Stainless Steel frets

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Philip Capewell, Apr 6, 2022.

  1. Philip Capewell

    Philip Capewell

    Feb 15, 2021
    Any help on this would be most appreciated

    I play stainless steel elites and have done for many years. What I do notice is that Stainless Steel strings knock the poopie out of my nickel frets on my fenders (not to extensive) but still enough to warrant a fret dress every now and then.

    Im going to take a fender of mine to get re radius soon and while the frets are out i was thinking of telling my luthier to stick stainless steels in there instead of nickel.

    Anybody got any experience that can tell me using SS frets? Also i don't how true this is but i read somewhere on the net that if i use SS strings still, the wear will be just the same as using SS strings on nickel, and apparently you only don't get much wear if i use nickel strings on SS frets instead. Is this true

    Thanks again for any advice
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    From a highly qualified tech in another thread:

    "In my experience, stainless fretwire lasts 3-4 times as long as Nickel-Silver. EVO Gold is probably twice as long as Nickel-Silver" - Bruce Johnson
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  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    In my experience, stainless frets last about 3-4 times as long as conventional Nickel-Silver (commonly called Nickel) frets. I've been installing stainless frets on all the basses I build for about 10 years now. Prior to that, I used NS fretwire for about 15 years.

    For most players and basses, stainless frets are "forever". They'll probably last as long as you own and play the bass. But if you play hard, and lots of hours, you can wear them down eventually. One of my best customers wore some mild grooves in his stainless frets in about 5 years. But he's a serious pro and actually plays bass 4-8 hours a day, every day (!). I leveled and dressed the frets on that bass last year. I may need to do it again in another 5 years. And maybe in ten years, I may need to replace the frets. He's a heavy-wearing player. He'll wear grooves in NS frets in 1-2 years. That's why I say that, in my experience, stainless frets have 3-4 times the life of NS frets.

    Richard beat me by 4 minutes....with my own words!

    If you are wearing grooves in your NS frets fairly quickly, then yes, I recommend that you switch to stainless frets.
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  4. Philip Capewell

    Philip Capewell

    Feb 15, 2021

    Much appreciated for both of your responses!

    So even with Stainless Steel strings the SS frets still last alot longer than nickel?
  5. James Collins

    James Collins Guest

    Mar 25, 2017
  6. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    All my basses have stainless frets. Although I haven’t had them very long, and I rotate them, I play a lot. I also play with intentional fret clank about a quarter of the time.
    The bass I’ve played the most has about 1500 hours on it. I use nickel strings, but if you go looking for fret wear, it just isn’t there. I use “vintage” size fret wire (small) - stainless frets are a bit clankier than nickel, but smaller frets mitigate that some.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2022
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  7. Philip Capewell

    Philip Capewell

    Feb 15, 2021

    Yes one thing I was concerned about was the clank of the SS fret wire especially with SS strings which I always use…. I don’t mind abit of clank but I like to be in control of that rather than have clank all the time
  8. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I have one bass with stainless strings. They don’t seem to clank appreciably more than nickel strings. Clank is still under your control - you can still play cleanly when needed.
  9. Philip Capewell

    Philip Capewell

    Feb 15, 2021
    The only thing I’m concerned off is the clank….I use SS strings and get clank of them but I can control the clank….my luthier advised that if I switched to SS frets that I may not like how much clank I’ll get get…..if you get my clank lol
  10. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    To me, the amount of clank is mostly about your own playing style; how hard you slam the string down when you finger a note. However, the tone of the clank may be a little brighter (higher frequency) on stainless frets, than on Nickel-Silver frets.
  11. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    I wore out the regular frets on my backup bass in 15 years of playing but there was barely any wear on the stainless steel frets on my main bass in 25 years. My main bass had about 8,000 hours of play time on it while my backup bass had about half the playing hours. I've always used stainless strings.

    I've recently built 2 more basses that I'll use extensively and plan to keep forever and they both have stainless frets.
    Last edited: May 1, 2022
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