Is there a relatively simple way to darken a Pau Ferro fretboard?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Billyzoom, Jul 12, 2021.

  1. Billyzoom

    Billyzoom Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2011
    Bay Area
    In my quest to finish my P build, I went from the Jazz neck I started with to a Precision neck, as I surprisingly found I preferred that feel.

    I had bought two MIM Fender Precisions recently, thinking I could sell them for what I paid or perhaps a small profit, but knowing I might cannibalize one of the necks for this build. I did, taking the neck from the standard MIM from 1999 or so, which had a beautiful dark rosewood fretboard. I mounted that neck and, though it played great, the combination of that body and neck resulted in a dead spot on the G string, which wasn't present when the MIM neck was mounted on the original body, and wasn't present on my Roadworn body when it had the Jazz neck mounted. This combo somehow caused it.

    I then tried the OTHER MIM neck, this one being from a 2019 Player Precision. This one played nice with the new dead spots, plays great. I don't really like the look of the fretboard with this body, however, which is why it wasn't my first choice to try. It's a medium brown with lots of lighter streaks running in the direction of the nut to the bridge. It might look great on another finish, but I don't like the looks in general and specifically not on this sunburst roadworn body.

    Is there a cost effective, relatively simple way to darken it without it looking unnatural or coming off on my fingers when I play? If not, I'll likely just leave it as is, because it plays great. But it would be nice to have it look the way I want too.

    Thanks for any help.
  2. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Subbed, but I think the answer is either no or not really. I’ve conditioned my MIJ P basses neck (which I believe is PF), and it hasn’t darkened quite like a RW board.
  3. marchone

    marchone Since 1951 Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2009
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    It depends on your definition of "relatively simple", I guess. The simplest way to make the fingerboard darker, that will look professional and last a long time, is to paint it. Spray it, right over the frets, with a good layer of polyurethane or polyester, tinted transparent dark brown. Then level sand and buff through the frets. Basically the same procedure as Fender does on their maple fingerboards, except tinting the paint brown.
    Lesfunk likes this.
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Is it just bare wood right now? If so, adding a coat or two of fingerboard oil (I use Formby’s Tung Oil, but there are other options) will darken it. It will still be the same color, with the same (lovely!) streaks, just darker.
  6. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    The Pau Ferro boards look dried up and bland to me, I'm surprised fender hasn't come up with a way to dye or torrify it somehow. I wonder if you could tint something like Stewmac Fingerboard Oil? The first couple coats get drunk in like water, maybe that would carry some tint down into the wood so it doesn't just wear off? I kow a lot of people have used Feibings black leather dye to simulate ebony, would a brown leather dye simulate rosewood?
    This guy uses ebony dye and then buffs it back to a dark rosewood. the trick would be finding something that penetrates.

    There is already a thread on this (of course)...
    Darken Pau Ferro fingerboard to look like rosewood?