Fretless fingerboard material options

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by mid_life_crisis, Sep 14, 2010.

  1. mid_life_crisis


    Jul 8, 2010
    I'm considering doing a build, as I am an amateur woodworker with a pretty good tool collection and it is something I have never tried. I am going to probably buy a neck, but in the event that I make my own, what are the best materials for the fingerboard of a fretless neck?
    I realize that looks will be strongly influenced by personal taste, but durability and cost effectiveness are pretty cut and dry. It either holds up or it doesn't, and it costs a lot or it doesn't, no real judgement there, just knowledge gained from experience that I hope you'll share.
    Thank you.
  2. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Inactive

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    Wood is a very popular choice for fingerboards.
  3. /thread.

    I like Padauk.
  4. Really?

    Isn't Padouk too soft for a fingerboard?
  5. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Inactive

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
  6. mid_life_crisis


    Jul 8, 2010
    Paraphrased from Wood magazine:

    About as heavy, but stronger than oak, padauk generally works exceptionally well with either hand or power tools. You'll have no trouble gluing padauk, and screws remain secure.

    Padauk also makes fine turnings, carvings, and musical instruments.
    ... it has a high resistance to abrasion
    ... has great strength,
    ... it doesn't readily decay,
    ... it adapts well to cutting board stock.

  7. There was a specific reason Warmoth does not normally offer Padouk fretboards and fingerboards, but I can't remember what it was.

    Anyone care to elaborate?
  8. Bass-Adrenaline


    Jan 23, 2010
    The wood can cause dermatitis in some people apparently. Im not sure if thats why warmoth doesnt use it for fingerboards though. You never know with warmoth though, they have some of the oddest reasons for not using certain woods and stuff.
  9. What makes you say that?
    They have specific reasons for everything they won't do wood-wise.

    For example, Bloodwood is typically not offered on the 13 degree tiltback necks, because it doesn't glue well for a scarf joint.
  10. Padouk dust is an allergen to a lot of people, I guess if you're rubbing roundwounds on it you'll eventually cause some.
  11. Glass.
  12. Bass-Adrenaline


    Jan 23, 2010
    What makes me say that is because some of their reasons are odd. The scarf joint thing in some cases is just funny.
  13. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    If you want to make it easy on yourself you can just order a pre radiused Mac ebony one from LMI...t
  14. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett
    Ebony (madagscar, gaboon (west coast) or macasser) is a very popular wood for fingerboards (*Note, I classify a fretless as a fingerboard*)
  15. That's absurd.

    The amount of dust produced by strings wearing into the board must be very, very small, and obviously it would be released over a long period of time.

    Assuming there was some dust, would it even contact your body?
    You certainly would not be able to inhale enough dust particles to cause any sort of respiratory problems unless you're snorting coke off your fingerboard, and the dust shouldn't touch your skin during normal playing unless you are rubbing your fingers on the fingerboard.
  16. Ruckus_Instrmts


    Jan 5, 2010
    For some just mere contact with exotic, oily, toxic woods can set off a serious reaction and seeing as how fingerboards aren't always finished.....well, I think you get the picture. Another interesting tidbit, people with bad allergic reactions to nuts will react to tung oil.
  17. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Most manufacturers use a moulding machine to plane and radius their fingerboards. This is basically a planer with knives ground to the shape of the fingerboard. Certain woods such as Padouk, Bloodwood and Purpleheart have a tendency to tear out badly when being planed due to the interlocked grain. If you look on the LMI website you will notice that they specify these as woods that they will not radius. Hope that helps.

    Even an ebony fingerboard shouldnt cost more than 40$ or so, especially for a fretless. Many other goods woods are far less expensive. I wouldnt let cost steer me away from my board of chioce. Since you dont need a preslotted board you could find something in a woodcraft or a lumber supplier. I will say though that every piece of wood I have ever ordered from LMI was better quality than I expected with good service to boot.
    Some of my favorite fretless woods are Cocobolo, Macassar Ebony, Verawood, Ipe and Bloodwood. These are all extremely dense woods and are quite hard to work. Fortunately they wear very slowly as well and are all very attractive.
  18. If you epoxy or use a poly finish on the fretboard, I would imagine that you could probably use any wood for a fretboard.

  19. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    There is also Larry at Gallery hardwoods who offers wood impregnated with an acrylic resin of some sort. I have seen reports of people using acrylized spalted maple for fretless fingerboards. Thats pretty serious stuff to make a fretless board out of half rotting wood.
  20. I thought Warmoth had a special CNC process or something for their compound radius?
    I would imagine doing compound radii with a planer would be difficult.

    Sorry, woodworking and luthiery is not my profession, so I'm a bit clueless in this thread.:hyper:

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