Hello all,

I have run out of the brown "binding tape" that we all use, and am wanting to buy a wholesale quantity---at a wholesale price, of course. I use a lot of it, for every purpose but the one for which it's intended. Does anybody know of a source---or should I say "the source" ?

I use Jescar 47095 fretwire on my classical guitars. That turns out to be about the largest cross section fretwire that is used on classicals. As a mediocre player I find that it makes for easier playability. I also use rosewood fingerboards, as I think they make for a better sounding instrument than ebony. Ralph Novak---the electric builder---thinks that's probably true. 

Now my star "graduate student"---Gary Neyman, who uses the same fretting materials, has an accomplished player who says that his guitars "are difficult to play". This player attributes the playing difficulty to the rosewood fingerboard, but I think it is more likely the fret size. Anyone have experience with players finding fret size to be important to playabillity?

As always, thanks for sharing all those years of experience with me (:->)...


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Hi Brian,

StewMac has the brown tape. Not wholesale but an hour wasted  searching for the wholesale source is worth a lot more than paying a premium Stewmac price.

The following stuff is framed around Electric Guitars in a high gain/SPL application, but it is also true for acoustic instruments it in a much reduced way. 

Ebony finger boards have a faster speed of sound than RW for sound transmission purposes. Ebony also has a higher dampening factor than RW. Both these qualities are useful things when designing.   We use RW for sweeter sounding rock and blues players and we use Ebony for fast attack and tracking in our down tuned/ high Gain instruments ( and also in instruments going into long analogue pedal trains ).   So, it’s different strokes for different blokes (and girls) - no one wood is “the best” - it’s a matter of choosing your wood to get the best outcome for your players tone requirement and management. 
We also use different thicknesses of finger boards  to accentuate tone attributes and this also changes the stiffness of our necks which in turn affects the coupling of primary/fundamentals to the ensuing harmonics generated by the pick attack.  

Understanding how this stuff ties together allows our instruments  basic tone set to be pushed in various directions to suit our players requirement - it’s a general push and combined with all the other bits of the guitar enables us to focus our tone set reasonably well.

We mainly use JESCAR stainless (Factory radiused) for our instruments and refurbs, lthough we use NIckel Silver if requested .  Blues players and heavy bending styles some times get a significant tonal quality from the bent vibrato tone dragging on somewhat flattened fret crown areas.   In this case we talk nickel Silver.  For most other styles we use taller SS as a standard.

Bad frets and geometry are a regular feature of instruments that are “hard to play” - fingerboard wood type is not.

To answer your question, fret condition and size s a prime factor in how an instrument responds to a player but so too I are strings and setups and all.   But bad/worn frets are the first place the rubber meets the road and if they’re toast nothing else matters.   

for info, our default fret and most popular by far is the JESCAR 55x90 SS.   The pyramid Jumbo SS is the recommended choice for those who like the look and feel of fatties (with less cramped space up at the demonic end due to the ramp of the pyramid).  But, if you have a bright Strat or Tele I’d avoid a super jumbo SS because the fret mass in this bright single coil application can be heard in the leading edge of the pic attack.  Unlike other application where we can’t hear any difference at all between NS and SS.   Unlike the internet experts who must have dog whistle ears.

lazy Sunday morning - bit of a grab  bag/ramble,  hope this helps mate,

Regards Rusty

Hello Russell,

Wow! Thanks very much for taking the time to write such an informative reply! 

I've come to the same conclusion about Brown Binding Tape, and have ordered a roll of Stew Mac's new stuff.

One further concern is "shelf life". The BBT that we all used to get was fine for years. I bought 10 rolls from Allen Luthier Supply, and it was fine for at least 5 years. Other tapes have gotten so tacky over time that they are almost impossible to get off the roll. If I like the Stew Mac tape, I'll order perhaps three rolls to amortize the shipping cost, and see how well it ages.

Gary and I had concluded that the likely cause of his guitar(s) seeming to be difficult to play had to do with the frets, not the fingerboard wood. Since he is in western PA---and an internet video student---I haven't actually played one of his instruments. He has certainly become a skilled builder though, and has come to the attention of some highly skilled players. Unfortunately they are a couple of hours away from him, so it's a bit awkward to "compare and contrast" his instruments with ones that the players find easier to play. As my "graduate student" I have assigned him the task of doing this comparison, in hopes that we both learn something.

I decided on resuming building in the 1990s that for my peace of mind I wouldn't take custom orders. So I have been building instruments to my taste and preferences, and letting the players decide whether they like my compromises. With one exception my customers have been middling players, and have had no complaints about playability. 

I go to a considerable amount of trouble to build good playability, as I agree with Frank that it comes in a close second to tone quality. For instance I make a compound radius fingerboard---18" radius at the nut, and 28" radius at the 19th fret. It seems to "make enough difference to make a difference"---Gregory Bateson. Most players don't notice it, until I point it out. 

So, thanks again Russell, for the excellent answer to my post!




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