PDA

View Full Version : unique fingerboard choices


m1n2h3
08-02-2012, 12:51 PM
I was curious to see what unique choices of wood some of the other builders have used for fingerboards, and what the results were. Now we're not talking the usual maple, rosewood, ebony. I want to know about the really different stuff that surprised you in either a good or bad way.

JBG
08-02-2012, 01:01 PM
Osage Orange. Awesome stuff... sounds on the ebony side of things. It oxidizes to a nice dark amber (it's lemon/orange when it's cut/sanded).

m1n2h3
08-02-2012, 01:08 PM
I also wanted to ask about any severe allergic reaction that anyone has encountered when using or even handling some of the more exotic woods. For the record I always use a mask, but I recently talked to someone who had a terrible reaction when just handling certain species.

Route234
08-02-2012, 01:15 PM
Cocobolo can definitely cause a reaction. I know a luthier who got very sick from inhaling some dust from it. It makes beautiful fingerboards IMO.

Jim Soloway
08-02-2012, 01:17 PM
African blackwood is fabulous (but VERY expensive)

Croatian sycamore is nice. Like maple bit softer and bit warmer tonally.

bmutlu
08-02-2012, 01:28 PM
Not totally unique but i like Pau Ferro.

big mike
08-02-2012, 01:53 PM
Love blackwood.

Feels as good if not better than Ebony, but not as bright or brittle sounding.

Pau Ferrow seemed nice.

had a kingwood board on a warmoth neck once. Not sure if it was the board or the body, but the guitar never sounded right to me.

aleclee
08-02-2012, 01:57 PM
My Driskill has a bois de rose fretboard. Lovely stuff, closer in feel to BRW than IRW.

JBG
08-02-2012, 02:13 PM
+1 on the blackwood, too. Caribbean Rosewood (Chechen) is really nice, too.

Jack Briggs
08-02-2012, 04:59 PM
Indian rosewood
Brazilian rosewood
Madagascar rosewood
African blackwood
Cocobolo rosewood
Honduras rosewood
Gabon ebony
Madagascar ebony
Indian ebony
Ziricote
Snakewood
Birdseye maple
Black walnut
Mystery wood?


Personally I prefer the rosewoods, but each has it's own response and this I bear into account when pairing with neck wood and all else in the tonal stew. Unlike most accounts, I don't find ebonies to be bright - rather they have a quick decay, which makes the notes more focused. I think this is the reason most acoustic and archtop builders use ebony, since they're not usually trying to encourage sustaining notes but make them more defined.


Cheers,

Malinoski
08-02-2012, 06:17 PM
My necks are much different from the norm and my fretboards make up about 1/3 the total mass of the neck, so, they have a very pronounced effect on the overall tone

My go to is Padauk, not too hard, dense or brittle makes for an even warm and predictable tone, slower attack and nice bloom. Bright and orangy when fresh cut but gets darker and more burgundy as it oxidizes.

Bocote- hard and dense, sounds ok, looks fantastic but is unpredictable- it tends to move too much. I have a couple of pieces left that are stable but I won't use it again after that.

Olive- oily and more dense than hard, fast attack with medium decay, some pieces can be unstable so be careful. I've developed an allergy to it.

Zircote- very hard and dense, dust is like dirt. Haven't had any stability problems- very expensive but still cheaper than Ebony.

I'll be gluing up a couple of necks with Wenge fretboards for the first time tomorrow (Kauer uses Wenge for fretboards) and am planning to try Cherry in the future- seems like it should be similar to Padauk.

Chris Rice
08-02-2012, 08:44 PM
Better with pictures!

Some of my favorite less common 'boards have been

Lyptus - Easy to work with, looks like chocolate.
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/images/173_8.JPG

Panga panga - Very splintery to start, settles down once it's been shaped and sanded. Strange speckles show up when it is oiled. Nice feel.
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/images/152_3.JPG

Osage orange - Just as Joe Bochar says.
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/images/141_11.JPG

Bocote - Like Pete Malinoski says, not the most stable. We did one neck of apple with bocote fretboard. Learned a lesson on that one!
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/images/135_10.JPG

Limoncillo - Looks like chocolate. Fairly easy to work with, always feels a little dry. Very stable.
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/images/105_8.JPG

Pao ferro - Nice and smooth.
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/images/096_10.JPG

We finished a padauk neck recently, but it isn't a complete guitar yet (so no pictures). Great to work with, and I love the look.

