Fret marks

Wednesday, June 8th, 2022

Hi everyone, Sheldon Dingwall here!
I sometimes get asked about marks appearing on the tops of the frets after the first few hours of play on our fanned fret instruments. This can be unnerving if you’ve never noticed these marks before. Let’s take a look at what’s going on.

What you’re seeing is compression, not wear. This is completely normal and happens to frets on all basses, but it’s much easier to see on frets when they’re set at an angle like ours. If you grab your Dingwall and look carefully at the 7th and 8th frets you’ll see that they will also have these marks, but they’re much harder to see.

This kind of compression work hardens the tops of the frets, making them harder and more resistant to general wear. The 18% nickel-silver alloy used in the majority of fretwire is designed to be relatively soft and flexible to conform to the curvature of the fretboard surface upon installation and during humidity changes but work-harden on the top surface when subjected to pressure from the strings. Leave the frets as they are, and you’ll comfortably get a good 10 years of life out of them.

The photos below are of a bass that’s nearly 30 years old. As you can see, once the initial compression takes place, the frets wear extremely well.

Thanks for reading!

Sheldon Dingwall.
CEO Dingwall Guitars