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Fretwear

  Thursday, 23 July 2015
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Strings leave grooves on the tops of frets on all basses. Frets wear at the same rate no matter if they are angled or parallel (perpendicular to the string). Even though the wear is the same, visually the wear marks on perpendicular frets are a lot less noticeable than on the angled frets because the grooves are inline with the fret. Often you'll see more noticeable wear in the lower frets, less noticeable wear on the 7th area frets, and increasingly noticeable wear toward the 12th fret area. This causes alarm with new customers as it looks like their angled frets are wearing prematurely. DO NOT HAVE YOUR FRETS LEVELLED AND POLISHED AT THIS STAGE. The wear you are seeing on new frets is material displacement not material removal. This displacement causes the fret tops to work harden which slows long term wear. Levelling the frets at this point removes this work hardened material. Wait until the frets are worn enough to cause buzzing that can't be fixed with a simple truss-rod adjustment. You can expect a minimum of 5 years of [u:1p1oh8uu]heavy [/u:1p1oh8uu]use before needing a fret level, however 10+ years is more likely. Just to confirm what we're saying though, I'd appreciate some feedback from longtime customers on their experience with fretwear. Thanks.
6 years ago
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#28485
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Hi Sheldon, Thank you for posting this. I was one of those "alarmed" customers when, after receiving my Z2 in May and playing it for a couple of hours (VERY hard to put down) I did notice some wear marks. I took a step back (both figuratively and literally), looked at the bass and thought: "This is not an "everyday" instrument made by an "everyday" company - a lot of thought goes into every detail, and surely Sheldon and Co did not overlook this rather important (and obviously obvious) issue". Then I sat down and started playing again, and honestly have not even thought about it until I read this post. So, not exactly long-time user here but after daily playing for the last 10 weeks or so there hasn't been any issue (except for the visual effect). Plays "like butter" :D Regards, Michael
6 years ago
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#28490
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Bought my ABZ 5 August 13th 2010 (built 12/10/2009), in facts we are nearly coming to the 5th year and it has been used more than the other 2 Dingwalls which I have, and yet there is very very little wear on any of the frets, at least nothing to write home (read Sheldon) about, anyway the bass has had 11 set of strings changes at these crazy intervals. Mostly due to string wear. 12/10/2009 09/18/2010 12/14/2010 03/06/2011 05/25/2011 11/06/2011 07/15/2012 Sansone strings, they last and last... did that whole year on one set of these! 03/04/2013 09/17/2013 10/17/2013 07/16/2014 Sansone strings again!! Oh man alive! 07/04/2015 I will send some close up macro pictures on my next string change. The other 2 basses are played but not as much as the ABZ 5, which is my "b*t*h" so it gets the most use :) Sansone strings are very hard to get for me living in England, they are handmade in Italy and I have to wait an average of 16 months from ordering to receiving, I'd have more chances to catch malaria in Iceland than a set of these strings in London, my last set I had I donated to Sheldon in London at the last Bass Show for him to test and see what they are like, I am still waiting from Franco Sansone to send me the next supply :( tick tock, tick, tock....
6 years ago
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#28648
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True. I got my NG2 Yesterday. After playing it for a while (what an awesome bass!)... I saw noticeable "scratches" that are deep from strings grinding the frets (especially if you bend the lower strings!). I then worried that my frets will wear out soon! Anyway, just in case frets will wear out, Sheldon can you let us know the brand/specs of the replacement frets? Saw from the specs it's "We use 18% hard nickel silver fretwire. Banjo" Thanks.
6 years ago
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#28653
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When it's time to replace the frets you can use Dunlop or Jescar fretwire. The size is .080" wide by .043" tall.
6 years ago
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#28655
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Thanks Sheldon! :D
6 years ago
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#28763
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I've been playing a Z3 from 2010 for several hours every week, (avg 15 hrs / week easy) and while their is visible wear, its a long way from needing work, action is fantastic, can set low, get great fret buzz / dynamics control to play clean or crunchy etc. Same experience with my AB1 from about 2008/9? - played long and aggressively before / aside the Z3. Both have worn very well. I think the wear is more visually evident on the slanted frets (larger surface area in contact? ....? even tho generally light gauges?) but they are not wearing prematurely in my opinion
6 years ago
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#28772
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Fret dimensions is one thing, material another. My cousin took his OLD and WORN Les Paul Black Beauty to a local luthier and had it refretted. He wanted the original fret dimension, but tried stainless steel fret wire, since he heard they had longer life. The result was... tears! Of joy! The old LP had never played that well. He only had to do slight adjustment to his vibrato technique, since the stainless frets are kinda more slippery[i:2ae66v80]-er[/i:2ae66v80], [i:2ae66v80]-ish[/i:2ae66v80], eh. Never had stainless steel frets as a Dingwall option?