Cocobolo causes some serious allergic reactions over this way. I'm talking multiple showers/day, prescription steroids, and skin creams. It's been more of a problem with neck shafts than fingerboards, thankfully.

I have more to try yet, including olive, bubinga, and more. I think they all have their place and purpose.

JBG
08-02-2012, 10:03 PM
Padauk neck/board makes an outstanding neck! Ya gotta love red, though.

Biggest PITA wood for fretboards so far: snakewood.

9fingers
08-02-2012, 11:23 PM
I'll stretch the OP a bit & include carbon fiber. I have dozens of guitars & nothing feels as good (to me) as the carbon fiber boards on my Parkers, coupled with their amazing perfect SS frets.
Obviously not something the small builder could fabricate but amazing stuff, NO weather changes, instability, fret sprout, warpage, drying out, cracking, allergies, etc.

m1n2h3
08-03-2012, 01:45 AM
Thanks so much for the responses. I was working on a Pau Ferro board tonight and it is nice to work with and so far no allergies. See the selections that you guys have posted makes me jealous. One question is when you are using something known to cause allergies, do you get the board prepped and slotted from someone like LMI, or do you risk it and do it yourself. I know there is always going to be sanding involved, but it would alleviate the majority of the dust. Furthermore, I know LMI carries a good selection, and I usually do my own slotting and radius work, but where else can you find some of these woods in acceptable dimensions with out it costing an arm and a leg in shipping. I know Woodcraft has a decent selection in most of their stores and at least you get to look at the board before buying. Any help is appreciated. By the way that Osage Orange, Padauk, purple heart and bloodwood are next on my build list.

m1n2h3
08-03-2012, 01:52 AM
I'll stretch the OP a bit & include carbon fiber. I have dozens of guitars & nothing feels as good (to me) as the carbon fiber boards on my Parkers, coupled with their amazing perfect SS frets.
Obviously not something the small builder could fabricate but amazing stuff, NO weather changes, instability, fret sprout, warpage, drying out, cracking, allergies, etc.


I love the idea of carbon fiber, but your absolutely right that it is out of the range of the small builder for the time being. When done correctly it is amazing stuff.

claudel
08-03-2012, 05:56 AM
http://www.sonic.net/%7Eclaudel/strat-neck.jpg

Kingwood...

Malinoski
08-03-2012, 07:36 AM
Lyptus - Easy to work with, looks like chocolate.
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/images/173_8.JPG


Never thought about Lyptus for the fretboard, makes perfect sense, gotta try it. It is one of those farmed woods from Brazil used a lot for flooring. Made a couple of nice bodies, like Chris says it is very nice to work (has absolutely no smell, oddly, for being a hybrid of 2 types of eucalyptus), but because nobody knows what it is have gotten near zero response.


... but where else can you find some of these woods in acceptable dimensions...

You might go off the beaten path of the regular mail order sources to get different wood- like find the good hardwood yard in your area and pick through the stock to find the good, straight pieces. And you will probably need to buy it is larger pieces and be able to cut it down to size on your own. Wood is waaaay cheaper when you buy raw lumber.

Sensible Musician
08-03-2012, 08:08 AM
http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/Secondproducthead.asp?CategoryName=Fingerboards

Everything there is very usable for a fingerboard.

Luthiers who make solid electric bass guitars are much more adventurous with woods, and as a result there is a lot of info out there - and even conventions using "exotic" [tho now commonly available and commonly used] woods, the same way we have conventions for maple, rosewood, and ebony.

E.g. this is the bass analog of TGP: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f45/

FWIW I went crazy with wood choices when I first learned to build. The second guitar neck I built was a purpleheart [very unpleasant to work with BTW] fingerboard on local walnut. I still have it - just yanked the truss rod out of it for a worthwhile build LOL.

What I found is that I'm relatively unhappy with my work when I try to reinvent the wheel. As a wheel, the solid electric guitar never really advanced past the Roman cart wheel. The guitar matured in the 1940's/early 1950's and really never advanced through time. So to me the name of the game is first of all getting a great personal fit for my wheel and then tweaking the circuit to make a good interface between my musical voice and the music I play.

