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Aperio Guitar - This is Greyson's review of a business that for a fair price puts new stainless frets on your worn-out guitar.


As you play, steel guitar strings grind away at the softer (“nickel silver”) frets. Eventually they wear out. So why don’t they make fret wire harder than the strings? Good question! Stainless steel fret wire (much harder) is available but few guitar makers use it and most luthiers don’t recommend it (or flat out refuse to work with stainless). How come? Another great question!

I’ve been told stainless changes tone & makes the guitar too bright. I’ve been told it’s hard to play and your fingers slide around. I’ve been told because stainless is a LOT harder than nickel silver it’s hard to shape, file, & polish... Too hard to work with! (Ok, that last one I believe may be the real reason luthiers don’t want to use it).

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Why do I care? After 100 shows this year plus 3-4 days each week to rehearse & write, my beloved #1 Strat was in bad shape. Rather than an interim step to “dress” the frets (can cost almost as much as a re-fret) I opted to send #1 out for new frets. And I wanted stainless. I’m grinding through “nickel silver” frets too quickly!

Shopping for quotes I found most shops only re-fret with nickel silver. I found a few that will use stainless but don’t recommend it (see reasons above). Then I ran across Aperio Guitar in Johns Creek Georgia. Their price for a stainless re-fret is the same as local guys charge for plain nickel silver. And get this... Stainless is 90% of what Aperio does. A-ha! a guy who specializes in stainless and charges standard re-fret price. But is the work any good? The Aperio site has a lot of info about re-frets and photos of their work. They’ve been doing this since 2009 and have done more stainless re-frets than I’ve played shows... a lot more. So far, so good.

But I was a bit nervous about shipping to an unknown outfit in Georgia. I earn my living with this guitar... can I trust these guys? I phoned and talked with owner Greg Hails. He’s very easy going and I could tell right away he’s all about the details. I don’t know about you, but that’s important to me when someone is about to perform major surgery on my guitar! Greg was very patient as we talked about size of fret wire, how to ship just the neck, etc. It really felt like I was talking to a fellow musician and a potential friend, not “some business”. By the end of the call there was no question in my mind... He’s a good guy and he is THE guy... I’m trusting him with my #1.

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Moment of Truth: A few weeks after shipping to Aperio, UPS rang my doorbell. When I pulled my Strat neck out of the packing I was really impressed. No, I mean REALLY impressed:

• New stainless frets polished like glass.

• Fret ends perfectly dressed. I play mostly up the neck and sliding up & down the edges of the fretboard feels like silk.

• Fret leveling, crown, all look perfect.

• No chip-outs or ugly marks in the (rosewood) fingerboard. Fret shoulders are all tight against the board... This looks like brand new work from a high-end boutique builder! Ok, ok, it looks fantastic but this is my work guitar... if the dog can’t hunt...

Second Moment of Truth: Bolted the neck on and cracked a set of strings.

• Strat plays like when it was brand new. And it also feels really familiar (minus the divots). I was worried a fret job would change how it feels or plays... But it feels like the same old shoe just a LOT smoother.

• And no, stainless frets did not change the tone. Same tone I’ve been playing for two years.

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Third Moment of Truth: Decided after a quick play to go back to the bench and do a full set-up... really dial in the new real estate.

• Checked the neck relief = no change needed, exactly same relief I had before I pulled the neck off the guitar.

• Checked string heights at first and 22nd fret... Uh, no change needed; measures exactly how I do my set-ups.

Ok, I was stunned. Checked all measurements several times. Hey, I’m no luthier but new frets / install a new nut and no change to the set-up? Email from the vendor said he had mounted it on a surrogate guitar body to set relief etc. But no set-up? I mean, come on... new taller frets, cut a new nut, and no set-up? At this point I decided Greg Hails at Aperio Guitar is a true artist in his craft... and maybe part wizard.

Conclusion: If you need new frets, look no further than Aperio Guitar. Go stainless and don’t listen to fairy tales & hype telling you otherwise. And check out Aperio’s web site. Click on the link “About Us” and read about Greg Hails background (really interesting background). It’s a one-man shop which means he’s the guy you talk to on the phone or email. He’s the same guy who works on your guitar. If you play guitar, sooner or later you will need fret work... and Greg Hails is a guy you want to know about.

Disclaimer: I’ve never met Greg Hails and had never heard of him or Aperio Guitar before this fret work. I paid full price for the fret job and formed the above comments after all work was completed. Greg Hails is an artist and a craftsman. You can trust him fully. Sincere thanks to Greg Hails for putting my #1 back on the road!

 - Greg Greyson

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