Has this been done? Bass with different fretboard woods for sharps?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by kirkdickinson, Oct 8, 2016.

  1. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    Michael Manring has them on his Zon. With the right neck and ample tuner spacing, there isn't a problem.
    Obese Chess and Bare Bass like this.
  2. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    It was just a thought that entered my mind. As I understand it, the black areas correspondent to the sharps and flats - kind of a cool visual gimmick (not anything that would affect your playing or perception), but if the owner detunes, it kind of ruins the effect.
  3. You need about 3" between tuners, and Chris Stambaugh has also suggested hacking a bit off the lever, to make it shorter. A shorter lever would make it harder to manipulate mid-performance, but that's not really a concern for me. I'm also considering using Hipshot's new double-stop detuners/xtenders, which allow one to detune to two different notes.

    For a 3x3 headstock, Moses said the length would be about 8.5 inches, which is about the same length as a standard Fender Jazz or P headstock. So really not that hard to pull off or unweildy. And Moses would charge only $175 extra for the extended headstock. Pretty reasonable. Chris didn't mention any upcharge for the headstock, but he would charge $90 for each detuner, or $540 for six. I will probably go with the Moses neck on a Stambaugh custom semi-hollowbody of my design, using Chris's wooden two-piece bridges with hipshot piezo saddles. So I just need to decide on the final design of the neck then have it shipped to Chris.

    Dirk, any thoughts on the inlay ideas that Moses has proposed? It's your idea and you've thought about it the most.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
  4. iamprowla


    Nov 28, 2016
    OK - they won't fit four-in-a-line on a standard P/J bass head; just looking at mine with traditional larger traditional (HB2/BT2) machines with an approx 2" spacing, I reckon they'd need about an extra 3/4" spacing for the lever to clear.

    Smaller machines (BT8/HE6/M4) might be less.
  5. Yes, it's a custom project all the way, gestating for some six months now. It's all been thought through by me and two experienced luthiers. It's all feasible, just need to make the final design decisions. I should've been clearer about that. What I would most appreciate are any comments or criticisms of the inlay solution that Moses has proposed. My main concern is the possibility of uneven wear on the Paduak compared to the virtually wear-proof graphite. But I'll be using Pyramid tapewounds or TI flats, so maybe it's not that big of a deal. My second concern is whether or not the 1/8" borders between blocks will be easily perceived as fretlines, since some will merge into the surrounding black graphite. That's a big unknown, and probably unknowable until I actually play it. My sense is that I would adjust, but is the adjustment worth it?
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  6. iamprowla


    Nov 28, 2016
    Well, if you coated over the woods, then that would protect them.

    However, just looking at normal guitars, how worn does the wood get anyway?

    What about Fender Jazz basses & Ric with the big inlays - you don't see big steps where inlay meets wood, typically.

    And if you're doing flats, my guess would be there'd be little or none.

    I've got a fretless and there are some (minimal) wear marks where the previous owner used roundwounds and did side-to-side vibrato (ie. like you would on a fretted bass, rather than lengthwise like you would on a fretless).
  7. iamprowla


    Nov 28, 2016
    FYI (for completeness), here's a pic of my D-tuners with levers flipped.

  8. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I think you might have some uneven wear. Wonder why you decided on Paduk? Just looked at the Janka hardness chart and Paduk is way down the list (1725 IBF). I also think that Paduk might be pretty dark. Dark enough to make the design too subtle to really notice. Compare that to Brazilian Ebony at 3,692 lbf. Ebony is too dark. Not many really light woods on the Janka chart toward the top. Searching the chart and looking up samples...
    I found one that is pretty light. Osage Orange (2,040 lbf) which is a little harder than Paduk, and a whole lot lighter. http://www.wood-database.com/osage-orange/
    Golden teak is 2,330 lbf and some of that is lighter colored.
    Yvyraro is getting up there pretty hard at 3,040 lbf and it is pretty light. Never heard of Yvyraro before, but found a link to a photo: Yvyraro

    Found it... You need to use African Pearwood, Janka hardness of 3,680 lbf, just barely shy of IPE and Brazillian Ebony and it is a light colored wood.
    Bare Bass likes this.
  9. Thanks for the suggestions Dirk. Unfortunately, Paduak and Cocobolo are the only woods Moses uses for inlays. I would've preferred a lighter wood too, like Maple, which would better match the Maple or Douglas Fir I'll be using for part of the top.
  10. For a long time I used roundwounds on my 1975 Fender PJ fretless, which has a Rosewood fingerboard. It did need to be dressed once in a while. I'm a recent convert to flatwounds, specifically TI flatwounds, thanks to TB, so I don't know how that will go, but most of the basses I've acquired over the last year have harder fingerboards than Rosewood, including Ebony, Bocote with a urethane finish, and two Moses Graphite necks, which simply do not wear and have a cool, slick feel to them, and an almost upright-like attack (to my ears).

    Anyway, dressing the fingerboard once in a while isn't that big of a deal in and of itself. The problem is that the surrounding carbon fiber of the "fretlines" and "black keys" would not wear, so how does a luthier deal with that difference? I don't think it would work to coat the inlays with polyurethane or epoxy, but I'm still waiting to hear back from my local luthier on that.