Point of all that is that I never had good experience trying to re-engineer the guitar. Even "new" combinations of familiar elements sound uncanny - e.g. I made an neck with an ebony fingerboard for my favorite 335 style guitar and I could never get comfortable with the sound until I heated it off and replaced the gorgeous, expensive board with a streaky $9 rosewood board - now it's untouchable LOL

My advice regarding neat-o wood is:
1) use it where it doesn't exert so much influence on the sound, e.g. tops, veneers, etc.
2) go ape on your design - really make it something apart from a typical solid electric guitar, e.g. put a bone acoustic-style saddle in an archtop style bridge, use piezos for pickups, and build a synth into it. you know what i mean - don't try to make a LP with a blingy exotic fretboard because it will thwart your every, heroic effort to love it.
3) build other instruments altogether. e.g. basses. you can funnel a lot of energy/creativity into the unique demands of building a contemporary, neck-through, multiscale bass. and you can bling it out with LOTS of pretty wood
4) look for unusual figures in the typical woods - e.g. i once had a student whose squier strat had a rosewood fingerboard that had been cut close to a crotch or big branch; the grains met in the middle, converged, and went off in a mind-blowing vortex at a 90 angle. can't tell you how much time i spent thinking about how i wish that piece of wood went into a better guitar - and of course one of my guitars LOL. the real upside there is those kinds of boards are actually considered undesirable. the highly valued stuff is the boring stuff - e.g. perfectly uniform flame. you have to go looking for them
5) after some number of builds, you can pretty much guess how disparate elements are going to work together. e.g. a lightweight wraparound LP Jr style bridge is going to sound incredibly woody and earthy on a chambered LP type body with a flat 1/4" cap. (and indeed it did)

burningyen
08-03-2012, 08:50 AM
What's everyone's experience with Cambodian rosewood? It recently came up on my radar.

basso17
08-03-2012, 03:00 PM
Really heartening to see builders considering nonstandard woods. Choice is good, especially when the usual choices may be less and less available, more and and more expensive, or both. I'm not a builder, but I do have a couple of instruments with nonstandard fingerboards (which I specifically requested).

One is a classical with a desert ironwood (Olneya tesota) fingerboard. I gather the problem with this one is that the wood is not all that plentiful and, in particular, may be harder to get in the long, straight, clear pieces you need for fingerboards (as opposed to, say, knife handle blanks).

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v357/rlindsey0/My%20Instruments/image41.jpg

The other is a ukulele with a mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus spp) fingerboard. This wood is sort of a medium brown, with a very fine grain and apparently quite hard. Not sure how widely it's used in musical instruments, but I believe there's a piccolo or flute maker who uses it, and maybe a strings maker who uses it for certain violin or cello parts. I think this one is also relatively hard to find in long clear pieces.

http://www.wsukes.com/104/104-07.jpg

m1n2h3
08-04-2012, 02:24 AM
The main woodmill that I deal with is one of the only ones left in our glorius state(New Jersey) The other remaining dealers except for exotic woods in sicklerville deal mostly with standard construction fair. My dealer is starting to get more exotics in, which is great. But as Pete said you have to buy a large quantity and hopefully it works out. I am glad to see that other builders are branching out from the norm with regard to woods. A lot of the most common woods used in guitar building are becoming scarce, so it is a good thing to find alternatives.
Once again guys thank you for all your input.

Rob DiStefano
08-04-2012, 06:50 AM
imo, fingerboard wood only matters for function and not "tone". i prefer any unbound hardwood that doesn't require a finish as that'll be easier to maintain and refret. aesthetically, i like darker fingerboards. that's about it, function over form. :D

Malinoski
08-04-2012, 08:19 AM
The main woodmill that I deal with is one of the only ones left in our glorius state(New Jersey).

You are right next to the mother state of all domestic hardwood- Pennsylvania- there are places in PA for sure.

It is at the opposite end of the state from Wayne, but Hearne Hardwood has the goods, would be worth the drive:

http://hearnehardwoods.com

MBP
08-04-2012, 08:29 AM
Lyptus looks really nice. I am surprised how fine grained it looks as most Eucalyptus sp. have very large open grain. I have quite a bit of E. grandis which is one of the species Lyptus originated from and is not very similar in looks.

Australia has a lot of very hard ( harder then ebony) outback trees that are suitable quite a few get heavily figured. Ringed gidgee and mulga for example

Sensible Musician
08-04-2012, 12:07 PM
One is a classical with a desert ironwood (Olneya tesota) fingerboard. I gather the problem with this one is that the wood is not all that plentiful and, in particular, may be harder to get in the long, straight, clear pieces you need for fingerboards (as opposed to, say, knife handle blanks).

