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Stainless steel frets

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by creis2, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. creis2


    Nov 11, 2011
    Cambridge, MA
    I have an American Fender bass that I use as my beater bass. It rides the subway with me in a gigbag and goes to 95% of practices.

    The frets are pretty worn down, instead of a refret, I'm looking at a warmoth neck with stainless steel frets.

    What kind of life should I expect out of them? I play often, but not obsessively. I play light pick/finger style and never slap. I don't "rock out" too often, I'm a pretty mild player.

    I always use flatwounds, sometimes use stainless steel or nickel frets, depending on how I feel.

    What kind of life should I expect compared to nickel frets?
  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    You can expect modern stainless frets to last 2-3 times as long as standard nickel-silver frets. They are harder and more durable than nickel-silver, but they aren't indestructible. When stainless fretwire first started appearing on the market, back in the 1990's, some of that was much harder material, and quite difficult to work with. The stainless wire available today is a little softer; a good compromise between durability and ease of installation. I suspect that within a few years, stainless fretwire will be standard on almost all guitars and basses.

    I switched over to using stainless several years ago, on all of the basses I build and restore. I use the Jescar wire. After a bit of a learning curve, I've found that the stainless fretwire is actually less labor to install than nickel-silver. These days, I'll only use nickel-silver on restorations where the owner wants to be really picky about authenticity.
  3. bootsox


    Apr 28, 2012
    Biloxi, MS
    I think you'd be better off just having a luthier install some stainless frets.

    stainless tends to last ages. any stainless strings will eat up nickel frets, but doesn't show anything notable to stainless frets
  4. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    All true, but not magic. I don't like stainless frets because they are harder and more clanky effecting tone. I find that softer traditional frets (nickel-silver) seem to allow strings to "bite" into them giving a more solid stable and less clanky tone. And obviously this is ALSO the reason they wear faster.

    Life is full of compromises.