Fretless fingerboard woods.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by NickyBass, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Hey all. I was planning on having a fretless 6 string built for me. There are so many options that my head is spinning. I thought I'd ask this here since there are alot of knowledgable people on this part of the forum. I really like the feel of morada fretboards, but am unsure about how they would resist wear on a fretless with roundwounds. Has anyone had any expierience with this setup? What are some other woods that work well for this purpose. I'm not opposed to ebony or rosewood, but I'd like to know my options. I figure, if I'm having it custom made, I might as well research all the possibilities. I think I have all the other details set. I keep going back and forth about the top wood, but I think I'm going to keep it simple, with a nice grain.
  2. ebe9


    Feb 26, 2006
    South Africa
    Just about anywood can be used provided it as been acrylized (spelling) i.e. it has been treated with an acrylic compound which strengthens the would and would make it suitable for use.

    On of the guys in this forum can do that for you, the name escapes me, but he would be the best person to speak to.
  3. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Larry Davis of Gallery Hardwoods does acrylicising, and can make nearly any wood suitable for a FB. The feel is very different from raw wood, more like an epoxied borad.

    As for woods, you need something really solid if you wanna do roundwounds. Ebony is usually the only suggested wood for rounds, but I think Ipe is solid enough as well.
  4. Skelf


    Apr 15, 2005
    Moffat D&G Scotland
    Builder AC Guitars.
    Larry's acrylic impregnated woods are an excellent choice for fretless.
    They do feel different to an ebony board but you can choose how much you polish the board which gives you some choice to the feel. I usually stop sanding at about 600 grit this leaves the board smooth but not glass like.
  5. Also, if you really like the feel of bare wood and are opposed to acrylized or epoxied boards, I would suggest african blackwood. It has excellent wear properties and it's very attractive visually.
  6. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Thanks for the replies. I will look into acrylic treated boards. Is that similiar to what Pedulla does?
  7. not at all. Pedulla uses a highly polished polyesther COATING on their fretless. an acrylized board like what Larry does uses acrylic resins that are impregnated through and through into the pores of the wood by way of vacuum chamber. It's a very specialized process and there are not many other people that offer these products.
  8. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    BAck to woods, as opposite to composites...:bag: :D

    Morado, ebony and similar will not withstand roundwounds over a lengthy period. You need to dress them every two or three years. Is that a problem?

    Rosewood is much softer, you'll need to fix that yearly.
  9. msherman


    Nov 20, 2002
    Connecticut, USA
    If you are looking for something other than Ebony or Rosewood, I have used Cocobolo, Bocote, & Chechen on fretless F/B`s with great results.

  10. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Cool Mike. I like the Cocobolo. Does this need to be treated, or will it work as well as ebony?
  11. msherman


    Nov 20, 2002
    Connecticut, USA
    It`s harder than ebony, and no treating is required. it holds up quite well and has a great tone.
  12. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    After a quick internet research, I found cocobolo to be around 2200 on the janka scale, whereas ebony is supposed to be around 3600.

    I have a rosewood board on one of my fretlesses and it's been holding up for a few years. Maybe I just play really light :meh:

    Also, I think no one has metionned bloodwood yet. It has worked fine (for me) unfinished.
  13. msherman


    Nov 20, 2002
    Connecticut, USA
    My bad, I meant to say that it is denser than ebony...... I shouldn`t type in the morning:rollno:
    I actually prefer the sound of coco over ebony. I`ve built several fretless basses with coco F/B`s and they have all held up very well.
    It has it`s own natural oils in it and I always wipe the glue surface with naptha before gluing it.

    I haven`t done a F/B with Bloodwood, but a buddy of mine has and it`s held up quite well.
  14. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Numbers for stiffness and janka on the internet are bogus, I think.

    Cocobolo is right around ebony in density. There is, of course, variance within the species. But cocobolo is on the high end of rosewoods. I have used it for fretless and would not hesitate to again.
  15. tribal3140

    tribal3140 Inactive

    Nov 9, 2004
    near detroit...uh
    cant go wrong with either, coco, ebony or even bloodwood
    all excellent choices.

    and matt's, right due the the variance of .~20 or 20% with a particular species up or down in density.
    the numbers are very hard to calculate.

    natures a tough one to predict or forecast.
  16. barthanatos

    barthanatos Insert witty comment here

    Feb 8, 2006
    South Carolina
    Pau Ferro is what I've got on my Peavey Cirrus.

    Lignum vitae, anyone?
  17. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    utilizing an acrylic impregnated fingerboard really does open the door to a whole wolrd of previously unusable possibilities. As an example, here's a slice of maple that you'd never be able to use for a fretless board in it's natural state


    and pricing for an acrylic impregnated fingerboard is quite reasonable. Note that this board is only roughed - it has yet to be polished to a high gloss finish, so the wood is lacking a little depth compared to how it will eventually appear

    I am working this specific board into a fretless 4-string, and the two slices behind it will both be worked into a pair of fretless 6's

    all the best,

  18. msherman


    Nov 20, 2002
    Connecticut, USA
    I`ve never used a acrylic impregnated F/`B before. Is there any special glue or gluing techniques required?


  19. tribal3140

    tribal3140 Inactive

    Nov 9, 2004
    near detroit...uh
    arcylicizing is fine for fretlesses because it adds to that "MWAH" sound
    but it IMO ruins the sounds of a fretted bass- sounds like phenolic and diamondwood- the sound of polymers.

    to check out specs on the process go to
  20. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    That sounds like a fascinating option - if you can find a large enough piece. As an added bonus, I particularly enjoy the fragrance of Lignum Vitae.
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