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v357/rlindsey0/My%20Instruments/image41.jpg

OMG BEAUTIFUL! Would you mind sharing a hi-res pic of the whole thing? This is clearly the work of someone who loves wood for all the right reasons : )

PB Wilson
08-04-2012, 02:20 PM
Modulus has used Chechen quite a bit. Warwick uses Wenge a lot. Using their track record in regards to fingerboard suitability, you probably won't go wrong with either (once you deal with those Wenge splinters!) Yes, Modulus pairs their fingerboards to a carbon fiber neck, but you can bet that if it didn't machine well and take frets like the standard woods, they'd probably dump it.

Bubinga has been used by a number of guitar manufacturers with success. I just don't care for the pink color I guess. Hard stuff though.

The thing about Bocote is that it often shows the best figure when flatsawn and I wonder if that is one cause for the instability. I've got some quartered pieces that look quite different from the flashier Bocote out there, but looks cool nonetheless.

If one wants stability in their fingerboards, they might look toward Mesquite. It basically doesn't move once dry and is hard stuff. Might be cool if used on a North American wood guitar.

I've never worked with these woods on fingerboards, but have some experience with them in other woodworking projects. I'd like to see more use of Ziricote (beautiful stuff), Wenge/Panga Panga (also really cool to my eye) and even Ipe. Ipe is cheap, dense and available though decking dealers. It might be worth experimenting with, no?

JBG
08-04-2012, 09:59 PM
I thought of using mesquite, too. I would love to offer an all domestic wood build/option.

Chris Rice
08-04-2012, 10:41 PM
I thought of using mesquite, too. I would love to offer an all domestic wood build/option.

We did one out of osage orage, walnut, mesquite, and pecan.
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/141.html
Cool concept.

sargebaker
08-04-2012, 10:57 PM
.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v357/rlindsey0/My%20Instruments/image41.jpg

LOVE LOVE LOVE The live edge fretboard end. Who is the builder?

sargebaker
08-04-2012, 11:01 PM
As for fretboards, I've used Cherry, Reclaimed Zapatero (The dust of this stuff irritates me), Bloodwood and Black Locust. The latter two are some of my favorites. I don't feel I can comment on tonal differences between each.

m1n2h3
08-05-2012, 01:24 AM
You are right next to the mother state of all domestic hardwood- Pennsylvania- there are places in PA for sure.

It is at the opposite end of the state from Wayne, but Hearne Hardwood has the goods, would be worth the drive:

http://hearnehardwoods.com

Pete you are absolutely right, PA has some of the finest figured maple around. I was just out there last weekend visiting some of the smaller mills in eastern PA. Their maple is highly prized for black powder muskets, so you inevitably run into guys vying for the same piece of wood. Its a lot of fun to compare the two crafts, because there are so many similarities. I have also been meaning to get to Hearne Hardwood for a while now. Their selection looks fantastic.

m1n2h3
08-05-2012, 01:27 AM
We did one out of osage orage, walnut, mesquite, and pecan.
http://ricecustomguitars.com/instruments/141.html
Cool concept.

Chris, I love that tele, especially with the bender. If I decided to try mesquite i figure that I can't lose, because even if the guitar turns out to be a dud I can still do some fine grilling with it afterwards.

basso17
08-05-2012, 09:22 AM
LOVE LOVE LOVE The live edge fretboard end. Who is the builder?

The builder is a fellow from Tucson, AZ, named Jeremy Cooper. www.jscooperluthier.com

I asked him to make me a classical completely from Western US woods (preferably ones that grew, or could have grown, in California). It was a little outside what he normally does, but unlike some makers I contacted, he was not reluctant to try something completely different, and he stepped up to the challenge and hit it out of the park. The top is redwood, the back and sides are myrtlewood (California bay laurel), the fingerboard of course is desert ironwood, the peghead facing is also DI, and the neck and bridge are mesquite (the original bridge was desert ironwood like the FB but proved too brittle and was replaced).

