unique fingerboard choices

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner: Guitar & Bass Technical Discussi' started by m1n2h3, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. m1n2h3

    m1n2h3 Member

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    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.
     
  2. JBG

    JBG Silver Supporting Member

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    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).
     
  3. m1n2h3

    m1n2h3 Member

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    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.
     
  4. Route234

    Route234 Member

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    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.
     
  5. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Supporting Member

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    African blackwood is fabulous (but VERY expensive)

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

    bmutlu Member

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    Not totally unique but i like Pau Ferro.
     
  7. big mike

    big mike Marshall Voiced Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  8. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wranger Staff Member

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    My Driskill has a bois de rose fretboard. Lovely stuff, closer in feel to BRW than IRW.
     
  9. JBG

    JBG Silver Supporting Member

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    +1 on the blackwood, too. Caribbean Rosewood (Chechen) is really nice, too.
     
  10. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Member

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    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,
     
  11. Malinoski

    Malinoski everything wrong possible Gold Supporting Member

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    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.
     
  12. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Supporting Member

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    Better with pictures!

    Some of my favorite less common 'boards have been

    Lyptus - Easy to work with, looks like chocolate.
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]

    Osage orange - Just as Joe Bochar says.
    [​IMG]

    Bocote - Like Pete Malinoski says, not the most stable. We did one neck of apple with bocote fretboard. Learned a lesson on that one!
    [​IMG]

    Limoncillo - Looks like chocolate. Fairly easy to work with, always feels a little dry. Very stable.
    [​IMG]

    Pao ferro - Nice and smooth.
    [​IMG]

    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.
     
  13. JBG

    JBG Silver Supporting Member

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    Padauk neck/board makes an outstanding neck! Ya gotta love red, though.

    Biggest PITA wood for fretboards so far: snakewood.
     
  14. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    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.
     
  15. m1n2h3

    m1n2h3 Member

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    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.
     
  16. m1n2h3

    m1n2h3 Member

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    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.
     
  17. claudel

    claudel Member

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    [​IMG]

    Kingwood...
     
  18. Malinoski

    Malinoski everything wrong possible Gold Supporting Member

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    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.


    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.
     
  19. Sensible Musician

    Sensible Musician Member

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    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 90ยบ 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)
     
  20. burningyen

    burningyen Gold Supporting Member

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    What's everyone's experience with Cambodian rosewood? It recently came up on my radar.
     

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