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Old 06-01-2014, 08:59 AM   #1
realsmoky
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Alternative Fret Material

I am certain that everybody of you sometimes thought of an alternative fret material for a guitar or a bass.

Does anybody have or did anybody of you play a guitar with frets that aren't made from metal?

I know that there are guitars with stainless steel frets, but that's still metal. On old instruments, there were gut frets that were tied to the neck, but they wear out really fast.

An idea I have seen on the Internet were ceramic frets, but people say that the strings would wear out fast.

Is there any kind of wood that is extremely hard, so that it could be used for frets? Does anybody have an idea if there exists some kind of durable yet soft rubber material that could be used for frets?
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Old 06-01-2014, 11:37 AM   #2
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I never considered it, could be interesting. Why do you want to? Wood sounds as if it'll wear away quickly, if not done properly. Ceramic could wear it faster, but then again, how much does the steel (or..brass? idk what my frets are made of lol) wear the strings out and how could that be improved with a newer material. Anyone ever tried something else?
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Old 06-01-2014, 01:08 PM   #3
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I would think that ceramic would be better than metal in terms of wear and tear because it is a low friction material. The issue I see with ceramic frets would be how do you attach them and how to you level, shape, and crown them after they are attached? They would be really hard to get just right but if you did get them just right that would be awesome

I don't see wood as a reasonable option because it's going to tear them up when you bend strings and I can't imagine it would be very smooth.

I could see bone, particularly camel bone, as being something that could be used for frets. Camel bone is nearly as hard as ivory and polishes up to be very smooth and would chip away in chunks like wood would.
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Old 06-01-2014, 01:10 PM   #4
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People always want to try to find some new unthought of idea. Why try to find something that might work when there is already something superior? Nothing can beat stainless steel frets. Just stick with metal frets. Plus, you arnt going to be able to "make" frets anyway.
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:07 AM   #5
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Anybody thinks that bamboo frets would be durable and useful?
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by realsmoky
Anybody thinks that bamboo frets would be durable and useful?


nope
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Old 06-02-2014, 12:43 PM   #7
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Again, think about this... how are yo going to MAKE frets? You cant make frets by yourself.
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Old 06-02-2014, 01:09 PM   #8
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In ancient times (1985), there was the Bond Electraglide guitar, which had a stepped aluminium fretboard. I suppose you could make something like this out of a hard synthetic material, but that would be more difficult than installing regular frets.
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Old 06-02-2014, 02:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Explorerbuilder
Again, think about this... how are yo going to MAKE frets? You cant make frets by yourself.

I won't.



Somebody else will make them.


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DAMN I like the Bond guitar! Looks so sexy! The sliding up the neck would be epic, though I hope that sliding down the neck wouldn't hurt!

Last edited by realsmoky : 06-02-2014 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 06-02-2014, 03:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by realsmoky
I won't.



Somebody else will make them.


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DAMN I like the Bond guitar! Looks so sexy! The sliding up the neck would be epic, though I hope that sliding down the neck wouldn't hurt!

Like who? You also have to think about how they will stay in the fretboard. Frets have barbs on the tang to keep them in. You wont be able to do that on wood.
There is really no point into putting this much thought into this. Steel is superior, just leave it at that.
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Old 06-02-2014, 08:54 PM   #11
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There's someone out there who's been building crystal frets.
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Old 06-02-2014, 09:12 PM   #12
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Crystal, ceramic, wood, they're hard to imagine lasting long on guitars. It actually depends on how you would play the guitar, hardcore or lullaby. My sister tried brass on her guitar, but that's still metal. Plastic would most likely wear out similar to most woods, but I haven't tried acrylic yet. If you really don't want metal on your fretboard, make it fretless. You'd have to be more precise in fretting, but if it's what you want then it's what you get.
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Old 06-02-2014, 09:16 PM   #13
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Oh yeah, hmm, CorduroyEW does have a good idea, try bone, but that may get costy. Applying it alone is hard enough, but what about a bone fret? Like, 100% bone fretboard with bone frets sticking out. Might make your wallet rip into two. If you're going with wood, then you should, similar to the bone, make it 100% solid wood with extreme polyurethane, and it should be a really hard wood [no woods come into mind right now, sorry], but still that may be stupid.

