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"Ebonized" -- what is that stuff?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Damon Rondeau, Nov 20, 2002.


  1. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Hello everyone,

    I'm messing around fixing up a cheap-o Chinese plywood bass. It has an "ebonized" fingerboard of unknown hardwood.

    I'd like to repair an ugly gouge in the fingerboard, and I'd like to finish it in so it looks good as new ("good" being used relatively here.) Trouble is, I don't recognize what the "ebonizing" substance is. I have a lot of cabinetmaking experience, but that material is something I'm not familiar with. I'd believe anything from stove-black to boot polish.

    If anyone knows what that stuff is likely to be, I'd like to know.

    Damon Rondeau
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    CANADA
     
  2. I think stewmac offers some kind of black dye for wood, it might work. And I think "ebonized" just means "blackened" and nothing else.
     
  3. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    That'd be Stewart-Macdonald, a luthiery supply company, just in case;)
     
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Thx for the info. I'm aware of the various types of aniline dyes that are used (most familiar with water soluble powders.) In general cabinetmaking, that's what you're likely to encounter when someone shows you an "ebonized" piece of stock. The dye soaks into the wood fibres; that's why it's called "dye" and not "stain", "varnish", or "paint". It leaves the grain visible and generally is pretty cool stuff.

    But I don't think that's what this "ebonized" stuff is. The stuff on this board seems to have been built up a bit (2 coats?); either that, or it goes on really thick then sets up. If I had to compare it to anything, I'd say its like a paint that dries to a dull matte finish.

    BTW -- thx for the StewMac tip; my catalog is in the bathroom and it's always well read!
     
  5. I've had the misfortune to work on a few Cremona BSO's and the coating on the FB appears to be more of a hard paint than a stain - possibly epoxy paint. Unfortunatly, the hard(?) wood under the paint has a grain that is anything but straight. Planning and scraping this stuff is futile. I urge you to consider replacing the board with a rosewood or ebony fingerboard. You will be far happier in the long run.
     
  6. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    That is surely the voice of experience, Mr. Branstetter. I know replacement is the right thing to do, and in all likelihood I'll wind up doing just that. Just exploring the option of refurbishing that black stuff. If it is an epoxy paint, then it won't be possible to patch. There's no way I'm gonna refinish the whole cheap-ass board.
     
  7. I had a decent Lidl plywood flatback in recently. The customer wanted a new fingerboard. Somehow the original f/b had been replaced with a painted maple board of unknown origin and it was truly awful.
    The night before the customer brought it over, his cat knocked his bass over and the f/b popped completly off.
    Good kitty.
     
  8. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I don't know what the stuff is, exactly, but rubbing alcohol usually gets rid of it IME.
     
  9. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    It is pure "D" crap! Stay as far a way from ebonized anything -- as you can get. Even cheap real ebony is better.

    Look for posts asking how do I get this black stuff off my fingers.

    Joe
     
  10. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Joe, I agree with you about this stuff -- crap it is, no argument there. To be fair, though, I've actually played this bass for a few hours now, with not a speck of the black junk coming off on my hands. I know that a lot of folks have different experiences. I guess all manner of stuff is in use out there; I'm just trying to figure out what the stuff actually is.

    What I REALLY need is one of those crappy-fingerboard-fixin' cats that Pete encountered...
     
  11. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    "Ebonized" always makes me laugh. It's sales talk for "paint it black". I used to work for a firm that called all their dyed wood parts "ebonized". They were big on flowery language. Part of their rosin-making process was described as-"then the melted rosin is poured into custom made, alloy lined moulds". Translation: we'd use a hole saw to drill holes in 3/4 inch plywood and then use scissors to cut up beer cans for the "alloy". B.S. is the single easiest thing to sell-provided you are willing to do so.
     
  12. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    :D
     
  13. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Thanks for the info, folks. Let me summarize what I've learned. The melody is that old George Jones chestnut, "Just One More":


    Slap the crap upon the maple
    Let it set there till they're not able
    To see a trace of what's in place of what's not there
    Be it bootblack or be it vinyl
    Slop it on there, all sales are final
    As long as it looks fine
    That's all you need to ease your mind
    So paint it black
    Use what you want
    Just ebonize it


    DR
    (having realized that verse is acceptable discourse around here...)
     
  14. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Unacceptable vs. acceptable discourse.

    You wouldn't believe what's acceptable here.

    Nice entrance. You're running neck and neck with Tsolo for membership in our elitist fraternity.

    There are many different substances used in the "ebonizing process". Without scientific analysis it'll be difficult to determine what yours is.
     
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Set it in the corner for a bit and see if it runs downhill.
     
  16. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    "Nice entrance. You're running neck and neck with Tsolo for membership in our elitist fraternity."

    ...err, thx Jeff. I think. You've got me wondering about that whole "dissin' Yankee" thing though. You guys are tres cool and I'll be sticking around. My skin's thick, just like the junk on that fingerboard.