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This is a tricky question but...what would wear faster?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Nighthound, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. Nighthound


    Dec 18, 2015
    Stainless Steel FLATWOUND strings on Stainless Steel Frets


    Nickel Plated ROUNDWOUND strings on Nickel (German Silver) Frets.

    Thanks for your output..
  2. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    Depending on the grades of stainless, it would possibly wear faster.
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Are you asking which frets would wear faster? The nickel plated roundwounds would definitely wear down the Nickel-Silver frets faster. Nickel plated steel is a hard combination, plus you have the extra roughness of the roundwounds. Nickel-Silver fret wire is relatively soft in comparison.

    In the other combination, the stainless alloy used in the outer wrap of stainless flatwounds is a little harder than the alloy used in stainless fret wire. But not by much. And flatwounds tend to be smooth on the outside.
    Nighthound and JustForSport like this.
  4. Nighthound


    Dec 18, 2015
    Thank you. That you pretty much answer my question about the hardness of the stainless fret wire vs the hardness of the stainless strings. So being flatwound stainless strings, they should not wear out the frets that easy? Would if be fair to say nickel flatwound strings will not wear out stainless steel frets?
  5. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Rounds will always wear frets down faster than flats of the same material. This is because the rounds have less surface contact area.

    All material frets will wear down eventually, but nickel will wear down faster than stainless.
    However, it is worth mentioning that many guitar techs charge a lot more to work with steel frets because they are not easy to work with.
    When you DO go for a refret, figure on $100 extra. (in my area)

    The best way to prevent fret wear is to develop a light touch on your fretting hand. Dont grip the neck like I see a lot of metal players do. Use no more pressure than is required to play the string cleanly without fret buzz. (This will also increase your speed and dexterity.)

    I've been using steel rounds on nickel frets for decades and have never needed a refret. Though, I'm getting close... YMMV
    Nighthound likes this.
  6. rufus.K

    rufus.K Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2015
    Nickel his harder than stainless. Nickel is used to harden stainless alloys. If you've ever used stainless screws, you'll find that you will deform the head much easier than a true nickel fastener. Nickel will wear stainless faster than stainless will wear nickel.
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Yeah, but...."nickel" frets aren't made of nickel. They are made from "Nickel-Silver", which is an alloy of brass. Very small amounts of Nickel and Silver are added to brass (which is made from Copper and Tin), to make the alloy a little harder. But, Nickel-Silver is still a soft metal, much softer than stainless or actual Nickel. The name is what confuses everyone.

    Actual Nickel is very hard and brittle (and somewhat poisonous), and is unsuitable for forming into shapes like fretwire. It's also quite expensive per pound. But Nickel is great for plating. It adds a tough corrosion resistant and abrasion resistant skin to other metals. Nickel plating does tarnish over time, which is why there is chrome plating. Show Chrome plating is actually Nickel plating with a thin layer of Chromium on top. The Nickel does the protection, and the Chromium keeps the Nickel from tarnishing.

    The outer wraps of "Nickel" strings are either steel with Nickel plating, or they are a higher strength steel alloy, which has some Nickel added to increase the hardness. These alloys are often called "Nickel", but they aren't pure Nickel.

    So, the word Nickel means different things.

    And yes, Nickel strings will wear any frets faster than stainless strings. But stainless frets are still much harder and more wear-resistant than "Nickel" (that is, Nickel-Silver) frets. The longest wearing combination is stainless flatwounds on stainless fret wire.
    nouroog, Nighthound and rufus.K like this.
  8. Nighthound


    Dec 18, 2015
    Awesome explanation thanks!!! :)
  9. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    It all depends on the grades (alloys) of the s/s and nickel in question.
    Most workable grades of nickel are in the Rockwell B range, and only a bit lower than most grades of stainless steel,which is also measured in the Rockwell B scale.
    Chromium is enough harder that is falls in the Rockwell C range.
    Nickel and Chromium are the two main components of most s/s, and the Chromium adds a bit of hardness to the mix.
    Since we won't likely get the specific 'nickel' or s/s grades and composition from the string manufacturers that makes this a "tricky_question" for sure.
    Add the fact that s/s 'work hardens' with pressure and usage, it can be a fair bit harder than most nickel alloys in actual usage.
    Google up the hardness scales of various grades of workable nickel and s/s for a comparison.
  10. StrangerBasses


    Oct 30, 2016

    Just ran across this thread. For curiosities sake, which combination would wear the frets down the fastest?

    1) stainless steel flat wounds and nickel frets?
    2) nickelwound flatwounds and nickel frets?

    I’ve always been curious about this. For my rickenbacker 4003, I wonder what would wear the frets faster? For example:

    1) La Bella Low Tension Flexible flats (stainless steel flat)
    2) TI jazz flat (nickel wound flat)

    Mainly just curious... might not have an answer... Thanks!!
  11. using just the pressure needed for producing a note would probably end in no damage for both cases
    StrangerBasses likes this.
  12. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    i've never heard of flatwounds with nickel as the outer wrap, who makes those?
    StrangerBasses likes this.
  13. Abner


    Jan 2, 2011
    Both Thomastik Infeld and Pyramid, I do believe.
    StrangerBasses likes this.
  14. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    StrangerBasses likes this.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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    Apr 14, 2021

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