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Did Gibson use cryogenically treated frets recently?

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  • Did Gibson use cryogenically treated frets recently?

    I have a relatively new double cut Les Paul on the bench right now with jumbo frets .055 tall. The client wants them cut down to .035 with a bit of a flat top instead of crowned completely round top. They are not stainless - it screams when I file it. This is the typical hiss of cutting metal, but it's very slow. I tried my diamond plate which didn't do much better. Even 120 grit red aluminum oxide on my Donnell sanding plane didn't do much. The fret material seems like it is work hardening similar to what bell brass or exotic metals like Inconel and Waspalloy do. The frets are all .050 tall now, with a hell of a burr that can be cut off easily with my 3 cornered file. Polishing with wet or dry sandpaper works the same as usual to polish out the frets.

    I just wondered if anyone had heard about this treatment on Gibson frets, I know some boutique makers had tried it awhile back.
    aka Chris Pile, formerly of Six String Fever

  • #2
    They stopped using them this year or last year I can’t remember. I had some 2017 and 2018 models
    thst said the frets cryogenically treated.

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    • #3
      I did a search..... StewMac is stocking cryo frets, and Gibson tried some of Jescar's cryo frets, but stopped..... I wonder why?
      aka Chris Pile, formerly of Six String Fever

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      • #4
        Wait, your client wants you to do what? Tell them to give the guitar to someone who would appreciate it for what it is! (j/k)

        Never heard of Gibson using jumbo fretwire though, medium jumbo seems to be their and Fender's thing, of course, I don't follow Gibson that closely either. Sounds like that is what your client wanted in the first place, was it refretted before?

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        • #5
          Wait, your client wants you to do what? Tell them to give the guitar to someone who would appreciate it for what it is! (j/k)
          What is YOUR problem? It's his guitar - he makes the decisions, OK? Would you want him to tell you WTH to do with YOUR stuff? You'd tell him the same thing I'm telling you. Eff off.

          Seriously, your argument is flawed. Have you ever modded your guitar with Duncans? Why didn't you appreciate the stock units for what they were?
          Last edited by ICTGoober; 04-16-2021, 05:10 PM.
          aka Chris Pile, formerly of Six String Fever

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          • #6
            If they are narrow jumbos, bringing them down to .35 will make them seem like medium jumbos. If they are fat jumbos,, the guitar will look like it needs a refret.

            I'm curious, is there a minimal angle that you can crown to that wont create any intonation or tone issues? When frets are flattened by playing, contact is with the leading edge, so it could be argued that intonation will be off. Wondering if, in your experience, there is a minimal degree of crowning needed so that the string rings true, without being completely flat (where it would contact the leading edge)?

            Does this make sense? I recently did a deep level on a jumbo guitar, because of a mild ski-jump at heel. Frets still as tall as medium jumbos, but I found that the shorter the frets got, the harder it was to bring them to a point. They are more like mushroom caps now. It seems to play fine, but I'm not sure if the tone is the same as it would be if they were taller/pointier.

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            • #7
              I have a local specialty of turning jumbo and medium jumbo frets into replicas of Gibson's "fretless wonder" frets - no more than .025 tall, and almost flat with a minimal radius. And frankly - it's a ***** to do, because really short frets are hard to crown (as you've found). If I use a stainless fret guard while radiusing the top of the fret, the guard is .010 tall. Can you put a .015 radius on a fret with a 3 cornered file? I can, but I charge triple rates to do it, because you basically work the frets 3 times. Once from one side, once from the other, and then an overall - all before polishing out the frets with multiple grits of sandpaper. It's easier to refret with mandolin wire which is narrow and only .037 tall, but it's still a lot of filing and sanding to get them down to size and shape.

              I haven't heard anyone complain about tone issues or intonation issues, as most of these guys have a light touch. However it stands to reason that someone might have issues of these types.
              aka Chris Pile, formerly of Six String Fever

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              • #8
                Also, I got out my Machinery's Handbook to read up on cryogenic treatment of metals. The purpose is to harden the metal to stave off premature wear and increase resistance to deformation. The metal is taken to -300 degrees and held there for 20 hours. Works very well on metals with copper in them (like fretwire). Most fretwire is composed of a mix of copper, nickel, and zinc. And they noted that the part should be close to size and shape because it becomes very hard to work after treatment. Is that why Gibson stopped experimenting with it?

                My industrial training was as a tool and die machinist, and I worked in the big aircraft tooling shops at night during most of my career as a luthier. I've worked a bunch of stainless, and knew what to expect when refretting and doing levels on stainless. It's noisy, and requires a little extra work - but I didn't have to buy specialty tools.

                Next time, if I think the instrument is fretted with cryogenic frets, I'll recommend a complete refret with stainless or traditional nickel silver frets.
                aka Chris Pile, formerly of Six String Fever

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                • #9
                  Final thoughts.... I posted about this over on the Official Luthiers Forum and a member asked me about how much wear was on the frets before I started the job. Answer - none. This is a 2014 model which the client bought used in 2018, and he plays it every day. So it's obvious this cryogenic treatment works very well indeed.
                  aka Chris Pile, formerly of Six String Fever

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ICTGoober View Post

                    What is YOUR problem? It's his guitar - he makes the decisions, OK? Would you want him to tell you WTH to do with YOUR stuff? You'd tell him the same thing I'm telling you. Eff off.

                    Seriously, your argument is flawed. Have you ever modded your guitar with Duncans? Why didn't you appreciate the stock units for what they were?
                    You see at the end where it says “j/k”? That means just kidding.
                    "Patience is key. Hard work is obligatory. And itís the decisions you make right now, not the habits of the past, that will shape your success in the future." - Janek Gwizdala

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ICTGoober View Post

                      What is YOUR problem? It's his guitar - he makes the decisions, OK? Would you want him to tell you WTH to do with YOUR stuff? You'd tell him the same thing I'm telling you. Eff off.

                      Seriously, your argument is flawed. Have you ever modded your guitar with Duncans? Why didn't you appreciate the stock units for what they were?
                      Nice. Classy.

                      Larry

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                      • #12
                        You see at the end where it says “j/k”? That means just kidding.
                        Sorry, my decoder ring isn't hip to all the latest in shortened forms of communication.
                        My bad - and apologies to devastone.

                        aka Chris Pile, formerly of Six String Fever

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ICTGoober View Post

                          Sorry, my decoder ring isn't hip to all the latest in shortened forms of communication.
                          My bad - and apologies to devastone.
                          Yeah, I was just joking, I like jumbos but understand others like a more vintage profile. But, yeah, we're all, well mostly, friends around here, I wouldn't seriously tell you what to tell a client, that's your lifeblood. Maybe back off on the caffeine a bit (again, j/k, sort of).

                          But seriously, I've never heard of Gibson using jumbo frets, unless it was a Sykes or Wylde sig model or something maybe, so that was kind of a shock.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by devastone View Post
                            Wait, your client wants you to do what? Tell them to give the guitar to someone who would appreciate it for what it is! (j/k)
                            I can see the point in this. I like very wide frets, but not super tall frets. They feel like speed bumps. I also dress my frets flatter on the top, or what Dan Erlewine calls the “school bus” shape.


                            Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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                            • #15
                              It's entirely possible this guitar was refretted before my client purchased it. We'll never know. However, my research found that Gibson tried cryo frets starting in 2014, which is when this guitar was made.

                              And again - my sincere apologies.
                              aka Chris Pile, formerly of Six String Fever

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