View Full Version : Old Brass Fretwire

10-29-2009, 04:02 PM
I'm not sure if this is the right place to post (if not, please move) but here goes: I've successfully repaired an old Kumalae that I love to play (it's my avatar). The twelfth fret is missing and I'd like to replace it with period fretwire, old brass straight wire (I think it was brass). A complete refret is not an option.

I've been searching for over a year and have been told by many people that the best way to find some old fretwire is buying a thrashed old uke. I haven't had much luck; just tonight I missed out on the only thrashed Kumalae I've ever seen posted on ebay.

Does anybody have a source whereby I could find that elusive twelfth fret? Or any other suggestion?

BTW this Kumalae is amazing: stays in tune for weeks and rings like a bell; intonation is spot on. I play it as much as my new Koaloha concert.

10-29-2009, 04:25 PM
i searched on google and i found brass fret wire on dunlop. Is this what you want?


I also found this kumalae uke on ebay but it is expensive.

http://cgi.ebay.com/1940s-Soprano-Kumalae_W0QQitemZ120484527358QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH _DefaultDomain_0?hash=item1c0d6ffcfe#ht_1950wt_116 1

You could also try craigslist.

10-30-2009, 02:29 AM
Thanks Schubs, I also found this http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdproducts.asp?NameProdHeader=+Fretwire

especially the "FW68" but problem is, the old fretwire was straight and didn't have a crown on top of the tang... So I'm basically looking for something "period authentic"...

That's a nice Kumalae but right now, the asking price is over twice the price I paid for mine. The value is always subjective, but I'd venture to say it's a little overpriced at 469$. Mine's a Model 2 (that one's a model 1) and it usually goes for about 200$ in reasonable condition. But then again, anything goes on ebay....

dave g
10-30-2009, 03:50 AM
Try a good hobby shop - they sell brass bar stock.

10-30-2009, 04:24 AM
Is old brass fret wire round stock or bar stock?



10-30-2009, 05:10 AM
Great idea dave G. Hadn't even crossed my mind. I'll check into it.

RonS, I think it's bar stock but I'm at the office right now (on MY time, jic). I'll check at home later tonight. But I'm pretty sur it's bar stock. I imagine I could machine a small piece at home?..... After all, the twelth fret doesn't see that much use on a soprano, especially since the fret board is flush with the top.

Also, I know I measured the thickness in the past. I'll check on that, too.

FWIW, my "need" stems from playing the John King version of Sakura; it sound's really sweet on the Koaloha and would on the Kumalae, if the twelfth fret were there.....

10-31-2009, 02:49 AM
The thickness is between 1/32 and 1/16th of an inch: 0.050 inches. It looks like bar stock.

11-01-2009, 03:18 PM
Anybody have any old brass fretwire????

Steve vanPelt
11-02-2009, 10:50 AM
I have a little old brass fretwire. Crown is about .050 wide and .045 tall. It's very soft. Here's a pic. If that works for you, PM me your address and I'd be happy to send you a chunk.

11-02-2009, 12:43 PM

posted from phone so no link or nice pic. I use 1x3 millimeter brass profiles. Are they anything like the stuff you need I'll send you a couple of inches.


11-02-2009, 02:22 PM
two dogs plucking (interesting username) and Sven, I've sent you PMs. Both options look interesting.

Steve vanPelt
11-02-2009, 04:12 PM
I found a couple of stamps in the junk drawer so i'll send you out a piece tomorrow


11-03-2009, 03:00 PM
Wow thanks. Really appreciated. I'll keep you posted on how this all turns out.

Matt Clara
11-18-2009, 12:45 AM
I'm thinking of building an "old-timey" cbu, so was out looking for brass fretwire, and found this (http://www.luthimate.fr/setofspecialbrassfretwire2mmwide-p-76.html) in France. It looks perfect.

11-18-2009, 04:11 AM
Good link Matt. Thank you. Heiko

Matt Clara
11-18-2009, 04:24 AM
Good link Matt. Thank you. Heiko

It's perfect, except for the shipping--they want 40 euro to send a half Kg to the states. 6 euro for the wire, and nearly 7 times that to ship it. Why, I'll make my own first! ;)

11-18-2009, 05:59 AM
Hello Matt , thank you for your reply. My reply has got nothing to do with old brasswire (maybe just a little). I am guessing/reasoning here. It is in the interest of the seller/shop, to send it well insured , and as quick as possible (airmail+delivery to ur door) to you. "Well insured" reduces their risk of you not receiving the goods, and the seller succesfully completes the deal. I will not debate whether that is good or not, but everybody wants their pound of flesh. In my opinion there are also cheaper options available, which admittedly take longer, and if you trust the postal services for doing the job less fast and cheaper, maybe you want to ask the seller if they are prepared to take that option.. it is worth a try? On the other hand if you can get the item posted to you (surface mail/slower option), and the post office informs you to pick it up at their counter, you pay tax. Something you might want to consider (schleppy as well), is that, if the quantity of brass is more then what you need, are there perhaps other interested people you could share the costs with?

