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Good rosewood vs bad rosewood?

Capstan Philips

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,492
I have no idea why people like "dark" rosewood. It looks like a faux wood product.
Association, IMO - positive association between dark boards and certain desirable vintage guitars, e.g. bursts and early rosewood Strats, whose boards tend to be on the darker side (for whatever reason... as suggested above, perhaps they didn't start out that way?). And, on the flipside, negative association between light boards and perceived dryness (whether that's the case or not)...

For me there is something visually appealing about the contrast of a dark 'board against light inlays and light binding.

I have a really nice LP that is a tremendous guitar but I admit that I nearly sent it back when I opened the case for the first time and realised that the board wasn't quite as dark as I had hoped it would look (albeit there are many lighter examples out there, not least from the auspices of the Murphy Lab).
 
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Messages
471
I like rosewood where I can see the grain lines because it's really pretty wood. I'm not as much of a fan of dark rosewood. I like Pau Ferro a lot because of its lighter colors (not a true rosewood but close enough). I found a plain sawn piece of Pau Ferro and made a fretboard out of it and I love that I can actually see the grain from across the room despite the frets and strings in the way.
 

9fingers

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,999
I like rosewood where I can see the grain lines because it's really pretty wood. I'm not as much of a fan of dark rosewood. I like Pau Ferro a lot because of its lighter colors (not a true rosewood but close enough). I found a plain sawn piece of Pau Ferro and made a fretboard out of it and I love that I can actually see the grain from across the room despite the frets and strings in the way.
This, I like wood grain and colors.
 

hunter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,009
The best way to darken a rosewood fretboard that is too light colored for your tastes is to play the living hell out of the guitar it's attached to -- that'll darken it up and smooth it up in short order. I've seen many a well-played vintage guitar with rosewood as black as ebony from a lifetime of heavy play; conversely I played my uncle's closet queen vintage Strat a few years ago with a fretboard that was the color of cardboard from being cased pretty much its whole life.
But there must be a way short of actually playing the guitar?
 

BigDoug1053

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,325
Aesthetically, I prefer a ebony fretboard, but anything meeting the the engineering criteria needed for a stable neck (thanks @Terry McInturff ) is good. I really do not care if I have a synthetic/engineered fretboard - like phenolic Steinbergers, roasted maple, or Richlite boards. Rosewood and other woods with nice vertical grain are fine as well.
 

Mr Fingers

Member
Messages
3,214
It's more the treatment of Rosewood than anything else that makes a difference as far as playinbg is concerned. I do see many current production guitars with RW fretboards that are sanded but not nearly to the smoothness that is possible. And yes, changing species and stocks of rosewood do lead many makers to use the ugly purple-ish stuff, or wavy grain, or really light wood. I don't thing there's any functional disadvantage to those types of RW fretboards, but they usually don't look good, visually, with most guitar colors. Treating a board to look like darker old RW (and darker wood was the choice back in the day) and/or to imitate a much-played guitar is, IMO, way off base. I like a smooth, hard, clean fretboard. One that has been impregnated with oil, or with pores filled with dead skin, dirt, and other particulates soaked in sweat is not my idea of attractive. Oil is bad stuff, period. And gunk is repulsive. I have a '37 Gibson L-00. That board is as clean as I can get it, and though I could makke the Brazilian fretboard darker, I can't imagine a single reason for doing so. I have a Collings 360 LT M special with a light rosewood board. It looks beautiful. Stain and oil it darker? Why?
 

DJ JD

Member
Messages
88
It looks like most people want their rosewood fingerboards to be dark and uniform in color and grain, including myself. That seems to be a lot harder to find now when you're running the racks than say 10-20 years ago. And it looks like custom builders charge more for this as well.

Is there a scarcity and/or has the quality of wood gone down? Did they used to only pick out the nicest pieces for fingerboards, and now they're trying to use them all?
 

Rossi163

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,369
My first response is that I know it when I see it. I've seen and had inexpensive guitars with rosewood boards that were incredible. And I've played boutique / custom shop guitars with uninspiring rosewood. In the timber business, "rosewood" is a broad category, many woods can be sold as such, maybe dozens or more.

IMO, Brazilian is the indisputable King of all rosewoods, and arguably King of all woods (anyone wanna try to make the argument against that?)

Indian can be as good or better but overall a distant 2nd to BR. Still very, very good, stable, well-suited to the task and I am sure the vast majority of all rosewood board guitars are made from IR. A solid contributor to a most worthy cause

Others: Pau Ferro, Madagascar, Kingwood, Ziricote, etc. all can be good to great. You might find a crazy figured Ziricote board just so happens to align with the right maple blank and they become a tuning fork. I love it when that happens

Ebony: A worthy topic on its own

Here's an example of what I consider good rosewood. Straight, consistent, quartersawn and a good ringing tap tone when in its raw state. Which, with BR, is almost always a given






 

Capstan Philips

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,492
It looks like most people want their rosewood fingerboards to be dark and uniform in color and grain, including myself. That seems to be a lot harder to find now when you're running the racks than say 10-20 years ago. And it looks like custom builders charge more for this as well.

Is there a scarcity and/or has the quality of wood gone down? Did they used to only pick out the nicest pieces for fingerboards, and now they're trying to use them all?
Totally agree with your observation, and would be interested to know if anyone can offer any insight.
 

Mechayoshi

Member
Messages
56
I like reasonably dark, nicer contrast with inlays. The problem with the lighter boards is that if I wanted a light board I would want some other wood altogether, like maple or some other more exotic option. Light rosewood just isn't aesthetically pleasing to me.
 

Rayzaa

Member
Messages
1,553
The rosewood on my strat is a little darker than on my SG. I like it darker but they are both nice smooth woods.
I thought they werent allowing rosewood anymore?
 

diogoguitar

Member
Messages
450
I think a lot of people appreciate dark and smooth rosewood. I couldn't care less if it is dark or light, but I do care if it is smooth.

I didn't like the rosewood on my LP that much - it used to feel a little harsh to the touch.
But, I used some sandpaper and it got as smooth as my other guitars. I wouldn't change a thing on it now. Some people might like it darker, but I actually prefer to be able to see the streaks.


 
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sixty2strat

Senior Member
Messages
12,561
My preferences -
A fretboard that is like sandpaper with lots of open pores on the fretboard.

Rosewood replacements are usually a turn off.
There was a period in the mid 90's where every Fender with RW was like that, maybeit was a bad batch that got dumped locally, who knows but bought an early 80's RI and paid the slightly high asking price without a 2nd thought they were so bad.
 

Terry McInturff

45th Anniversary of guitar building!
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
7,290
Totally agree with your observation, and would be interested to know if anyone can offer any insight.
I can offer insight.
I've been buying rosewood lumber since 1980.
There's class-leading wood available, but it all depends upon who's in your Rollodex of suppliers and what sort of relationship you have grown with that supplier.
Over time, the negligent/unreliable suppliers are weeded out, and those who remain know what you require, and send you the top 5% best material chosen from hundreds or thousands of board feet of lumber they have on hand.
 




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