Steve Mason Luthiers
INSTRUMENT REPAIR - LAWRENCE, KS
 
 
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Questions and Answers

Upgrading banjo frets

Q:
First, I want to tell you that I ran across an old Alferd Packer Memorial String Band LP featuring a very young Steve Mason. It’s a fun record and I've really enjoyed listening to it-particularly "Whispering", which I’ve had fun learning to play on my banjarine.
I seem to wear out the second fret on my banjos from bending the center G string. This fret on my newer Golden Era is getting pretty bad. So, I have a few questions:
Is there a tougher/higher grade fret material to be found?  Is replacing one fret feasible? 
 
Best Regards,
Stuart
 
A:
Thanks for liking "Whispering" we should jam on it next time I see you. It has been in and out of the Packer show since the early 80's and, ironically, we just revived it at our last practice. We always ended it with excessive noisemakers. One time Jim Brothers was picking up his black powder revolver to raise it over his head to fire it. The gun not only went off while it was still on the chair but it flamed over, firing all cylinders at once. It was an old dinning room chair with a ripped fiber seat exposing the straw filler. It burst into flames. Jim was beating the fire with one hand and honking horns and ringing cowbells with the other. It was a rare tender moment that we shall never forget.
If the fingerboard is warped, all the frets must come out so we can plane it straight. But, replacing only the worn frets (your favorites) is a very common repair. On guitars we often replace the first four. Electric guitars often need only the fifth, sixth and seventh frets replaced. But, however few or many we replace, we have to do an action set to get the new frets perfectly in line with the old frets.  
We just got in some stainless steel fret wire. This is harder than nickel silver. It is not a color match but it might be a conversation starter to have one stainless steel fret.
 
Steve Mason


 

 

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