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Fingerboard Staining Hand Black?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by GutOil, Feb 19, 2006.


  1. GutOil

    GutOil

    Jun 3, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    Hi, I hope this is on topic.

    When I play for an extended period of time (>30 minutes), my right hand (on the contact side of the index finger from the middle nuckle to the thumb) appears to be stained black. The longer I play the darker it becomes. The finderboard is suppose to be ebony. Is this normal? Could it be something other than the fingerboard? If so is there anything I can do about it? The bass is Upton's Plywood Medio Fino model.

    Thanks,
    G.
     
  2. Upton has an excellent reputation so if they say the board is ebony, it should be ebony. What is probably the case is that the ebony board has been stained to make it blacker. My understanding is that the better grade of ebony-almost completely black--is fairly scarce these days. Cheaper grades are available but streaky and require staining to be truly black. I once owned an Engelhardt ES-9 with a stained ebony board but it never stained my fingers.
     
  3. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    I auditioned an Eastman bass once which did that--they had put Feibing's leather dye on the fingerboard. I recognized it because I've used the stuff for exactly that purpose--it's a very black dye that will stain wood really effectively, and it has a distinctive bluish-black color. I had a bass with a rosewood board (a real mess of an old kay,long story) and I used Feibing's to stain it black. It's very effective.

    It's not uncommon the stain ebony because as Steve killngsworth says, dark, sold black ebony is harder and harder to find. IMHO there's nothing wrong with staining wood to make it look different. How often do you see a bass finished in clear varnish? But if it's getting on your hands whoever stained it did a bad job and didn't wipe off the excess. In the case of gthe Eastman I auditioned,it was one of the things that turned me off the bass--it suggested lack of attention to detail
     
  4. GutOil

    GutOil

    Jun 3, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    Someone (not on this forum) also mentions that it could be tarnish off the silver wound gut strings that I'm using. Does that sound plausible?
     
  5. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Yes, that sounds possible. I get black fingertips from new Pirastro steel strings. It's the metal interacting with your skin oils. Wipe the strings down with a clean cloth. There maybe be something you could use to minimize the black like alcohol or something similar.
     
  6. jmceachern36

    jmceachern36 Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2005
    Cambridge MA
    I've got a new shen and the same thing going on here. Black finger tips from new spiros and a new ebony board that was stained.
     
  7. Eric Rene Roy

    Eric Rene Roy Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    Mystic, CT
    President: Upton Bass String Instrument Co.
    Hi GutOil,

    Staining FB's on entry level basses is pretty common, although our UB basses tend to be pretty black already, so not much staining is needed. Perhaps it is the strings (have you played these strings before?). I won't say it isn't a little dye...never say never right? We usually use a dye that is true black (no brown, red or blue hue to it) and has very good wood penetration, and then we lock it in with a little "Tried & True" linseed oil. Next we rub the boards out fairly well to eliminate any rub off. Perhaps Jack took a phone call in between steps and it got overlooked? Like I said, I won't say never...we are human (despite some of the praise ;) ). And to PB+J's hinting, we try our best to put the best possible work out there everytime.

    This is a Shen SB80 bass we did on Saturday (Feb 18th).

    [​IMG]

    You can see how much staining we have to do sometimes.

    GutOil, if it keeps doing it, give us a call. 1-860-536-7555
     
  8. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    Lots of ebony naturally has streaks or marbling. The streaks are not themselves structural flaws - the problem is aesthetic. I'm sure some of the luthiers will chime in on the question of whether the more uniformly colored wood has more uniform grain, but the streaked wood is widely used on string instruments of all kinds.

    Update: Whoo. Double post. That's a pretty piece of wood. Almost a shame to see it stained.
     
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    For a Bass in that Price Range, I would Oil it up and ship it. That FB has beautiful natural grain. No need to black-face it.
     
  10. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    I don't think there's anything wrong with staining a fingerboard--it's a matter of aesthetics. The body of the bass is stained; almost all wood benefits from some degree of staining or coloration from the finish. When I stained the fingerboard on my old Kay, put the stain on, let it sit for a good l,ong while, wiped it down, then put a coat of boiled linseed oil over it to seal it a little.

    The eastman I tried had A TON of black stain on the board and it wass coming off like crazy. I have a solid wood shen and I suspec tthe board has been dyed, but nothing comes off on my fingers except--waddya know--blackish marks from the animas
     
  11. dchan

    dchan

    Nov 19, 2005
    Bethlehem, PA
    Would we then call this 'ebonized' ebony? :meh:
     
  12. Eric Rene Roy

    Eric Rene Roy Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    Mystic, CT
    President: Upton Bass String Instrument Co.
    Hey Ken,

    We actually wanted to just oil it and leave it. It is what it is...right? And pretty all on it's own. We decided against it though as we thought the expectation of the customer is to see all black. The phone calls, and the doubt, from customers who recieved this after being told the bass is outfitted with ebony can only be just around the corner.

    dchan,

    To me I call ebonized when maple or another similar semi hardwood is coated and or dyed to make it black. True ebony that is dyed is, to me at least, not "ebonized".

    Maybe others have a different opinion? Hell, I would love it if this post stood as education enough about the process that we could just leave fingerboards such as what I pictured on the Shen as is. Personally, I (and Gary and Jack) like the look.
     
  13. So do you guys mean raw ebony is never really black and always has to have a certain amount of staining? I didn't know that...

    With the board in that photo, if it were left unstained you could use the grain as position markers! It would beat the hell out of dots and bits of tape and no one watching you would ever know.
     
  14. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    My understanding--and I'm not a luthier, just a guy who built a few instruments and reads a lot--is that pure black, unstreaked ebony is relatively rare and getting rarer, and that most ebony is streaked to some extent. There are several different kinds of "ebony" as I understand it, and some are more streaked than others.
     
  15. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Only 10 to 20% of an ebony tree's wood is black. The rest is a streaky tan color and is just as hard. In general the locals use it to make charcoal.:crying:
     
  16. But you're saying that 10-20% is actually black though, Arnold?
     
  17. GutOil

    GutOil

    Jun 3, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    Thanks to everyone for their post. They were very informative. Eric, I might be giving you a call regarding strings.

    Thanks,
    G.
     
  18. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    See, that's what you get for hiring luthiers rather than marketing geeks. I can see it now: "Rare, highly figured, blonde ebony fingerboards - only $100 extra."

    More seriously, electric bassists have been more interested than, say, guitarists in using "exotic" woods. I wonder if the urb crowd would go the same way. I would also note that Taylor guitars does not stain their ebony fingerboards. They use fairly dark ebony and have used the web and brochures to educate customers about the nature of the streaks in the fingerboards of the lower priced guitars.
     
  19. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Not always completely black. Some streaking is typical; the completely black wood sells at a premium.
     
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I get the same thing from the strings when I have been playing hard - but it's usually easy to see that it's the strings and not the board, as the impression is noticably string-shaped and 'grained'...... ?

    I never got this from playing BG or EUB (lighter touch - less sweaty?) and I suppose there might be a temptation to think it's the board, if you haven't got it from other types of strings in the past?