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Ebony Fingerboard Blackness

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Winston TK, Feb 26, 2014.

  1. Winston TK

    Winston TK Hairpiece Adventurer

    Oct 8, 2001
    Burnaby, BC Canada
    I have seen some basses listed as having ebony fingerboards. But, upon seeing photos of the neck, the fingerboard appears to have streaks of lighter brown in the wood.

    Forgive my utter ignorance regarding wood here, but is this actually a form of ebony? My Kubicki Ex-Factor has an ebony fingerboard, and it's basically just plain black throughout.
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    There are several varieties of ebony. Most ebony is actually various shades of brown with light and dark streaks. There's even white ebony and pink ebony!

    Very often the fretboards claimed to be ebony are actually some other, cheaper wood that has been dyed black.
  3. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Good info my Martin ABG is all black. I played a Carvin and the board was really dark brown darker than rosewood the guy said it was ebony but I didn't believe him at the time now I know.
  4. lowfreqgeek

    lowfreqgeek Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    Albuquerque, NM
    Endorsing Artist: Regenerate Guitar Works, Honey Badger Pickups, Westone Audio
    Source please? In 25+ years of checking out every bass I could get my hands on, I've never seen one that claimed to be ebony, but was something else dyed black. I know woods quite well; it takes a lot more than dye to make any kind of wood appear to be ebony.

    Not saying it doesn't happen, I just think it's a huge stretch, if not a downright non-truth, to say "very often".

    Now, I would say "very often" lighter ebony is dyed black to give the appearance of a completely uniform dark wood, but it's still ebony. Ever ebony board I've ever owned (many) obviously had lighter streaks in the grain, even if it was dyed.
  5. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Fair enough, I do not have a source for proof. All I know is that, as you said, very often the boards that are solid black were dyed that way. I was just assuming, honestly, that if manufacturers were faking the color then they were probably faking the wood too.
  6. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    While the beautiful uniform black ebony is still available, it is so scarce (read expensive as heck) these days I couldn't imagine anyone using it on a production bass. It can be had but look for it on high end one off custom jobs.

    Fortunately the color of ebony does not effect it's feel or tonal qualities but if you just can't live without a solid black board, Stew Mac has you covered.


    This also works on other wood so this may be were the impression that a lot of other wood was being stained black came from, although I'd add my doubts that any reputable manufacturer would risk trying to pass off some other wood dyed black, as ebony. Individuals on the other hand...

    In my experience with ebony, the grain is much tighter (more compact) than rosewood so it would be hard to pass off a piece of black dyed rosewood as ebony.
  7. Winston TK

    Winston TK Hairpiece Adventurer

    Oct 8, 2001
    Burnaby, BC Canada
    This is all great info. Thanks, everyone.

    I own an Aria Pro II SB1000 and SB-R150, and both claim to have ebony boards according to their original Matsumoku product specs. Both fingerboards are somewhat dark (darker than my other rosewood boards), but have lighter streaks. So, I guess they really are ebony!

    They sound great, by the way.
  8. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
  9. ddhm


    Mar 18, 2011
    Memphis Tn USA
    Wow. We buy ebony from Taylor guitars. I love the idea of preserving the forests, but wow... that's power.
  10. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    It is power, but he is definitely using his power for the greater good.
  11. Ebony is not always black. Most species have tan or grey streaking, and in some species, such as Macassar or Pale Moon, highly contrasting figures are an identifying feature.

    What you are used to seeing are cuts of solid black Ebonies like Gabon. The days of seeing solid black Ebonies on production basses are coming to an end, however. Overharvesting and other factors contribute to the fact that most Ebonies have streaking in them. You will certainly be paying extra if you want solid black Ebony without dye.
  12. Teacher


    May 3, 2012
    Even much Gabon is vari-toned. It's oftened dyed for an all-black appearance. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's also nothing wrong with streaked ebony.
  13. Winston TK

    Winston TK Hairpiece Adventurer

    Oct 8, 2001
    Burnaby, BC Canada
    All of my ebony fingerboard basses are 1989 or earlier. (1989, 1984 and 1981.) So, I guess I can at least take a small amount of comfort in knowing that I am not contributing to wiping out any more of that resource.
  14. Benberg


    Jan 30, 2011
    Like everyone else said, it's not 100% black. I honestly like the natural look to it more than the dyed look
  15. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Yeah, everyone needs to watch this video. I first watched it about 1.5 years ago.

    The "truth in the forest", the reality is, there is way more variation in how wood "looks" than what we see on our end. Even within the same type of tree. It's just that a lot of wood has been hand picked for aesthetics. But the market can't sustain that anymore.

    With rosewood, I'm used to seeing boring, brown wood. Most rosewood basses I pickup, the look of the wood is indistinct. Kind of plain. But I like the tone and feel of roswewood anyway.

    My 2006 Fender Jaguar's piece of rosewood visually is more like a cross between macassar ebony and pau ferro. it has a lot of contrasting streaking in it and is a very interesting piece to look at.

    The way it is cut can also have a big difference in the look. Quarter sewn VS. flatsewn, etc.
  16. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    The pics there make it look like the wood ends up looking more really dark brown than black. Do you know how it really looks in person after using this dye?

    Also, I have an Allparts lined fretless neck with an ebony board. If I used this dye on it, any idea what would happen to the fret lines?

  17. Doctor_Clock

    Doctor_Clock The Moon Machine Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    I have two basses with ebony fingerboards, a '79 Ibanez Musician and a brand new Tony Franklin Fretless. The Ibanez is all black not a hint of streaks or brown. The TF has a little brown spot. They both sound awesome, so I could care less.
  18. I have an acoustic guitar that I built in 1980. The ebony blank that I used for the fingerboard was initially very dark brown with almost white sapwood along the edges. I was able to cut the fingerboard without using any of the sapwood. So, I did not have to use die on the board. My 1962 Fender Jazz's rosewood fingerboard and the Ebony finger board are almost the same dark brown (almost black) after all the years of aging.
  19. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    We think totally different, I would have used the sapwood on the fretboard.