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Can I have some informed opinions about fingerboard woods?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bard2dbone, Jan 26, 2021.

  1. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    Hey Guys -

    Like many of the times I've showed up in this particular subforum, I was already in the process of starting a project instrument. And then something went wrong.

    THIS time, I have been gathering parts for a build for literally more than two years.

    I started with a Moses Graphite fretless Jazz neck. I found it on ebay in the winter of '18. Then I got a set of Hipshot tuners and a Bad Ass II bridge. Next was a Nordstrand Power Blade P pickup and a Delano Hybrid 4. Over time I've picked up everything but the preamp and the actual body. So I was about to order the body from Warmoth. And then I discovered that I cant find most of the parts, specifically the neck that Moses apparently doesn't make anymore.

    So I started thinking about just continuing with what I've found, but maybe in a more conventional manner, using a wood neck, in stead of graphite, even though the graphite neck was what started this in the first place.

    The plan is still for a lined fretless Jazz neck. But I haven't really decided what it should be made of. The body is a roasted ash, rear routed P style, with a MM style pickup in the bridge, and a P style pickup in roughly the usual place and all black hardware.

    I've really dug wenge as a neck wood on guitars. But I haven't ever played a fretless wenge fingerboard.

    Somebody suggested roasted maple for the neck, which feels really appropriate on a roasted ash body. For that I'd probably want ebony for the fingerboard, because I know that combination is awesome.

    I was initially trying to think what I'd like as an all-one-wood neck, where the neck and fingerboard are the same wood. Common as dirt with maple. I have a guitar with a rosewood on rosewood neck that I totally dig. But I haven't ever played a fretless bass with a neck like that.

    So : I need opinions from people who've actually gotten hands on playing time with fretless basses in which the neck shaft and fingerboard were both made of wenge, pau ferro, rosewood, or some other wood that you're amazed that I wasn't considering. Or how a regular roasted maple neck with ebony is obviously the right answer, and why.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2021
    LowActionHero and Bob Lo like this.
  2. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Roasted maple and ebony would be my choice. Wenge is cool, but if unfinished, i feel like the pores open up over time, and i don't like a finish on a fretless board. I have pao ferro on my main fretted bass, and I'm surprised how much I like it, I would take it as a close second to ebony. For fretless, i kind of hate Rosewood and lacquered maple. This is all personal preference, of course, ymmv.
    xn34 likes this.
  3. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Ebony on ebony:drool::drool::drool::drool::drool::drool::drool::drool::drool:
  4. LowActionHero and Pauly 4001 like this.
  5. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Thank you. Full frontal. DSCF4692.JPG
  6. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    I sorta did that on my first build... using Bubinga.
    Which is kinda rosewoody ... African rosewood anyway.
    Neck isn't one piece though. It's mostly bubinga with ebony and maple stringers, and a bubinga fingerboard.
    You would think it would have a nice mellow woody tone... but still be articulate?
    Not so much. :rollno: The tone was...well... poop. (IMO)
    And seemed dead.... some spots more than others.

    ... UNTIL I coated it. :woot::thumbsup:
    Now it's amazing.

    I don't think wenge, being as open grained as it can be....is going to do you any favors tone wise.
    But I can't say that from experience.

    For an uncoated fretless?... yes.
    ...this. :bassist::drool::thumbsup:
  7. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Yep, @Slidlow bass is a Minimalist Masterpiece, one of my favorite basses on TB. Is there a hidden tone or volume control, or is it just straight out the jack into an amp? Piezo? I have to see that build thread, I think I missed it first time around, post a link?

    I love the ebony, but it's getting really hard to find any jet black stuff in bass-neck lengths. I just got this Rocklite Ebano fingerboard in from LMI, and it's impressively black, but doesn't look plastic like the Richlite/Ebanol boards. I had LMI slot and radius it, and it seems to machine really cleanly too, no evidence of chipout. I'll post a review when I start cutting it for inlays, but a few other TB builders already swear by it, might be an option for the OP's build. I've heard that the company makes Rocklite planks too, but don't see any mention of it on their website, and they are temporarily closed due to Covid 19.
    Rocklite Ltd.
  8. Wow. That neck.......me like....
    Rôckhewer and cratz2 like this.
  9. JuanB


    Feb 20, 2010
    You could order a jazz style neck from Status Graphite.
    Lesfunk and JeezyMcNuggles like this.
  10. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    The controls are on the edge of the bass. Look to the right of the horn in post #3
    Gilmourisgod and Rolling Thunder like this.
  11. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2021
  12. Wow, that's clean...
    Grizelda100 likes this.
  13. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    This wasn't really that hard to find. :D
    There's a cat in NY with several large billets.
    Expen$ive to find?..... oh sure ! :banghead::confused:
  14. xn34


    Dec 17, 2020
    Oi I wish I had the $/space/tools to build stuff like this... drool ...
    Beej likes this.
  15. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    The primary criterion for a neck wood is stability, followed by stiffness (which is subjective, as it has an effect on tone).

    The primary criterion for a fretless fingerboard wood is the Janka hardness, followed by stability.

    Two different design considerations, which usually means two different woods.
    Said Bisher and Gilmourisgod like this.
  16. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I have a Carvin B4 (active jazz bass) with a maple/maple fretless neck. It started off as a fretted bass, but a few years back I had a local luthier pull the frets and put a light matte coating on the fingerboard to protect it (I don't know the specific epoxy or other finish used). It works great for me.
  17. DanTheQuaker

    DanTheQuaker Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2015
    Seattle, WA
    I'm not a builder, but I've played fretless for about 30 years and owned many different fretless basses with different fretboards, from ebony to rosewood to (coated) maple (the only time the freboard and neck were the same wood) to graphite (Moses and Modulus) to Diamondkote (Pedulla). But I always come back to ebony. My favorite fretless basses over the years were the ones with ebony boards. Ebony just seems to give the right amount of growl without being too thin and glassy or too dull, and, on the feel side, ebony (for me) has just the right amount of resistance when I slide, without feeling too hard/slick or too soft/slow.

    Having said all that, in addition to my NS Designs with ebony boards, I currently have an Ibanez Portamento fretless which has a "panga panga" fretboard that appears to have some type of thin coating on it. I would have preferred ebony, but that wasn't an option. It feels pretty good though, almost ebony-like. I'll be curious to see how it wears over time. I figure if I keep that bass, and if the strings eventually eat into it, I'll get an ebony board as a replacement.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2021
    WillyWonka likes this.
  18. sawzalot

    sawzalot Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2007
    I've owned fretless basses with many different fingerboard woods, all with maple as the shaft wood. The one bass that had an ebony board did not "sing" like the others--but I've played many fretless basses with ebony boards that did. I find pau ferro to be warmer and the basses with pau ferro boards all have beautiful "mwah", with a great bloom to the sound. They're my favorites.

    The one fretless I've owned with a maple board (and maple shaft wood) was a defretted neck. It had a hard finish on the board and sounded really good, brighter than pau ferro, possibly because of the maple and possibly because of the finish. I didn't keep that bass because of other issues, but if those other issues hadn't been present I would have been very very happy with it.
  19. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    Somewhere in time
    Wenge is awesome for a neck shaft but I don't see it being that nice as a fretless fretboard. I myself would go with a wenge shaft with a macassar ebony fretboard, but that's just me...
    DustyBottom likes this.
  20. The only way that could be cleaner was if it was headless.
  21. Primary

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    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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