I have had two customers tell me they experienced surprisingly quick fret wear.

The instruments in question were dulcimers I built fretted with StewMac fret wire. The instruments and their owners are not near by so I have not been able to inspect them myself. I have not had this problem before with fret wire from StewMac and indeed do not know if there really is a problem

One sent me a close up photograph about a month after receiving an instrument and I could see what looked like the crowns on the most used frets getting a little more wear than I would have expected in that amount of time but I could not see enough detail to know if this was truly the case.

Many dulcimer players are not accustomed to good fret work and I don't know if they are seeing a light bit of wear on well crowned and highly polished frets that they would not see on a dulcimer with less conscientious fret work.

So before I decide to use or pitch about a pound of wire I'd like to know if anyone else has had this problem with fretwire from StewMac? I have not had problems in the past.



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Fret wire seems to vary in hardness but I’d be asking what strings they’re using.

Interesting. Thanks!

Be surprised if it was a problem with the wire. I've noticed players become much more aware of fret wear after they've had a refret. Suspect it's just human nature.

That's my thought; some folks become very aware of particular minutia. Thanks!

my guess is that it is showing as more polished or dull wear and is no wear but polished spots.

It would take years to ware out those frets.


I think you are right!

I am coming at this one as a player rather than luthier this time. The luthier that mentored me built me a gorgeous instrument. Plain nickel frets same as he always used. I played it several hours every single day. Within 6 months there was no doubt, it needed a fret dress. I think I got him to dress it one more time at 9months. By the time a year was up those frets were done and yanked to be replaced with stainless. I don’t know why nor did he but it I can speak from experience it can happen. Thus, all my personal axes  have stainless now and don’t really show any appreciable wear.

I played with a friend for a long time who was death to frets.  It was mainly because he had an iron grip.  He could put deep divots in his frets in a couple of years.  He wasn't just a "first five" player so he had those divots all the way up the fingerboard.  great player, but... .

I had my current flattop for two years when it was ready for a refret.  After that I spent a lot of time working on lightening up my grip and I haven't needed another fret job in the succeeding 23 years.  My 18 year old mandolin still has the original frets although it's starting to show a little wear.  

One thing that really was a turning point for me way back then was sitting up front at a Mark O'Connor concert, back when he was playing guitar and mandolin as well as fiddle.  I watched his left hand and noticed that he always played as close as he could to the fret rather than back in the middle. That's the spot where the pressure is lowest to get a clean note and it keeps pressure on the fret to a minimum.  It takes focused practice but it works.


Interesting point. I play with a light touch and I can go a long time before needing to redress my own frets. I rarely get fingerboard wear as well. On the other hand, I have seen dulcimer players who press so hard I am surprised they are not in pain! Theer frets usually look like a cheese grater!

Interesting. Thanks.


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