It's funny: the unfinished fretboard end was Jeremy's idea, because he loved the look of the piece. I didn't want it at first and was pushing back. He kept gently arguing for it, and eventually I decided to trust him. Now I'm glad I did; I think it was one of the best decisions about the whole thing. I guess if you pick a good builder, it makes sense to trust them on most things.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v357/rlindsey0/My%20Instruments/image35.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v357/rlindsey0/My%20Instruments/image37.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v357/rlindsey0/My%20Instruments/image4-1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v357/rlindsey0/My%20Instruments/image28.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v357/rlindsey0/My%20Instruments/image33.jpg

Chris Rice
08-05-2012, 09:39 AM
Chris, I love that tele, especially with the bender. If I decided to try mesquite i figure that I can't lose, because even if the guitar turns out to be a dud I can still do some fine grilling with it afterwards.

Ha! My father-in-law has a smoker, maybe I should dig some of the mesquite of the scrap pile and go over there...:drool

sargebaker
08-05-2012, 09:44 AM
It's an exceptional piece basso! Never been sure about the look of the Gilbert tuners though.

basso17
08-05-2012, 09:57 AM
It's an exceptional piece basso! Never been sure about the look of the Gilbert tuners though.

I know what you mean about the Gilberts--someone on the Delcamp forum once referred to them as resembling "Israeli war surplus"! But functionally, they're great, and the looks have actually started to grow on me, especially with the snakewood buttons (now that I think of it, the only nondomestic wood on the guitar, except for a thin strip of mahogany in the body binding).

EDIT: BTW, I had a look at your site and think it's really cool what you're doing with materials and design.

sargebaker
08-05-2012, 10:59 AM
I know what you mean about the Gilberts--someone on the Delcamp forum once referred to them as resembling "Israeli war surplus"! But functionally, they're great, and the looks have actually started to grow on me, especially with the snakewood buttons (now that I think of it, the only nondomestic wood on the guitar, except for a thin strip of mahogany in the body binding).

EDIT: BTW, I had a look at your site and think it's really cool what you're doing with materials and design.

Thanks! And now I'll stop hijacking the thread, SORRY!

(Black Locust, GREAT fretboard wood. Not always the greatest colour)

PB Wilson
08-11-2012, 10:20 AM
Anyone try Katalox?

Acoustic bass builder Dave Maize has used it and I've seen it around.

I've only got one board of it (although it's large) which is more purple than the darker samples I've seen and it's riddled with small surface checks. Possibly due to suspect drying conditions, but it's hard, dark and has tiny pores. Could be useable and some on the market is sustainably harvested...

sargebaker
08-11-2012, 10:36 AM
Anyone try Katalox?

Acoustic bass builder Dave Maize has used it and I've seen it around.

I've only got one board of it (although it's large) which is more purple than the darker samples I've seen and it's riddled with small surface checks. Possibly due to suspect drying conditions, but it's hard, dark and has tiny pores. Could be useable and some on the market is sustainably harvested...

It's not uncommon in the boutique electric bass world.

EADGBE
08-14-2012, 09:57 AM
I'll stretch the OP a bit & include carbon fiber. I have dozens of guitars & nothing feels as good (to me) as the carbon fiber boards on my Parkers, coupled with their amazing perfect SS frets.

How does it sound?

EADGBE
08-14-2012, 10:08 AM
...I made an neck with an ebony fingerboard for my favorite 335 style guitar and I could never get comfortable with the sound until I heated it off and replaced the gorgeous, expensive board with a streaky $9 rosewood board - now it's untouchable LOL


What type of tone did the ebony impart to the guitar that you didn't like?

Sensible Musician
08-15-2012, 09:05 AM
What type of tone did the ebony impart to the guitar that you didn't like?

More fundamental less overtones. Sounds like more focus with less depth. Great sound for melody and cues but it's much harder to find a more common guitar place in a mix. Tried many woods on many guitar designs and the only guitar I like ebony on nowadays is a Les Paul.

I've also gone the opposite direction on basses - same reason, more fundamental less overtones. I've learned the hard way that people get really excited about bass sounds that are the least exciting LOL.

I've resigned myself to the idea that I simply can't fight history. The sound of a 335 is caused in part by a rosewood fingerboard. Rosewood is part of the sound of a rosewood strat. Most Gibson styles have mahogany necks and most Fender styles are maple. Tried to be clever but it never panned out for me.

I think you can break out of this if you are the star and you have the leeway to call attention to novel sounds. I'm so far down the totem pole I might actually be underground LOL