Ebony

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by sonix, Jul 9, 2008.


  1. sonix

    sonix

    Dec 3, 2007
    Detroit
    Hello,

    I have some bumps on my fingerboard, which I thought were taken care of by the last luthier who checked out my bass. So, I'd like to take care of them myself now.

    I asked my luthier about this but I want to double check, my fingerboard shows streaks of lighter tan color underneath after its been sanded a bit. The luthier says that its natural, but I'm wondering, can I stain it before I seal the wood with linseed oil? I dont want to mess around with the camber. I just want to fix some intonation issues.
     
  2. Schoolhouse

    Schoolhouse Thomas Andres- Bass Makers

    Dec 7, 2006
    Northern Virginia
    Yes, one can easily stain light streaks in ebony. The violin and piano supply houses sell several good commercial stains but India ink from an Art supply store works just fine. Be sure to use boiled linseed oil cut with turpentine to seal it.
     
  3. sonix

    sonix

    Dec 3, 2007
    Detroit
    Does China Ink work too?

    How much linseed to turpentine should I mix it?
     
  4. Just a thought; why bother trying to color it? Wood is wood, and maybe it has variations in the color. Personally I'm perfectly ok with that and would much prefer it to the possibility of whatever dye or finish was used coming off on my hands, bow hair, case, etc. In fact, I think some of the more "stripey" ebony looks nice, and as long as it was good wood functionally, I might even choose it over a solid black piece.

    :bag:
     
  5. A question? Are the tan streaks of softer, maybe sap, wood? If so, and someone out there may know, would strings more quickly wear grooves in these areas?

    DP
     
  6. uprightben

    uprightben

    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    My bass has the same tan streaks, and I'm pretty sure they are not sap wood. I think this type of ebony is reffered to as "madagascar ebony" and is just as hard/durable as the pure black stuff. My understanding is that the difference is aesthetic, and as long as your board is straight grained and with out defect you are good to go. If you feel the need to dye it , then by all means dye away, but I like the look of my stripes personally.:smug:

    p.s. truing you fingerboard isn't going to improve your intonnation, only practice can do that.
     
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    +1!
     
  8. nicfargo

    nicfargo

    May 28, 2008
    Lincoln, NE
    If you have small streaks you probably have a variety other then Gaboon Ebony, which is perfectly fine. I would bet you have Madagascar Ebony. Small streaks of white are the characteristic of Madagascar. Now, if you have a lot of really wide white streaks, you probably have what they call Indian Ebony (or some other form) and what you are look at then is probably sapwood. What you have should be fine. If you like the look of all black, dye it, if not leave it and give it a unique character.
     
  9. sonix

    sonix

    Dec 3, 2007
    Detroit
    Yeah, I'm not going to dye it anymore. My bass is light colored so it should look nice after I linseed oil it.

    Anyone know how camber is measured? I dont want to mess around with it now, but if I know what it is, it would be a good way to avoid messing with it.
     
  10. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I have a bass with a streaky ebony fingerboard. It is just fine, and a bonus is you get free position indicators once you get to know the streaks on the board ...

    The only way I know to measure camber in a practical way is to make a template of the curve on a piece of ice-cream tub plastic or similar. Make a template at the nut, at the D stop and at the end of the FB. That measures the crossways curvature.

    if you're actually talking about the lengthwise scoop, as opposed to the transverse camber, then there's no template you can make, this is done by eye and by feel. You can get an idea of the scoop by pressing the strings at first position and at the end of the FB. The shape of the gap underneath is the scoop. You can try to measure that at certain points, but it won't tell you everything, as the scoop is not always symmetrical.
     
  11. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Its not only asymmetrical, its a different depth for each string and takes a lot of painstaking work to achieve, at least for me! :)
     
  12. We need some kind of a region-by-region masterclass on fingerboard dressing, or a multi-part seminar or something. Heck, even a good online photo tutorial would be nice.

    I've tried my hand at fixing small problems, and while I've been able to make a few fingerboards better, I wouldn't want to tackle a brand new one or a really problematic one.
     
  13. Gearhead43

    Gearhead43

    Nov 25, 2007
    NorCal
    You know, I'd bet the luthiers would rather keep their fingerboard planing secrets to themselves. :D Job security. Plus it's as much an art as a science, IMO, and they've put an inconcievable amount of work and study into perfecting their art.

    I, for one, don't want to see any drive-thru McLuthiers popping up in my neighborhood.
     
  14. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Actually there's enough information already posted in these forums to give anyone a pretty good start. But you'll have to hunt for it!
     
  15. To me, it seems like there are many good luthiers around our major cities, but there are only a handful who are real artists when it comes to precision setup work. I'm lucky enough to know two who do amazing work, and while both are (in their own ways) happy to share techniques, one's a hermit and the other is crazy. Both have more work on their plates than they can handle, and my pestering usually goes unnoticed... :D

    And yes, there is a lot of information to be had on the internet, but like a lot of things seeing in real life and feeling with your own hands is a lot different than reading, technical and descriptive as the text may be.

    Its funny; the whole "trade secret" thing has never seemed to show up (to me) in the music world, either in playing or instruments. Places I do find it are more like bike shops and tattoo studios. Personally, I'm pretty well informed in a number of fields (practical luthiery not one) and I'm always happy to share or help someone who's truly interested, even if it means a small sacrifice of time or convenience on my part.
     
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  16. sonix

    sonix

    Dec 3, 2007
    Detroit
    Trade secret is BS. If you're working on my instrument I want to know what you are going to do. Would you go to a doctor who keeps you in the dark?

    I think the more the musician knows about setup, the better for the luthier and the musician. Questions become more specific, and so are solutions. I am a beginning bassist (on first position; simandl), and I almost wanted to crush my pinky into the fingerboard when I realized, it might actually be the board that has a bump, and not my pinky not having enough strength.

    Took a couple strokes of sandpaper, and I can now get the note out. Helps to be an engineer =).
     
  17. Just so everyone knows its Macassar ebony not Madagascar Ebony, its a common misconception or misreading.
     
  18. nicfargo

    nicfargo

    May 28, 2008
    Lincoln, NE
    Eli,
    Good call...I thought it looked wrong when I typed it but just figured OP knew what I was talking about. I even kept saying Macassar but still spelled Madagascar...oh well.

    As far as trade secrets goes, most luthiers I've run into, read about, etc., seem to share a lot of information freely...except knowledge about varnish. It seems like a lot of luthiers think there is magic in the varnish, and to a degree varnish can make or break an instrument so I don't completely blame them.
     
  19. Gearhead43

    Gearhead43

    Nov 25, 2007
    NorCal
    Like anything else, I'm sure it depends on the individual luthier whether or not he wants to share his fingerboard planing techniques.
     
  20. Yeah, I've gotten this sense too, but maybe that's just my luthier. I've never gotten the "would you wait outside while I do this."
     
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    Primary TB Assistant

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