My sense is that many fretwire conventions we use
today are customer driven and tend towards large
sizes. When I've worked on older instruments or
had other occasion to use the smallest wires, I've
often found the results way easier to
Has anybody ever heard a "Rule of Thumb" for
minimum-size fretwire selection? The old-timers or
old catalogs must have had some rule or method.
I'm thinking it would concern the radius of the
largest anticipated string compared to the wire's
height and perhaps
Anybody have anything is print or an old experience?
This ught'ah put that "thumb" back into that rule.
I'm quite certain that no such "rule" exists. I'd say it's more a matter of convention and style than anything else. Old frets were simple bars, and I figure tang frets were developed within the same width ranges at first. Early Gibson instruments had .040" wide wire on all size instruments from mandolin to full size guitar. Fret wire got wider towards the 1930s.
I can't agree that smaller wires are easier to play. At all. They're certainly easier to install, but distinctly harder to play. I base that not only on my own experience as a player, but on that of a large clientele who feel liberated by being able to enjoy larger frets than were once considered "standard."
Like Frank, I'm probably an "old timer" and I also agree there is no such rule. Pressing an .011" string to a fret on a mandolin is every bit as much work—in fact, more— than pressing the same gauge on a 12-string guitar. A nice tall fret really helps lighten the work for the left hand.
No rule as far as I know. It's only to be choosen from the player style and preference.