Fretless Purple Heart board...will it work well compared to ebony?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TheOriginalName, May 7, 2019.

  1. TheOriginalName


    May 28, 2018
    Hey Talkbass.

    I think I’ve decided to try to go fretless. I wanted to ask if any of you have experience with purple heart as a fingerboard wood on a fretless, and if it’s hard enough. Sorry if this is in the incorrect category.

  2. Ghastly


    Oct 18, 2015
    Mill Valley
    I'd like to see what it looks like. I have nothing to contribute though. Sorry.
  3. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    Its hardness, on the Janka scale at least, is similar to rosewood, so quite a bit softer than ebony. I don't have any actual experience with it, though. Janka hardness test - Wikipedia
    shodan likes this.
  4. eastcoasteddie

    eastcoasteddie Guest

    Mar 24, 2006
    Purple Heart rates at 1860 lb/f on the Janka Hardness scale. Ebony rates at 3220 lb/f (species dependent)
  5. Supadope

    Supadope Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2015
    My goal is to leave the world a cooler place than when I arrived.
    I say go for it. A Purple Heart fretboard will be unique and hopefully sturdy enough.

  6. TrustRod

    TrustRod Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2016
    Northern California

    I've had this one since 1992, for a while it was my main bass. It may not be as hard on the Janka scale as some ebonies but it is very abrasion resistant and I feel will outlast ebony.
    Supadope likes this.
  7. Gunga Din

    Gunga Din

    Jun 22, 2018
    I have this bitsa I put together a few years ago. It has a Warmoth neck with bubinga shaft wood and a bloodwood 'board. Bloodwood has a Janka a little bit less than macassar ebony but more than certain rosewoods. I'm running Dunlop flats on it and I wouldn't say the tone is as prominent as some ebony 'boards I've tried though there is a punchy tone and a long note decay. The shaft wood must play some part, too, I'd suppose.
    jamro217, mikewalker and Jason42 like this.
  8. TheOriginalName


    May 28, 2018
    Would it be a lot to ask about the rest of the woods used? That’s a gorgeous bass, holy moley.
    jamro217 and zon6c-f like this.
  9. Gunga Din

    Gunga Din

    Jun 22, 2018
    Sure. It's quilted maple over mahogany, so you can't stand for long with this baby. It's has a light stain and a nitro rattle-can finish. The two 'plates are also bloodwood.

    Edit: You can't see much of the quilting from the angle the photo was taken.
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
    zon6c-f likes this.
  10. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    It will be OK! Just keep in mind that PurpleHeart will oxidize and turn brown eventually (sooner than later, if it isn't lacquered or Cyano-Acrylated...)
    Last edited: May 8, 2019
  11. I've got a Wishbass with a purpleheart fingerboard that I bought in 2004. It has no finish on the fingerboard at all, although I do put some cutting board oil/wax on it about once a year. For several years, it was my (and then my son's) "go-to" bass. I can't remember what strings Steve shipped it with (they were rounds), but we've usually strung it with D'Addario EXL170 nickel rounds. You can see some light string winding marks on the board, but there are no gouges or divots after years of gigging and rehearsing.
    TrustRod, Supadope and mikewalker like this.
  12. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Pittsburgh-ish, PA
    Just coat it with urethane (satin finish, if you want less traction than gloss), and it will totally last.
    jamro217 likes this.
  13. IronSpatula


    Dec 13, 2003
    Northern CA
    This 100%. My (fretted) Conklin’s board went from purple to grey-brown in 4 or 5 years. Polishing with 0000 steel wool and butcher block oil helps but it will never be quite the same as new.
    jamro217 likes this.
  14. Aidil


    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    No complaint or whatsoever on the subject of using purpleheart for the fretless side fingerboard on this one (the fretted side is jatoba):

    Tuffluck, rtav and mikewalker like this.
  15. It’s certainly a suitable wood for that purpose and quite a bit harder than rosewood ime. Won’t stay purple indefinitely though as mentioned. Also, as mentioned, bloodwood has similar qualities and will retain its red colour if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.
  16. Gunga Din

    Gunga Din

    Jun 22, 2018
    I have one of those in Dragoneye Burst!

    +1 to coating the purpleheart. I forgot to mention that the 'board on my bass (further up) is coated with a few layers of tung oil. Purpleheart will, IIRC, be rather porous so any oil coating you do, beware that the wood will absorb it. Cyano is a good way to go but it's messy, has to be scraped then radius-sanded before polishing. I'd let a luthier do that.
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
  17. George Himmel

    George Himmel

    May 16, 2009
    Back in San Diego, babyyy
    Former Manager, Bass San Diego
    Purpleheart sounds great as a fretless (or fretted) fingerboard. And Janka hardness becomes pretty much moot if you coat it (which would keep the purplish color longer).
    Supadope likes this.
  18. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    It will look great but it won't be unique.

    ramp two.JPG


    My board is covered with epoxy though. I couldn't tell you how the purpleheart holds up although, in my research, it seemed to be a suitable although odd choice. As @mikewalker mentioned, the purple will brown without protection.
    Gunga Din, jamro217, TrustRod and 4 others like this.
  19. TheOriginalName


    May 28, 2018
    How about Bubinga?
  20. You could use stained maple.