Seeing and playing a guitar is enough, and honestly, I think there are quite a few who think about non-metal or alternative fret metals, since metal ones work perfectly.
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:09 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Explorerbuilder
People always want to try to find some new unthought of idea. Why try to find something that might work when there is already something superior? Nothing can beat stainless steel frets. Just stick with metal frets. Plus, you arnt going to be able to "make" frets anyway.


"People always want to try to find some new unthought of idea" because without those people you wouldn't have a flush toilet, a cell phone, food, clothing or a computer to make those statements on.

People "made" frets long before there was production by some manufacturing plant you know. That's what you get for ditching History.

How do you attach frets without tang barbs? Take a close look at a sitar some day.
They're already using frets with no tangs at all -- they're simply being glued on. And the glue holds just fine, thank you.

Oh, and I was right. Crystal frets. And I think they're glued on, too. Quartz. Showed up about three years ago at NAMM. "I played some Glasstones guitars at NAMM and they were incredible - hugely noticeable improvements in harmonics, sustain, controllable feedback and note volume from string to string. http://www.glasstonesllc.com/ Every point that the string touches - bridge saddles, frets, fretboard- is a highly-tempered glass material. They feel a bit weird to play at first but you get used to it pretty quickly. I can't recommend them highly enough, at least for the adventurous. There will always be traditionalists who won't dig it."

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Old 06-02-2014, 10:16 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fricksion
Oh yeah, hmm, CorduroyEW does have a good idea, try bone, but that may get costy. Applying it alone is hard enough, but what about a bone fret? Like, 100% bone fretboard with bone frets sticking out. .


http://www.parsonsguitars.com/strolling_with_bones.php

Flip through the slide show.
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:22 PM   #16
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One more. New materials are showing up all the time. One that will be pretty common is synthetic sapphire, already on the iPhone 5S and scheduled to be the screen material for the iPhone 6. It's being used in part because it's necessary to do fingerprint ID and partly because it's tough as hell. Its properties could probably be used to eliminate strings altogether, with all bending and vibrato done on the frets themselves. That would render scale and intonation immaterial, remove bridges and nuts from the equation and eliminate the need for pickups, headstocks and tonewoods.
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Old 06-03-2014, 01:44 AM   #17
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Even if you could make frets out of something else, the question is still WHY? It isnt going to be some magical sounding guitar. I just dont see the point at all.
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Old 06-03-2014, 03:02 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sashki
In ancient times (1985), there was the Bond Electraglide guitar, which had a stepped aluminium fretboard. I suppose you could make something like this out of a hard synthetic material, but that would be more difficult than installing regular frets.


don't no how this would feel but it looks super cool
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Old 06-03-2014, 03:13 AM   #19
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@ explorerbuilder, Not all metal frets use barbs, some are glued in with epoxy. The reason frets have barbs at all is because most types of glue won't adhere to metal. If you use a porus material like wood or bone, you could use typical glue to attach the frets.

The reason metal is popular is because it is easy to bend. Things like wood, bone, ivory, stone, ceramic and glass don't bend well (or at all for some) and that makes it much more difficult to put on a fretboard.

Metal isn't used because it is the best, it is used because it is easy to work with. That is also why nickel frets are much more common than stainless. Stainless frets are harder to install so they simply don't get used as much.
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Old 06-03-2014, 02:41 PM   #20
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""People always want to try to find some new unthought of idea" because without those people you wouldn't have a flush toilet, a cell phone, food, clothing or a computer to make those statements on.

People "made" frets long before there was production by some manufacturing plant you know. That's what you get for ditching History. "


Your examples are of people trying to improve on an existing concept. The OP is asking for alternative materials just to be alternative. If there is something that OP is trying to improve upon, then identifying desirable properties would be the first step.

Look at Floyd Rose and how he created his bridge. He was a jewelry maker that identified the issues with the existing bridge at the time and had the requisite skills to make a bridge and refine it. He didn't just try to come up with something just for the sake of it.

OP also listed a soft rubbery material as a fret which I think would kill sustain.
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