Domestic fretboard woods

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by [CRTL+ALT+DEL], Feb 17, 2014.


  1. [CRTL+ALT+DEL]

    [CRTL+ALT+DEL] mad scientist Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2008
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    What are some good US domestic woods that are good for fretboards that don't need a coating like maple does?
  2. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    Location:
    Norman, OK
    You could try mesquite, if you can find a piece big enough. Tom Clement uses it. I'm not sure if he puts a finish on it.

    Beyond that...maybe desert ironwood, if you can find it.
  3. ddtkills

    ddtkills

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2009
    You could try Pecan/hickory. It is very hard but can be susceptible to splitting.

    also black locust might work.
  4. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro

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    Location:
    Maryland
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    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Most domestic woods, even if they are hard enough, are light in color. This includes pecan, persimmon, dogwood, black locust. Tough to keep them looking clean without a clear coat but they all work. Mesquite is a little darker. Might be your best bet for an unfinished board.

    Desert ironwood is going to be a tough find big enough.
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  6. tdogg

    tdogg Supporting Member

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    Location:
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    Is walnut useable?
  7. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    Location:
    Norman, OK
    Too soft. It has a janka rating of ~1010. Hard maple is about the softest stuff that I would use for a fretted board, and it's sitting at ~1450.

    So, a walnut board might have trouble keeping frets in.
  8. lbridenstine

    lbridenstine

    Joined:
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    Location:
    MI
    I've been wondering about this. I've seen a few people do walnut fretboards at TDPRI. I think they just use super glue to hold the frets in, but I'm not sure.
  9. tdogg

    tdogg Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2001
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    Maybe if the wood was treated like those acrylic impregnated boards.
  10. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

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    Location:
    Norman, OK
    Yeah, I've seen them too, but I don't know that I would risk it. Claro walnut is a little bit harder than regular Black walnut, so it would probably work better.
  11. [CRTL+ALT+DEL]

    [CRTL+ALT+DEL] mad scientist Supporting Member

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    May 25, 2008
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    I read elsewhere that walnut has a list of reasons not to use as a fretboard
  12. [CRTL+ALT+DEL]

    [CRTL+ALT+DEL] mad scientist Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2008
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    Personally I'd ebonize almost any wood for a fretboard, unless it was something really extraordinary. But that's cuz I like everything as black as my soul
  13. Big B.

    Big B.

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Desert Ironwood would be closest to any ebony type density but as someone mentioned it will probably be hard to find a clean piece that large. I would recommend Osage Orange. It grows in decent sizes, isnt that rare and is as hard as a rock. It's also called Bowdark and is used for bowstaves and duck decoys because of its toughness. It's surprisingly orange when freshly cut but turns brown relatively quickly. In some parts of the Midwest its common enough that it was grown as natural fence posts along field lines. It isn't grown commercially because the trees are relatively small and twisted and the wood is too difficult to work for most construction purposes.

    When I say its hard that's no joke. It's reasonably easy to cut when its wet but once its dry it turns very hard and will take sawblades out quickly. The cured wood is as difficult to work as a lot of rosewoods and ebonies. It would easily make a durable fingerboard without a coating.
  14. Big B.

    Big B.

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Here's a piece I have on hand. This has been around for a while so most of the orange color is gone.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    The grain actually looks pretty normal but when you look at the end grain you can see the density of the braided grain.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    I haven't used it as a fingerboard but if I had to go domestic species only, it would be near the top of my list.
  15. Jensby design

    Jensby design

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Location:
    Hastings, NE
    Gorilla Glue.
  16. Beej

    Beej

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Location:
    Canadia
    I was gonna say osage orange, but Big B beat me to it. Although he did post "bowdark" and because like most Canadians, french was force-fed to me growing up, I recognize that as "bois d'arc" instead... :D
  17. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Norman, OK
    I haven't seen anyone use gorilla glue....just CA and regular wood glue.
  18. Big B.

    Big B.

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Nice. ;) I think the name Bowdark came from its use in native bowmaking.
  19. Tdog

    Tdog

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    Gorilla Glue?.......I would think that there would be a problem with the expansion of the glue as it cures.......It could make for quite the mess.

    CA or hide glue would be prefered.
  20. Rodger Bryan

    Rodger Bryan

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    Location:
    Connecticut
    +1
  21. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    Location:
    Norman, OK
    I think it is a phonetic spelling of a mispronunciation of bois d'arc, which means "bow wood".

    Here in Oklahoma, Osage Orange is a bit of a weed. It's everywhere, and a lot of landowners will pay you to cut them down and get rid of them. I personally find the wood rather unattractive, both freshly cut and when seasoned, so I wouldn't use it for a fretboard for myself.

    It's quite hard to find commercially, though. You really have to get it through connections, not retailers.

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