate with the smaller frets. Er sumthin.
    Last edited by victor seal; Mar-27-2020 at 6:52am. Reason: Add

  4. #4
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    I have a mandolin with thin frets and a mandolin with large frets. The difference in playing is pretty subtle to me. I’d say that the larger frets are a bit smoother to play. Maybe.

    The significant difference to me has been in how much more quickly the small frets wear down.
    Doug Brock
    2018 Kimble 2 point (#259), 2019 Silverangel Econo A (#446), Eastman MD315, 2020 Morris Oval Flattop A, Eastman MDA315
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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    For some years now, I've been using FW74 EVO gold on everything: mandolins, guitars, even ukes. I think it makes playing much easier and smoother than smaller wire. It lasts seemingly forever and doesn't eat your tools up, at least not badly.
    I think it's important to realize that the larger fretwire makes one realize that you don't have to have your fretting fingers grip the fingerboard. You can lighten up. Use just enough pressure to get the string fretted. Anything beyond that cramps your left hand and slows everything down.

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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    I have a mandolin with narrow frets and one with wide frets. I prefer the narrow.

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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    I've had a few mandolins refretted in EVO Gold FW 74, the larger size (one being a 2015 F-9, also). I love the play, feel, look and longevity. I hear no diff in tone between this and what was on the mandolins before (smaller, nickel-based?) and notice no diff in playing. The larger frets may even enhance note bending.

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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    My flatiron has small frets and I love the way it plays, but I've built several instruments since getting the Flatiron and I've used the EVO GOLD FW 74. I love the larger frets. Feels better to me. Now, everything I build I use the EVO FW74 fretwire.

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  10. #9
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    if you have a heavy left hand, the large fret wires will lead to sharpening the note v. the smaller.
    If you are accurate and make clean notes with the small stuff, you'll surely have no problems with the big stuff.

    No science to back any of these thoughts.

    f-d
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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    Thanks for the replies. I haven't played a mando with the larger frets. Maybe I will get a chance to some time soon. Mine doesn't need refretting. I'm just thinking down the road a bit. I have heard a lot of good things about the EVO fret material. I guess fret size is a choice for people. Does Gibson use the smaller fret wire in all their mandolins. I guess i could see larger ones maybe slowing you down a bit possibly.

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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    In trying to translate the FW74 into English, or at least something that might be available here in the UK, it seems that the Jescar 43080 wire has the same dimensions. So maybe the LMII have their frets made by Jescar. And coincidentally it's the same stuff I've been using on my guitars which is useful as I have a small amount left.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    I'm another convert to EVO Gold FW74 and put it into my last two builds. I've played both of those mandos for for 3-4 years now and neither shows any sign of wear. Tonewise, the notes are clear and strong. The traditional wire bead can have a more delicate sound to it, especially when the player has a light touch (like Sierra Hull for instance). But bluegrass is really hard on traditional nickel/silver wire. Big, thick picks hitting hard for a loud chop, this can start growing grooves in the wire pretty fast. A busy gigging player can need a refret every year or two.

    I suspect that initially, the motivation to put 0.080" wire on a mandolin was to slow down wear (much like jumbo wire on electrics back in the 60s). EVO has made that consideration largely obsolete, and you can get EVO in the 0.053" width. I haven't tried the narrow EVO yet so I can't report on its longevity, but the general consensus I've heard from luthiers is that EVO Gold has 4x the life span of nickel silver. Some players even go to the extreme and have stainless steel wire put in. In the guitar world there is debate on whether SS has a negative effect on tone. SS definitely is harder to work and chews up files and cutters quickly so most people charge extra for putting it in.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    I will try the EVO when mine needs a fret job for sure.

  15. #14
    Henry Lawton hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fret Size Opinions

    I tried using the smaller FW 37053 Gold Evo on my Carpathian/Claro Walnut F5. These were forgiving to install as a hobbyist and are my new favorite to play. They are on a compound radiused board unlike the tiny stainless wire on my 23F4’s flat short board( my previous favorite). I have large hands and started playing when banjo wire and widening necks was popular but have grown to love the refinements Loyd and the 1923 innovators made. The setup is alway important but more critical and less forgiving of mistakes when working with smaller frets, especially if the radius keeps changing as you go down the board.
    "A sudden clash of thunder, the mind doors burst open, and lo, there sits old man Buddha-nature in all his homeliness."
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