    On all of my four-stringers now, I have a Hipshot detuner on the E string. So I've measured the footprint, and I've also considered Chris Stambaugh's idea of hacking a bit of the lever off. Six detuners will definitely work. As I mentioned above, the detuners wouldn't be used that often, so the conceptual conflict between them and a piano fingerboard isn't that problematic, but still something to consider. It will also be pretty expensive to install the detuners--over $700 if I go with a Moses neck (upcharge = $175) and Stambaugh's build (upcharge = $90 for each detuner).

    Anyway, gotta make a decision soon . . .
  11. iamprowla


    Nov 28, 2016
    4 D-tuners (Xtenders) would add a bit of weight to the headstock too.
  12. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    That is sad. Wonder why they won't use any other woods?
    Bare Bass likes this.
  13. They said that they "prefer using darker woods, due to processing parameters in our facility."

    So I dunno, now I'm kind of stuck, unable to make a decision about anything. I guess I'll let the possibilities percolate in my brain for a few days. Maybe the answer will come to me in a dream. I'm starting to think that I'm actually designing two different basses, hence the indecision when cramming everything into one.

    How about you, are you still thinking of using your piano design in a project?

    I'm thinking the piano fingerboard would be cool for practice, working out chords and relationships, especially since I'm starting to teach my son piano. I could translate some of the stuff I learn by teaching him to my bass playing more easily this way. I've always thought piano was great for visualizing harmonic relationships in a different way from string instruments. Not better, just different. Unfortunately, I never took piano lessons, so my technique is crap.
  14. Well, pulled the trigger on the piano fingerboard. I went with Cocobolo, since it's harder than Paduak, and would also make a better body wood with which to match the inlays. Chris Stambaugh confirmed that Paduak oxidizes to a much duller hue, whereas Cocobolo will darken but retain its striking grain pattern. I'm also going with the six detuner idea. I came to the conclusion that it won't really conflict with the piano inlay idea all that much. It might actually be cool to think about all the notes being a half- or whole-step down. I used to have to transpose when I played French Horn, so it will rekindle that sort of thinking perhaps.

    Anyway, production should take 8-10 weeks. I'll try to post a pic before I send the neck along to Chris. I'm also getting a Cocobolo veneer for the headstock, and Cocobolo binding. So Kirk's idea has serendipitously led me to a Cocobolo bass! The contrast between Cocobolo inlays and black carbon graphite won't be as striking as ivory and ebony on a piano, but the overall aesthetic of the bass should be quite nice. Thanks Kirk!
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
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  15. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    Wow!, I can't wait to see it. :)

    Will you have to have a much bigger headstock to accommodate all the detuners? What about the neck? Will it be stiff enough to handle all the retuning?
    Bare Bass likes this.
  16. The 3+3 tilted headstock will be about the same length as a standard 4string Fender headstock, so it shouldn't be too bad. I'll be using 3/8" hipshot ultralite detuners. Plus the semi-hollow body will extend 5-6 inches past the bridge, to a tailpiece plus another several inches, so hopefully the balance will be good. I'm also having the upper horn placed closer to the neck than is standard, in order to bring the neck up to a 45% angle, my preference.

    For stiffness, I don't think you can get much stiffer than a pure carbon graphite neck. Besides the even response across the neck, I think another advantage of carbon graphite necks is the great sustain they get due to their stiffness. A Moses neck also feels incredibly fast, due to its slickness and thinness. If you ever have a chance to try one, you should, you may be converted. I love my wood necks/fingerboards as well, but carbon graphite is a nice change of pace, and they don't sound sterile at all, at least not the Moses fretless ones. I can't vouch for other brands because I've never tried them, nor have I tried a Moses fretted neck. I'm going to pair this fingerboard with Pyramid Black Nylon tapewounds and Ghost piezo saddles in one of Chris Stambaugh's custom wooden bridges, which will be placed over a chambered middle cavity, anchored to a dual centerblock on either side, with the tailpiece behind it anchored into solid wood.

    Anyway, the detuning will probably be something I use only about five percent of the time, for droning, finger-picking stuff. It's an expensive add-on for a novel effect, but this might be my last build in a while, so I'm kind of throwing the kitchen sink at it, using everything I've learned over the last year of TB browsing to build the perfect bass for the sound I'm after. The upcharge for the extended headstock is only $175, but then I have to pay an upcharge for all the detuners as well.
    kirkdickinson likes this.
  17. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    This sounds like my rookie EUB playing. :roflmao:
  18. Kahrmine


    May 25, 2013
    The consistency is a nice visual proof that fretboard notation actually is not nearly as messy as it initially appears to be to the newer musician.
    kirkdickinson likes this.
  19. nitrobrother

    nitrobrother Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2015
    Scottsdale, AZ
    So did y'all get it done? Any photos or other images to inspire us mortals?
  20. I got the neck in July, had my luthier check it out, then sent it on ahead to Chris Stambaugh, who's making the body. The neck/fingerboard looks great, and both my luthier and Chris have been impressed. Moses really did an outstanding job of realizing a version of Kirk's vision. Unfortunately, I was too stupid and didn't take any photos of the neck before sending it off to Chris, and Chris hasn't started working on the body yet, so it may be a while before I'll have the opportunity to take photos of it and post them here.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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