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Dyeing a bubinga fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by RobJ, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. Total newb here with zero knowledge regarding luthiery and woods in general so please be gentle if this is a dumb question.

    I'm wondering if a bubinga fretboard can be dyed black (or close to it). I have a bass with an unfinished board that just does not look good with the bass' finish which is transparent blue (the top wood is flame maple). To my eye an ebony board would look great but i was hoping I might be able to dye the bubinga instead and get a good result.

    There are a few sources like Stew Mac for this type of dye but even if it could be done I'm not sure which product would be best really.

    Any input is appreciated.

  2. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    No, Bubinga will only hold a little of the color
  3. Konquest


    Aug 26, 2003
    Bubinga is far too dense and hard to ebonize, so that's out, but there are a variety of woods that can be ebonized effectively. With ebony becoming more scarce and expensive, there are a variety of ways that woodworkers ebonize other woods from chemical reactions like iron and vinegar, to using leather dye, to a combination of methods. Do a google search on "ebonizing wood".
  4. Yeah, Bubinga does not take dyes well. I've tried dying pickup cavities black with leather dye, and the results were satisfactory for that application, but it would look awful for any aesthetic effect.
  5. Just my luck. Many thanks for the responses. Now to see what it might cost to have a new board made up to replace the bubinga one.

    Thanks again!
  6. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Replacing a fretboard is almost never a good idea with a complete instrument. The feel will never be the same after it is done. I would try the dye before ever considering that step. The dye may add enough darkness that you can enjoy the look. It won't turn it black but it could deepen it enough for you.
  7. Interesting, thanks for that information. I suppose I'll try to live with it then, I'm a bit afraid that attempting to dye it sounds a bit risky and the outcome may be ugly. Although reddish brown board with a beautiful blue body is pretty ugly already.
  8. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I'm curious as to why people think that Fiebing's leather dye won't work. I have used the stuff before and it's almost impossible to get rid of. This is not to say that it would be easy to get to look good and/or keep it from getting places you don't want it, just that the problem with Fiebing's would not at all be absorption.

    That all being said, you should also consider the sides of the fingerboard. I am assuming they are under some type of topcoat so that the sides will not be cleanly dye-able.
  9. Yes the sides of the board are under a clear coat, so I guess this presents another problem. I hadn't thought of that.
  10. It doesn't show up very well with my phone camera, but it looks awful. Lots of transparent brown areas.

  11. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    I've never dyed bubinga before and no disrespect to you line6man, but the blotchiness in that photo above is more likely to have been a result of inconsistent sanding and preparation of the surface than a direct result of the stain-ability of the wood. But like I said I've never dyed it before so for all I know even a perfectly prepared and treated board may end up looking similar...
  12. That's doubtful, but in any case, do you have any suggestions on preparing the surface properly?

    I hit that scrap with 100 grit to give a clean surface, and then applied a liberal spread of Fiebings, and wiped off the excess. I've done it in pickup cavities after routing, without sanding, and the result was the same, no matter how many applications I applied.
  13. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Sounds like instead of dying the fretboard, you may need to refinish the bass to a more complimentary color.
  14. TheCatalyst


    Mar 15, 2011
  15. Input appreciated. I guess I'll learn to live with it as is.