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May 15, 2019 - 12:40:23 PM
307 posts since 10/2/2017

OK so I'm new to this and wanted to practise on my old cheap banjo. Bought some stainless steel fretwire which was jescar 80/43 with a tang width 32. It was pre radiused but I thought that might help stop the ends springing up.
Removed the old nickel frets and tried one of the new SS frets cut to size. It went in fine but to my dissapointment was loose and took little effort to get it out. In fact I believe if I had shaken the neck hard enough it would have fell out!
I got my gauge out to check the tang width of the old nickel frets as these seem to look more spikey. According to my gauge the tang width measured 0.39"
I've looked at other fret wire online and can't find any with that width.
Any advice appreciated at what tang is correct?
Didnt think I would run into this problem.

May 15, 2019 - 12:56:48 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13912 posts since 3/27/2004

Mismatched wire is common with older fret slots.  Are you measuring JUST the tang or are you including the fret barbs?

If you're new to fretting I'll tell you that stainless wire can be very difficult to work with.  If the pre-radius is just a bit off or you tap a bit too much it's easy to have enough stress in the fret that it pops back out on the ends in short order.  If you're re-fretting a flat board you do not want any radius!  Stainless has a LOT of spring back and they will eventually pop up in the middle.

Working the ends makes it really easy to dislodge the wire from the slot, too.  It's hard on tools, and if you don't have good tools in top shape then it's a struggle.

All that said, in a re-fret situation where the slots aren't particularly tight I'd most definitely epoxy the frets in and clamp them while the epoxy sets up.  You can free them later by applying heat to the fret with a soldering iron.  The epoxy should eliminate your problems with them being loose, but DO make sure to not put any undue stress on the ends as you shape them.

Edited by - rudy on 05/15/2019 12:59:49

May 15, 2019 - 1:20:37 PM

307 posts since 10/2/2017

I was measuring the barb from one side to the other width. Yes I realised about the radiused SS. It sprung in the middle as you said. The only reason I bought radiused SS was someone online somewhere said it would help hold the ends and stop the ends springing up when hammered in.
I have diamond files and clippers for SS. I eventually want to refret my best banjo with SS after enough practise, as I only want to do it once and not worry about it anymore.


 

Edited by - Banjojono on 05/15/2019 13:23:13

May 15, 2019 - 2:56:44 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13912 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Banjojono

I was measuring the barb from one side to the other width. Yes I realised about the radiused SS. It sprung in the middle as you said. The only reason I bought radiused SS was someone online somewhere said it would help hold the ends and stop the ends springing up when hammered in.
I have diamond files and clippers for SS. I eventually want to refret my best banjo with SS after enough practise, as I only want to do it once and not worry about it anymore.


When specifying tang width you don't count the barbs.  Your illustration shows a cross section with a .020" tang width.

There's a lot of misinformation on the interwebs, as you know.  The pre-radius can be good advice with standard Nickel-silver wire, but that's it.  Stainless WILL go back to whatever shape it was when installed.  Epoxy will help, but that's not a sure thing.  It's best to shape the fret to the board contour with only a TINY bit of radius for a flat board.

Unless you don't like the slight gold tint of the wire I always recommend EVO.  It's smack dab in the middle between NS and stainless wire as far as hardness goes, but in the real world you might go your entire life without needing to re-fret if EVO is used.

Edited by - rudy on 05/15/2019 14:57:39

May 15, 2019 - 3:27:17 PM

rcc56

USA

2078 posts since 2/20/2016

A very useful tool available from Stew-mac is the #4900 Fret Crimper.
Costs $91.65 plus shipping, though.

A more practical solution would be to use standard nickel-silver wire or EVO wire, especially if you have never done this kind of work before.

I do not recommend the use of stainless steel wire for someone who does not have considerable previous experience with fret work.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/15/2019 15:29:42

May 15, 2019 - 3:37:25 PM

307 posts since 10/2/2017

This is why I am practising on old bangers first. So I can get to grips with SS and learn the do's and don't on things that don't matter.

May 16, 2019 - 3:12:24 PM

4529 posts since 6/3/2011

quote:
Originally posted by Banjojono

This is why I am practising on old bangers first. So I can get to grips with SS and learn the do's and don't on things that don't matter.


If practice is what you need, buy a fret board blank, cut a bunch of fret slots in it.  Install frets, dress as necessary, remove frets, repeat.  Do it as many times as makes you confident that you won't spoil your good banjo.
Or have an experienced luther do the job.

May 16, 2019 - 3:30:16 PM

307 posts since 10/2/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Dave1climber
quote:
Originally posted by Banjojono

This is why I am practising on old bangers first. So I can get to grips with SS and learn the do's and don't on things that don't matter.


