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I'm trying to figure out edge wear with nodes and in the viewport I think it looks good.

Once it renders it's completely different for whatever reason: the worn area appears to be wider.

I'm rendering with good quality settings so I can't chalk it up to noise or low resolution.

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You probably have a Subdivision Surface modifier with the Render subdivisions settings being higher than the Viewport subdivision: the edges are rounded more deeply in render, which affects your shading.

Example: the difference a level of subdivision can make, especially when using Pointiness as a texture source

enter image description here

When tweaking your shader, especially if the shader is geometry-dependent, make sure to match Render and Viewport subdivisions in your modifiers to preview your rendered results more accurately.

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    $\begingroup$ bingo, that was absolutely it. it's just one of those little settings that gets overlooked sometimes. thank you very much, nicola! $\endgroup$
    – levelboss
    Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 21:08

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