Brass Fretwire

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Tom Wikoff
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Brass Fretwire

Post by Tom Wikoff »

I'm trying to locate some replacement brass fretwire for a vintage guitar (circa '30s or '40s). These measurements are not precise... the crown width is approx. 0.8mm... the crown height is approx. 1.0mm... the tang is approx. 1.2mm. A Stew Mac rep sent me to this forum as they did not carry such. Can you help me?
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Bob Gramann »

If all else fails, you might be able to use evo fretwire (lmi sells it) and ignore the slight difference in shading.
Chuck Tweedy
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Tom, First off, brass frets are very soft, and are used today on toy instruments from China. There must be someone making it there. You can't really get it from a lutherie supply place. EDIT: I take that back - Guitar Parts sells brass fretwire.


However - your specs seem to indicate that this instrument has bar frets. The crown width of 0.8mm is a pretty clear sign of that.
Are these frets just rectangular wire pressed into slots in the board????
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice
Tom Wikoff
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Tom Wikoff »

Chuck Tweedy wrote:Tom, First off, brass frets are very soft, and are used today on toy instruments from China. There must be someone making it there. You can't really get it from a lutherie supply place. EDIT: I take that back - Guitar Parts sells brass fretwire.


However - your specs seem to indicate that this instrument has bar frets. The crown width of 0.8mm is a pretty clear sign of that.
Are these frets just rectangular wire pressed into slots in the board????
No, this is definitely fretwire. It has barbs. The frets were installed on a very old parlor size guitar. Here is a link to the photo-sharing website where I've posted quite a few pictures of the instrument. https://grandpadownsguitar.shutterfly.com/pictures
Chuck Tweedy
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

The closest thing to that shape/size wire would be mandolin wire - Stew-Mac sells it. It is not brass.
You will likely not be able to find brass wire that shape.
The fingerboard on that instrument looks to be falling apart. You could replace the entire board and give it some good frets.
Are you looking to restore or to make the instrument serviceable again??
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice
Tom Wikoff
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Tom Wikoff »

Chuck Tweedy wrote:The closest thing to that shape/size wire would be mandolin wire - Stew-Mac sells it. It is not brass.
You will likely not be able to find brass wire that shape.
The fingerboard on that instrument looks to be falling apart. You could replace the entire board and give it some good frets.
Are you looking to restore or to make the instrument serviceable again??
No, it will be a "wallhanger"... a conversation piece. It belonged to my maternal grandfather. The best guess is that it is a Kay Del Oro sold through the Spiegel catalog. I have not found a picture of one just like it anywhere.
Chuck Tweedy
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Oh, well then you don't need any fretwire at all!!
You're all set then. :-)
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David Collins
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by David Collins »

Sorry I missed this post earlier - if you still need some, I have loads of old brass wire. Not sure about the dimensions, but I know I have a few pounds of it laying around the shop, and can check the size tomorrow.

It's so soft I would never use it on clients' guitars, but if it's just for a wall hanger, that's what I use it for myself. Used a whole lot of it on this one -
image.jpeg
I'd be happy to send you some if you still need it.
David King
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by David King »

Nice CAD spline rendering David.
David Collins
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by David Collins »

David King wrote:Nice CAD spline rendering David.
Ha! I hadn't looked at it that way, but now that you mention it...

It's an L-00 model made entirely of old fret wire soldered together.
Jason Rodgers
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Jason Rodgers »

Chuck Tweedy wrote:Tom, First off, brass frets are very soft, and are used today on toy instruments from China. There must be someone making it there. You can't really get it from a lutherie supply place. EDIT: I take that back - Guitar Parts sells brass fretwire.


However - your specs seem to indicate that this instrument has bar frets. The crown width of 0.8mm is a pretty clear sign of that.
Are these frets just rectangular wire pressed into slots in the board????
I don't know if you're a GAL member and get the American Lutherie quarterly (you should!), but the new issue #125 has a "Meet the Maker" article on Oregon banjo maker Doc Huff. In the article he describes how he builds his fretboards: the frets are very thin brass stock, inlaid flush, then scalloped between to reveal a crown. Very interesting method, but it's part of the whole design and aesthetic of his instruments.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

"I don't know if you're a GAL member and get the American Lutherie quarterly (you should!), but the new issue #125 has a "Meet the Maker" article on Oregon banjo maker Doc Huff. In the article he describes how he builds his fretboards: the frets are very thin brass stock, inlaid flush, then scalloped between to reveal a crown. Very interesting method, but it's part of the whole design and aesthetic of his instruments."

Some of the lute bodied guitars have a similarly scalloped fretboard." What's old is new"
Allyson Brown
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Re: Brass Fretwire

Post by Allyson Brown »

Clay Schaeffer wrote: Sun Apr 17, 2016 8:33 am "I don't know if you're a GAL member and get the American Lutherie quarterly (you should!), but the new issue #125 has a "Meet the Maker" article on Oregon banjo maker Doc Huff. In the article he describes how he builds his fretboards: the frets are very thin brass stock, inlaid flush, then scalloped between to reveal a crown. Very interesting method, but it's part of the whole design and aesthetic of his instruments."

Some of the lute bodied guitars have a similarly scalloped fretboard." What's old is new"
Doc Huff's fretboard technique, using thin brass stock for frets and scalloping them between to reveal a crown, adds a unique aesthetic to his banjos. The mention of similar fretboard scalloping on lute-bodied guitars shows how traditional techniques continue to inspire innovation in instrument making.
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