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A thin laminate underneath the fretboard?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by photoshopgeek, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. What would a thin laminate underneath the fretboard do to the tone and strength? Say a purple heart lam underneath an ebony board on a primarily maple neck? I think it would look cool, just don't know what it would do the the playability.

    Anybody ever done it before?
  2. grace & groove

    grace & groove

    Nov 30, 2005
    Self-Appointed Ambassador to the Dragonfly
    Hmm... you could just bind the fretboard for the look.
  3. MyUsernameHere

    MyUsernameHere ?????????????

    Nov 3, 2007
    Lexington KY
    I just saw a bass on e-bay with something like this. It had a maple board and an ebony (I think) layer underneath. To tell you the truth, I think it looked pretty stupid--but it was a pretty thick veneer. Maybe a thinner one would look better?
  4. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    A thin layer (1/8" or so) would look fine, IMO. Something that would offset the color of the fretboard (pretty much anything but black, if your fb is ebony... I like bloodwood :D).

    Just don't make it too thick. It's not going to do much for you structurally and I personally believe that the tone won't be affected perceptibly one way or the other. But it might look cool.
  5. Nelson Guitars

    Nelson Guitars

    Aug 14, 2006
    Novato California
    Custom builder
    Multiple laminations can make a neck stronger in the sense that it will be less prone to breaking, especially at the peg head (classic break point). Laminations can however create more flexibility and therefore a modest amount more work for the truss rod (no big deal) and/or loss of sustain or volume/presence if you follow some peoples theories.

    If you like the look I say stick to the binding to achieve this. It's tried and true.

    Greg N
  6. allenhumble

    allenhumble Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    A little off topic, but does anyone have a preference to wood veneers vs fiber veneers? I have been looking at LMIs site and they offer 3 different types of veneers(wood, colored wood, and wood fiber). Any other sources out there that sell thick veneers?
  7. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    I feel laminations parallel to the surface of the fingerboard add stiffness.

    I put two layers of veneer under my fingerboards. I started doing this when I first used phenolic boards, because the board seemed dull sounding when you tapped it. It made a dull thud. It was also somewhat more flexible than I would have wanted.

    At the time (mid 90's) my building partner was working with Ned building the first prototype NS double basses. They were made from layers of maple and carbon fiber glued up on a form. I liked the idea of doing a laminate like that.

    So I epoxy'd maple and purpleheart veneers under the board, and when it was cured, it had a nice ring to it when I tapped it. It was also much stiffer. This is the torsion box effect.


    Next I want to try and laminate an entire fingerboard like that.
  8. ZolkoW


    May 8, 2006
    Hungary, EU
    wow! that looks great!
  9. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Thanks! :D
  10. I like it! Think I'm gonna do it.

    What does phenolic mean? Also, did you route through the veneers for your truss rod or set them on top of your route?

    Do you think it did anything to the tone? If so, what?
  11. Nelson Guitars

    Nelson Guitars

    Aug 14, 2006
    Novato California
    Custom builder
    Phenolic resins are used in many cast and extruded items. Formica is layers of paper impregnated with phenolic resin. Many hard plastic items incorporate phenolic resins.

    Greg N
  12. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    As Greg said, it's plastic made from phenolic resins. In this case it's known as "XXX black paper phenolic" and is many layers of thin black paper laminated together with phenolic resin. X grade is the strongest, but XXX absorbs less water.

    Here's a technical data sheet

    Printed circuit boards are generally made from phenolic impregnated paper (FR-2 boards). Another name for the resin is phenol formaldehyde resin, which was commercially referred to as "Bakelite" (AG-4 phenolic resin). Glass reinforced phenolic is known as Garolite.

    The common name for such material when used on instruments is "ebonol". Kramer used to use it, as did Steinberger.

    I can't say what, if any, changes in tone the veneer made, besides the tap tone before it was glued onto the neck. But I liked that it was stiffer and resonated better.

    I was into trying non standard materials, and thought I would give it a try and made a number of basses using the stuff. It wears well, and on my fretless you can hardly see any abrasions from the strings. it's a pain to work with, especially radiusing the board. It also makes a LOT of very fine dust. I still have enough for about 5 fingerboards, so I might keep using it.

    The veneers were glued to the bottom of the fingerboard before it was glued to the neck. The truss rods are the LMII standard rod, which has a square rod on the top and a round on the bottom. The rods are installed flush with the surface of the neck, and covered with some cellophane "magic" tape to keep the glue out. The fingerboard was then set in place with index pins in two fret slots, and glued on with G2 epoxy.

    Formica is actually made with melamine formaldehyde resin, but it's very similar. They are both thermosetting resins.

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