6 years ago
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#28774
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We've experimented with stainless frets. The problem we found is that the frets are stiffer and resist seating properly. On a fanned-fretboard the frets not only have to arc to match the radius but they have to twist to match each angle/radius combination. This requires more force to press them into place. Not a big deal with a large dimension fret but smaller frets often end up pressing too deeply into the fretboard.
6 years ago
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#28777
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[quote="Sheldon Dingwall":epjiofdx]We've experimented with stainless frets. The problem we found is that the frets are stiffer and resist seating properly. On a fanned-fretboard the frets not only have to arc to match the radius but they have to twist to match each angle/radius combination. This requires more force to press them into place. Not a big deal with a large dimension fret but smaller frets often end up pressing too deeply into the fretboard.[/quote:epjiofdx] Enlightening! Many years ago I read about a luthier called Phil Petillo, who designed his own frets; kinda pointy and triangular. That sounded like a good idea on guitar for a more precise fretting, but would very soon be worn out on a bass. I played Chapman Stick for a while; that instrument also had those triangular frets, just bigger, bolder and harder. My Lakland basses also have tiny fret wire, so I suppose it'll be like home after all... :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: D*mned! Tuesday is far away; I got my Voodoo Prima then... Have a nice weekend!
6 years ago
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#28842
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And just as I promised back in October in this thread, now I have had the chance to do a string change and take a set of shots of the state of my fret ware, it is safe to notice that in the 5 years I've had this bass, it has had the most play as it is one of my favorite and yet the frets show very little wear and certainly not big indentations or scalloped areas, on some of the very upper fret (should have specified upper as nearer to the headstock) you can just about see an evenly spread abrasion but it's insgnificantly minimal and only show in these close up pics. This abrasion can be polished away with the minimum amount of fret dressing which is my next project on the next change of strings. I goes to show that despite these being very small banjo frets, they're tough! Good choice Sheldon & Co. and now the pics. See for yourself :) [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6566_zps9krblzqz.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6566_zps9krblzqz.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d] [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6567_zpsf4giqsqc.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6567_zpsf4giqsqc.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d] [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6568_zpsekpn1d57.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6568_zpsekpn1d57.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d] [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6554_zpskeegem0z.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6554_zpskeegem0z.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d] [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6569_zps7klx1c5y.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6569_zps7klx1c5y.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d] [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6564_zpsfuthb1n8.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6564_zpsfuthb1n8.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d] [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6558_zpsdgla80ho.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6558_zpsdgla80ho.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d] [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6557_zpsfeloewo5.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6557_zpsfeloewo5.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d] [url=http://s144.photobucket.com/user/xt660/media/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6553_zps4h8rjuad.jpg.html:f7g1383d][img:f7g1383d]http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r200/xt660/ABZ%205%20Transformation/IMGL6553_zps4h8rjuad.jpg[/img:f7g1383d][/url:f7g1383d]
5 years ago
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#29602
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In my experience the wear pattern on Dingwalls is superior to standard basses simply due to the crossed angles over the frets. I play extremely aggressively with stainless strings and typically develop fairly deep gouges in the frets (and pickup covers) and have had issues getting a good wear pattern on other basses. With fanned frets I can easily wear the fret tops flat and smooth after playing a while on a second set of strings. It seems as though it is much harder for the string windings to re-align with any grooves on the frets and the result is a nice hardened surface that remains smooth even though it looks marred. With nickel strings and a much more typical (and lighter) play style I imagine this effect is greatly minimized. Personally I like the crossed wear look after multiple set changes and find it to be a unique feature of these instruments, though.
5 years ago
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#29603
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Jason, you bring up a good point. The fret tops harden up from the initial material displacement (grooves). Having your frets dressed prematurely removes this hard layer and promotes faster wear. So just to be clear there are two types of fret wear: Early wear - (Material displacement) shows up as grooves along the length of the fret. This wear creates a hardened surface that resists further wear. This wear shows up within a day or two of playing. It's normal and should be of no concern even though it looks worse on angled frets than on perpendicular frets. We highly discourage having the frets dressed at this point unless it is determined that the fret heights are uneven. Long-term wear - (Material worn away) shows up as a deep groove directly under the string. We recommend dressing the frets only when you notice buzzing on the worn fret that goes away if you bend the string slightly (enough that its out of the worn spot).
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