If practice is what you need, buy a fret board blank, cut a bunch of fret slots in it.  Install frets, dress as necessary, remove frets, repeat.  Do it as many times as makes you confident that you won't spoil your good banjo.
Or have an experienced luther do the job.


Sounds like a good idea about the fretboard blank. In the UK  banjo luthiers are thin on the ground and any that are around don't want to do SS refret that I've contacted. 

1 Because it wears there existing tools too much and

2. They are losing work in the long term for repeat refret work.

May 16, 2019 - 4:12:07 PM

conic

UK

518 posts since 2/15/2014

Why dont you make your own fretboard blank, A good source of scraps hardwood If you have a firedoor manufacturer in the area they skip all the trimmed edges, i had loads of oak 32" x 2" x 1/2". all you need then is the fretsaw

May 16, 2019 - 4:30:49 PM

307 posts since 10/2/2017

Fretboard blank is a good idea.

The biggest problem I'm having at the moment is knowing what fret size to get now. I thought I had it right. But the old... (I say old but it's only 2 years old) ... But a cheap banjo that I was practising on seems to have a slightly thicker tang than any I've seen available to order. The spikes on the ns frets I removed look a bit more spikey too. The SS fret I was replacing just fits loose and its the standard size fret wire.

Edited by - Banjojono on 05/16/2019 16:31:34

May 16, 2019 - 5:29:47 PM

Alex Z

USA

3473 posts since 12/7/2006

Fret size.  Good question.

At some point, you'll need to know the fret size for the good banjo.  Since you've removed all the frets from the old banjo, you've acquired some skill in removing frets.  What about removing one fret from the good banjo, say the 22nd fret?  See how the current SS fret fits in there.

Depending on the fit in the good banjo, can then decide how wide to cut the fret slots in the fretboard blank to practice.

If you can't get SS frets to fit the good banjo, then have to go to Plan B.  smiley

May 16, 2019 - 6:47:13 PM

61 posts since 1/24/2019

I think you misunderstand the reason luthiers advise you against stainless frets. They could care less about repeat stainless fret jobs. They don’t want to do it the first time, so why would they care about doing it a next time? Stainless frets get a lot of hype, but they aren’t a cure all for everybody. If you do a epoxy fret job, then yeah, they will last longer than nickel frets, especially frets that haven’t been work hardened by driving them in. If you are driving them in, you (or anyone else) will not be able to get as nice a finished playing surface as someone who really does a good fret job with nickel frets.  Why would a luthier want to agree to do a job at less than the best they know they can do? I prefer nickel frets that fit right without epoxy. They sound better. Stainless gives a metallic “tink” when doing hammer ons that I find annoying.

Edited by - Bobby Burns on 05/16/2019 18:49:30

May 17, 2019 - 12:52:35 AM

307 posts since 10/2/2017

We all have different tastes and points of view of ns vs SS frets and there are also a lot of negative myths around about ss. At the end of the day it's down to what you personally like.
I think SS is the way forward as it lasts far far longer than ns. Russ Carson has now changed to SS frets and his banjo still sounds as good as it always did. I will practise on some blanks and also try them out on a neck to get first hand feel of what they feel like before moving onto my best banjo.

May 17, 2019 - 5:46:33 AM

61 posts since 1/24/2019

I think Russ Carson would probably sound exactly the same if he recorded himself playing a harmony Reso tone! Lol

May 17, 2019 - 6:29:27 AM
likes this
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13912 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Banjojono

Fretboard blank is a good idea.

The biggest problem I'm having at the moment is knowing what fret size to get now. I thought I had it right. But the old... (I say old but it's only 2 years old) ... But a cheap banjo that I was practising on seems to have a slightly thicker tang than any I've seen available to order. The spikes on the ns frets I removed look a bit more spikey too. The SS fret I was replacing just fits loose and its the standard size fret wire.


If you're hammering in frets (what I think is the best method) you'll find that fretting a board and doing when the neck is attached has a completely different feel.

The tang sharpness is another of the reasons I don't personally like stainless frets.  The material is so hard that the machinery used to form the tang barbs doesn't raise a distinct and sharp point.  Because the wire is drawn through dies the inner corner is radiused more than EVO or NS wire, so you have to relieve the slot edge much more to get your frets to lie flat to the board surface.  The outside edge of the fret crown is also rounded a bit in the shaping process as the wire is pulled through the dies and it does not fit as closely to the board surface.  This looks like the fret isn't seated, even though it is.

As long as you address the disadvantages of working with stainless it can be along-lasting material, but there's probably a reason why the largest guitar manufacturers haven't jumped on the bandwagon for either EVO or stainless.  When you're a manufacturer such as Taylor and your average retail is in the $2000  range then spending a few dollars more on material isn't the deciding factor.  If Taylor or any other manufacturer really thought it was a good idea they would use it and add it to their marketing blurb.

These decisions always come down to weighing the options and basing your decision on weather it's worth it or not.

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