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Ebony alternatives

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by bssist, Aug 2, 2012.


  1. bssist

    bssist

    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA
    A while back there was a thread about alternatives to ebony. I don't remember much mention of composites but I read about one earlier today. I am interested if anyone has any experience with these boards:

    http://soundcomposites.com/uprightbassparts?detail=208 ?

    If so, how do they sound? What are the differences in sound from one product to the next? How "workable" are they compared to actual wood? How does this product relate to (or differ from) the ebonal products being used on bass guitars?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Looks cool...
     
  3. There is a wood called "Ipê", it's a brazilian very hard wood (pronounces "eepeh)".
    Here in Brazil it's the most common alternative to ebony, and a lot of classical and jazz musicians also prefer the Ipe instead of ebony for the soundboard. The Ipê soundboard makes the attack ring like a bell, while the ebony kind of absorb some of the sound.
     
  4. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Ipe is used for decking material here in the states and yes it is very dense
     
  5. gt96g

    gt96g Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Philly Area
    There is a plentiful wood grown in mexico called catalox (pronounced catalosh) I've heard a few companies are using it.
     
  6. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    persimmon is in the family
     
  7. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    There are a few woods I have used that would be suitable for fingerboards. Bubinga, purple heart and bloodwood are all very dense, they are also bright colors which may not sit well with traditionalists who like black
     
  8. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    Id' be interested in the composite boards if they could do custom sizes. The widths are a little off and the radius looks flatter than I'd like to see. Even with the outer layer being workable, I'm not super sure I could get a fingerboard shaped the way I want out of one.
     
  9. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Commonly sold as Katalox or Wamara here, the true name is Swartzia Cubensis. It is a great wood to have your luthier's arsenal. In appearance and working characteristics it is very similar to the heavier rosewoods; more dense and not as oily as Brazilian rosewood (D.nigra), it works very well. You can also find it for around $8 per board foot. The sapwood is very dense and bright yellow; it can also be found with a very heavy curly genotype. I've used it for guitars, and a couple of bass fingerboards with very good success. Readily available and no commercial limits or protections. I always try to keep a few boards in the shop.

    j.
     
  10. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    Neat, is it as porous as rosewood?
     
  11. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    No, but with everything you can find a lot of variation in color, density, and I'd imagine the size of the pores.
     
  12. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), also called Ironwood or musclewood is native to the Northeast USA. It is one of the hardest native woods. I made a mallet out of Ironwood, it is hard and stable - I turned the mallet from a fresh branch and it did not split or check. A while back I was putting the word out looking for suitable trees to cut to make a fingerboard, I did not pursue it fully, I may take up the search again. The trees do not grow very big unfortunately.

    From wikipedia: Wood: Light brown, sapwood nearly white; heavy, hard, close-grained, very strong. Used for levers, handles of tools. Sp. gr., 0.7286; weight 45.41 lbs.

    For comparison Ebony: Sp. gr. 1.1 - 1.3; weight 69 - 83lbs
     
  13. Badener

    Badener

    Sep 10, 2012
    Germany
  14. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
  15. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I've made fretless electric bass fingerboards from Dymondwood (wood veneer compressed under high pressure w/epoxy). Ebonol is a paper and resin. The Dymondwood made phenomenal fingerboards, the only problem is you cannot use any hand tools on it not even a rasp, file, scraper etc. Only coarse sandpaper worked but the dust was extremely irritating to my lungs. While these products produce very hard surfaces hence minimal string wear they are nasty to work with. I have a few boards of the Dymondwood that I will eventually sell, I never want to work with it again.
     
  16. bssist

    bssist

    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA
    I've got a fretless jazz that I put a neck on that came with an ebonol board. It lasted a good while under stainless rounds, but eventually had to be sanded. The dust was horrible and the new surface never seemed as hard as the original. Perhaps it came with an epoxy topcoat. What was originally a mean growl now sounds a little "softer" and "fuzzy". Still a cool tone but not what I want. I would be interested in trying Dymondwood.
     
  17. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Micarta is another composite material that uses epoxy and other materials to produce a very hard product. Again it would be awful to fashion into a DB fingerboard. Dymondwood (http://www.rutply.com/products/dymondwood.html)

     
  18. bssist

    bssist

    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA
    Thanks for the link. Very interesting product.
     
  19. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Ebonol works very well on electric basses. Not too sure how one would use it on an upright. The material is preshaped in paper then dipped into plastic, it would have to be made for this use in the first place.
     
  20. MostroDB

    MostroDB Guest

    Apr 18, 2012
    Well let's give it another try.

    bssist,

    sorry, no experience w/ the soundcomposites fb's, or any carbon fibre fb on a DB. But they do seem interesting.

    Some 20 years ago I made fb for a fretless 5-str BG from carbon fibre (using only full-length strands lengthwise, with epoxy, and compressed into a polyester -'ve mold during setting. First made a softwood painted/polished fb to make the mold, and of course used a first epoxy layer, later to serve as top coat.) It's quite a rounded fb (not as much as on a db, but more than any bg I've ever seen), and I find it the sweetest fb I've ever had on a bg. In a spotlight it looks beautiful too, showing the lengthwise strands - but in normal light you don't see much of that. Good sustain & growl, stable under long-term stress, and long-lasting too (no work required yet), using D'Addario chromes, which have a finish similar to db steel strings (so not roundwounds). So I feel that carbonfibre has potential to make a good fb, also for a db. For planing, which will be required eventually, suggest to do it timely, and first to re-coat w/ epoxy, so that you don't actually grind into the carbon fibre.

    On other ebony alternatives: on my latest db, I tried garapa, that's another (cheap, reddish) south-american decking wood. In order to reduce the weight of the instrument I wanted to try a lighter wood (SG ipé = 1050 kg/m3, SG garapa = 825 kg/m3), yet still hard & stiff (E ipé = 15.2 kN/mm2, E garapa = 16.8 kN/mm2, in the grain direction). It should be withstanding string tension fine, but the Janka hardness perpendicular to the grain is a bit lower than of ipé (ipé = 11610 N, garapa = 8250 N). But of course that is no indication of how rapid it will wear. The downside of garapa is that it is a bit courser grained. Sofar its performing fine, but I've only used it for a couple of weeks.
     

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