Anyone used Snakewood?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SoComSurfing, Mar 24, 2002.

  1. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    I really liked that snakewood on the "Funky Woods" thread, and I've located some at a good price, and wanted to know if anyone's used it. What were your thoughts? What did it feel like?
  2. Well, it's very dense and highly figured and very expensive. I have played a couple of double bass bows made of snakewood that were very good. I'm sure it would make an awesome fingerboard material for either a fretted or fretless.

  3. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Chris pretty much covered it. Very cool stuff. It might be worth contacting Acacia ( to see how it's worked for them, because I THINK I've seen them use snakewood for a fretboard before.

    However, if you're lucky enough to have found it for a top, get it!!!
  4. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    What would you compare it to in density? Is it similar to ebony?

    The tree doesn't grow big enough to produce a top. :( If it did, believe me, I would be all about that! I'm sure we would have seen some GORGEOUS instruments by now.
  5. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I remember Chris Stambaugh using it on the fretboard of a single-cut fretless six. Looked great.
  6. Being on your side as a fellow Talkbasser, your "good price" comment caught my eye.

    The reason it got my attention is that of all the woods I've discussed with dealers, snakewood has been the trickiest.

    The wood, including a sample I received, is very hard, very dense and very heavy, (the reasons I wanted a fretboard made with it, aside from the figuring and coloring). Unfortunately, it tends to shrink a lot during drying and commonly becomes brittle. The brittleness often results in splitting.

    Most dealers told me up front they wouldn't sell any to me because they didn't have any boards without splits that were large enough for a fretboard. (I was in the market at a bad time).

    But with a couple of dealers who had drool-worthy boards, the only way I found out about small splits that couldn't be seen in the pictures they emailed was by my asking them. One wanted $300 for his board and never mentioned the splitting it had, at first.

    Because this wood is so pricey, the harvesters will try to sell any snakewood log they get their hands on, even if it is rotting on the rainforest floor. Since it is used most often for small items, like knife handles and duck calls, the good areas can be cut out and sold by dealers. No big deal. But it also means some nasty boards get squeezed out and put up for sale, too, although the splitting is to small to be seen in an email photo.

    Another thing I learned to look out for were dealers who use colored lighting to exaggerate the coloring of a board.

    So, you might want to do what I did with any board I ordered - I reserved the right for my luthier to return it if the board had any flaws that weren't noted by the dealer. Fortunately, most dealers are very reputable and want to do future business with your luthier or you.

    I really hope you get an outrageous board at a great price that we'll see in a future thread!
  7. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    Thanks for all your input. Yours is one of the opinions that really seems to carry some weight around here. I've come across two suppliers here in town, each of which has one board, and both of them have splits. Who did you get your piece from? Do you have a website or phone number? I would like to find a few more decent pieces before I decide on one, if I even choose to use it. And as for the drying...the one question no one in town could answer. What would happen to the wood after it has dried at is shipped back down here to Mobile, and this ungodly humidity?
  8. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    It looks like there's hardly any figuring. Not like what I'd expect after seeing some other snakewood photos.
  9. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Snakewood shows its most impressive figure when flatsawn, which makes it erven trickier to get a piece that is figured -and- good for a fingerboard. The logs are also small and so there is pith in any quartersawn piece of reasonable width. It's just a bear to deal with.

    I've seen some amazing pieces of snakewood at Righteous Hardwoods, but as comments here suggest, the wood is almost impossible to dry without getting some cracking.

    I would never buy snakewood for a bass mail order.
  10. De nada, SoCom. I just wish I had someone watching my back when I was looking for some. So, it just seemed "right" to share my experience.

    I'm not at all surprised that your suppliers' snakewood has splits. The crucial aspect is - the splitting wouldn't be such an issue if we weren't talking about a component that will be under great stress from truss rod adjustments and by weather.

    Maybe I should have made this more apparent - I didn't get a snakewood fretboard,. although I gave it my best shot. All of the snakewood that was available in fretboard-size pieces when I was shopping for it, (last spring), had one problem or another. But, in the last month or so, it seems like what MAY be usable snakewood with great figuring has been showing up.

    If still has some of those fantastic snakewood fretboards advertised on the website, those are the best I have seen. I bought my exhibition-grade cocobolo from Myles Gilmer and my lutheir said the board was everything they said it would be. Larry Davis also gets some exceptional wood and he is a very cool contact. He wants to cater to the custom bass market more than the custom guitar market.

    As for what would happen to a snakewood board with all that Gulf humidity - if it was properly dried, I wouldn't anticipate a problem. If it was given the wood stabilizing process, I would feel even more confident. You might contact Talkbassers Hambone and Suburban about it. I really respect their deep knowledge of many woods.

    I know I've been long-winded in these responses. But, we're talking about a very special wood that few people have the patience to pursue. But maybe you share the same attitude I do - the result is only as extraordinary as the effort you put into it.
  11. For an FBB bass, a snakewood fingerboard is 2.5 to 5 times the price of an ebony fingerboard, which in itself is extremely rare and expensive. The trees are thin, hard to dry, and hard to find.

    This was already mentioned before. LOL.:D
  12. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    I talked with Gilmer Woods today about thier Snakewood. It was recommended to use on a fretless only. They're saving me a piece until they can take some pictures and send them to me. The person I talked to (didn't get a name) was extremely helpful, and I may pick up a piece for use down the road, if it can be worked with and I can get it at a reasonable price.
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