Fingerboard woods for fretless

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by l0calh05t, Oct 25, 2001.

  1. l0calh05t

    l0calh05t Guest

    Oct 14, 2001
    Cottbus, Germany
    Which one of these wood do you personally think is better for a fretless?

    Pao Ferro

    Someone said that Ebony wears very fast on fretless basses and I'd like to know if thats right.
    (i don't know which thread)
  2. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Ebony's pretty hard. I think there are things a guy could do to mitigate the fingerboard wear, (strings, coatings, frequent wipe downs). Of the three, I'd think rosewood would wear fastest...

    In dark woods, don't rule out Purpleheart. The EUB I'm building will have a purpleheart fingerboard, and I can tell you from working with it, I don't think wear is going to be a factor! While it's a light wood, maple holds a certain appeal for a fretless board, (IMO)...

  3. I agree with everything rllefebv says. (Hell, he's in Oregon and they have super wood sources!).

    Personally, I'm more concerned with tone. Assuming we're talking East Indian rosewood and Gabon ebony

    Ebony = brightest
    Pau ferro = brighter
    Rosewood = bright

    All three can get warmth, though

    As for hardness/density;

    #1 = ebony
    #2 = pau ferro
    #3 = rosewood

    Whomever said ebony wears very fast is mistaken. As for fretless, look at what double basses use most commonly - ebony

    If you're making the fingerboard, wamara/katalox is getting some rave reviews. It's being used as an ebony substitute, since Gabon ebony is so expensive and getting scarcer.
  4. Eilif

    Eilif Grooving under the MDW runway.

    Oct 1, 2001
    Definately go with ebony. It's the hardest, and in IMO, a blank Black(well almost) fingerboard looks best. Can you tell I'm an ex-DB player?
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany

    But I would like to check out a stainless steel or aluminium fingerboard.
  6. C.Veltman

    C.Veltman Guest

    Jun 6, 2000
    Stockholm Sweden
    Hi :)

    I would choose ebony. But be aware, it´s available in very different qualitys. The finest has no grain
    and can be polished to a mirror like shine.

    I did also try a Frech fretless with a freetboard
    made of brass ! The neck was graphite.
    The instrument had a stunning tone and sustain.
    Unfortunately I can´t recall the builder...

    Kind regards,
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Wear isn't a problem if you play with a light touch, to paraphrase Brad Johnson.;)

    My favorite is phenowood(or diamondwood, or rockwood, depending on which maker built the bass), followed by ebony, pau ferro and wenge.

    The only way that I would consider Indian rosewood is if it were coated with epoxy(like Jaco's) or polyester(like a Buzz).
  8. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Probably Vigier.

  9. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    My fretless has a purpleheart fingerboard. I love the look and the feel beside the great tone.
  10. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    I second this, to all extent except the hardness/density ratio. Or only hardness, if you were trying to say they are two words for the same thing.
    Pau Ferro (Swartzia Benthamiana) has hardness 1674 Janka and density 1.12 kg/dm3; ratio is 1494.6
    Ebony (Dalbergia Melanoxylon) has 1050 janka and 1.25 kg/dm3; ratio 839.7 there are so many! But hardness around 800 Janka and density around .85 kg/dm3 is a reasonable average; ratio 941.2

    But on the other hand.....these are just facts.
    For a good fretless board, ebony is my choise.
    But there are alternatives. Like Pau Ferro, swedish lilac, hornbeam, beech, pau rosa, wenge....
    Why not go ut in the forrest and choose your own tree?:D
    Seriously: ebony. Or hornbeam.
  11. Mcbain12

    Mcbain12 Guest

    Jan 11, 2009
    What can I do with my 70's maple fingerboard precision fretless.

    I hate the sound of flatwound strings, but the fretboard is starting to wear out.

    Any advice?
  12. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    On my fretless I have macassar ebony and have had no problems( the bass is about 13 years old and in constant use)
    My main instrument , a fretted has a brazilian rosewood board and so will my next fretless.
  13. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Look into Pink Ivory. Elrick uses it on his fretless basses. Very hard, but warm sounding also.
  14. Send it to someone to get a new coating.
  15. JTE

    JTE Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    I like ebony. After I wore out the rosewood on my MIJ Fender Jazz Bass Special (partly due to using stainless rounds, partly due to my own efforts at re-dressing the fingerboard with a radius block and sandpaper due to the string wear) I had a thick chunk of ebony put on. The rosewood lasted about 7 or 8 years, the ebony's been on there about 12 years and I've only had to buff it once a year with 0000 steel wool.

    Plus, the sound with the ebony had more "life". That bass' inherent sound was always midrangey (not in a good way, but very nasal) and the change in fingerboard helped that a lot. Some of that change was due to the different string contact, but a lot was due to the ebony being thicker and more stiff than the rosewood. I beleive that the neck is one of the most important aspects in the sound of an electric bass, and making it more stiff generally makes changes I like.

  16. BioDriver

    BioDriver A Cinderella story

    Aug 29, 2008
    Austin, TX
    Ebony would be my first choice for fretless, with wenge being second.
  17. perfektspace6

    perfektspace6 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2006
    Dallas, Texas
    I'll also would go with a good piece of ebony over any other wood for a fretless.

    However if you have the option to get a composite board (Modulus etc.) or phenowood (Zon?) I would take that. Based on my experience they feel, sound, and wear the best.
  18. I am very pleased with the Pau Ferro fingerboard on my FL. Tone, wear, beauty. The research shows it to be extremely wear resistant.
    Good luck.
  19. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    I don't think the OP still needs recommendations since this thread is over seven years old. :smug:

    As for McBain who bumped it, there are two things that can be done depending on the wear. The easiest is just to have the fingerboard planed down. Easy stuff and it feels like new.

    But if the wear is severe, or it's already been planed down a couple times, you may have to have the fingerboard replaced.

    If your P-bass is in good condition and is therefore pretty valuable, I'd go this route. If it were a cheaper bass, I'd say just replace the neck as this could be an expensive process.

    But I bet it could be planed down.
  20. jibreel

    jibreel Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    This thread is exactly what I need now. I have converted both of my 35" Turner fretless basses to 34" by cutting 1" off of the heel of both of the necks. Strung EADGC. These basses have lined fingerboards so they have to go. The following pic shows the two basses: one with the fingerboard removed and one with original fingerboard on and the 1" piece I cut off.


    Turner fingergoards are very thin: 1.9 mm. The maple on the front of the neck is cut radiused so the thin fingerboard material is glued on and does not need to be radiused.

    These basses are such a specific design [ semi-acoustic/piezo only] that I wonder how much the fingerboard will effect the

    One bass has Tomastik Infeld acousticore roundwounds and the other LaBella black nylon flats. I love the two very different sounds.

    What kind of wood should I use for the new fingerboards????
    Pau Ferro
    stablizied wood
    I know there are a ton more.

    I am definitely after the warmer acoustic fat sound.

    Thanks for any input