11-18-2009, 10:22 AM
You wouldn't believe what we've spent on shipping from the US and Canada - but it was never seven times the price Ils sont foux! :eek:

Dave Higham
11-18-2009, 12:31 PM
You're right Erich, they are a bit fous. I live in France and some of the things they sell, I could order from the US, pay the shipping and the duty and still get them cheaper than from Luthimate.

11-19-2009, 04:12 AM
Even shipping to Fance from this website is expensive ... Adding the fact that the dollar/euro exchange rate is not at your advantage, I've been ordering all my supplies from the US lately and have it shipped to France with USPS (Latest purchase was a tiny IBEX plane that ended costing me 50% cheaper than if I had bought it in France).

Anyway, I still need to order a few things for my first ukulele building project and if I ever choose to order from luthimate, I can get the fretwire for you and then send it to you in a regular mail envelop.

11-19-2009, 04:21 AM
I just looked more carefully at the brass fretwire from Luthimate and I'm not sure it would fit your Kumalae. I too have a Kumalae as my favorite uke and the fretwire is narrower than 2mm (probably about 1mm).

Matt Clara
11-19-2009, 04:27 AM
I just looked more carefully at the brass fretwire from Luthimate and I'm not sure it would fit your Kumalae. I too have a Kumalae as my favorite uke and the fretwire is narrower than 2mm (probably about 1mm).

I guess I wasn't watching the original poster's specs. I measured my fretwire at 2.08mm, and saw luthimate's is 2.15, which is pretty darn close.

11-19-2009, 06:44 AM
I'll check lutimate out, but you guys shouldn't worry anymore about UkeDans Kumalae, he's got some fret material from me by now! Soon we'll see pics, i'm sure.

/ Sven

11-19-2009, 06:52 AM
Get some of this and it should be enough to make 100's of frets...all you need is some strong "Tin snips" or a "fine metal saw".
http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/Macc-Model-Engineers-Supplies-LTD_Brass-Sheet_W0QQ_fsubZ4QQ_sidZ218248456QQ_trksidZp4634Q2 ec0Q2em322

11-19-2009, 06:59 AM
Yep I've got a few projects on the list this weekend. I'll be free after to try out the fretwire and I'll report back to this thread. You'll notice the shiny new fret on the pics.....

Not sure I'd take on a whole sheet though.

Matt Clara
11-19-2009, 07:24 AM
Get some of this and it should be enough to make 100's of frets...all you need is some strong "Tin snips" or a "fine metal saw".
http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/Macc-Model-Engineers-Supplies-LTD_Brass-Sheet_W0QQ_fsubZ4QQ_sidZ218248456QQ_trksidZp4634Q2 ec0Q2em322

I'm not there yet.

Matt Clara
01-15-2012, 03:56 AM
I once again find myself searching for brass fret wire, this time for the old banjolele I'm trying to restore (finding parts for the thing is a real bugger). I found this old thread, and I found some brass fret wire from the UK at a good price, on eBay: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Arc-4-Music/_i.html?_fsub=4525291015 Cost me $13 for two meters, including shipping. The old banjolele I have appears to have the fret bars, like Sven posted, so I may have to manufacture some of those, but I thought this brass fret wire from Arc-4-Music was a good price, and likely wouldn't go to waste. If it's of poor quality, I'll let you all know.
Best regards,

01-15-2012, 11:51 AM
Great to see you back, Matt :music:

I'd like some brass fretwire myself but haven't come across any - though I can't say I've looked very hard. Thanks for the tip on Arc-4-Music, their prices look pretty reasonable.

Michael N.
01-17-2012, 12:51 AM
I think that Martin still sell old style Bar Frets, even though it isn't listed on their website. No idea if it's suitable for Ukes.
I once came across a historic Guitar restorer who had some type of machine for producing Bar Frets, just can't quite remember who it was!
As mentioned previously, the other alternative is just to use Brass bar stock or cut it on a Bandsaw from sheet material.

01-17-2012, 04:19 AM
I came across this on e-Bay .. Sold by Merlin-Innovations http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5520656-15025-F-1-3-1-32-x-3-32-Strip-Brass-/170727183933?pt=UK_Crafts_Other_Crafts_EH&hash=item27c022163d worth looking into :) they sell all sorts of stuff ok for uke building inc: CF rod.