Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Leopard Wood

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by kegbarnacle, Nov 26, 2003.


  1. kegbarnacle

    kegbarnacle

    Nov 18, 2003
    Phoenix
    This is the first time i have built an entire bass - instead of just the body and buying the neck. I would like to use leopard wood for the finger board. I had never seen it before.... very cool wood!! However, while it is listed as a hard wood and seems very rigid and heavy, the spots - which are lighter than the rest of the wood - seem soft. I have not finished this wood with anything yet. Does anyone have any familiarity with this wood? Will it work as a finger board or will steel strings destroy the spots?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Just and observation and then I'll bow the experts...

    It doesn't sound like a good thing to have a tonally important component like a fretboard with wildly varying densities.

    I simply don't see how this would work well.
     
  3. kegbarnacle

    kegbarnacle

    Nov 18, 2003
    Phoenix
    I was sort of thinking the same thing but hoping otherwise. Based purely on looks I think it would be a great fingerboard. I found a picture on the net, here's a link:
    http://www.righteouswoods.net/leopardwood_pics.html

    plus there's the cool factor of "i've never seen it before". Maybe there's a reason for that... I was going to use a part where the spots are more even and symetrical. I'm not even sure if the densities are different, but it does seem that way....
     
  4. Skorzen

    Skorzen

    Mar 15, 2002
    Springfield MA
    Something you should keep in mind is that leopard wood(more commonly called lacewood) has a wildly varying pattern depending on how it was cut. If you hade a really nice uniform looking piece and the radiused it for a fretboard the pattern would change.

    As for suitability for a fretboard, I wouldent worry so much about the varying densities. Look at some of the basses like JT's doulble neck in which the fretboard is made up of more than one kind of wood. That must have varying densities, but every one I have heard who has played one of these style basses says they sound very even. What I would worry about is that lacewood is a 840 on the Janka scale(maple is 1450) Now I imagine that if you got a stabilized board ala gallery hardwoods it might work. I really don't know though because I have no expirience with that sort of stuff.
     
  5. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Lacewood and leopard wood might be different species, but they're essentially the same thing. I would not characterize this wood as hard and heavy. The very large rays (spots) are not the least bit dense.

    Larry might be able to stabilize this stuff into a good fingerboard wood, but otherwise, I wouldn't try it.
     
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Years ago when Lacewood started coming out of Brazil instead Australia I saw another pile in the lumberyard marked Leopardwood. The Importer/supplier told me it's the same wood or group of species except for the weight. If the wood is light , it is sold as Lacewood. If it is heavier, It is sold as Leopardwood. Kinda like the same thing with Southern Ash and Swamp Ash. It is sold by weight.

    Another point of interest now that Lacewood is on the subject. I see many companies from suppliers to builders calling thier Lacewood 'Austrailian Lacewood' . To my knowledge and supplier information, all Lacewood has been comming out of Brazil for at least 10 years. Even Australia orders Lacewood from Brazil , thus a short supply in the USA since Australia will take it in any form , flat or quartersawn. The USA distributers request only Quartered Lacewood, hence USA orders are filled last. Geninue Australian Lacewood is endangered and in short supply. There are 2 basic species in Australia and about 2 in Brazil with the lace/flec pattern and the orange color. London Plane and American Sycamore also have this pattern but mostly white Maple type color on the Sycamore.

    All these wood varieties with similar color and pattern are completly different species with a similar look. Kinda like the two main mahoganies from Africa and South America..... Similar , but different....

    Wood's a funny thing when you think about it.....

    Oh, and to keep on the subject, I would never in a million+ years use it for a fingerboard. Go with proven wood for crutial parts as a rule.
     
  7. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Ken, would you consider using stabilized wood for a fingerboard ? Say quilted maple or Spalted purpleheart ?

    What do you think of the stabilized woods that builders are using now ?


    or should I say "Kenny ?"
     
  8. mslatter

    mslatter

    Apr 8, 2003
    You can consider using it with a penetrating epoxy such as http://www.rotdoctor.com/products/product.html. That particular product was designed to stabilize rotting wood, but I recently chatted with a couple people who love it for strengthening wood for fine lathe work.
     
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Don, I do not have any experience with the so-called ' stabilized woods'. On the other hand, I have no intention at this time to try them either.

    The fingerboard is an important part of the instrument.

    What is wrong with tried and true woods that have been used successfully for centuries?

    I would not use Quilted maple or spalted wood of any sort for a fingerboard either!
     
  10. RobbieK

    RobbieK

    Jun 14, 2003
    Looks like silky oak to me. A very common (and quite beautiful) Australian timber found in lots of old furniture and joinery.
     
  11. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
  12. RobbieK

    RobbieK

    Jun 14, 2003
    An old friend of mine has a beautiful solidbody made by Gary Albrecht, with a silky oak top. We used to rib him by calling it "the coffee table". It can be a stunning timber, especially under clear gloss IMO, (although its usually seen stained dark brown and french polished) but here in Australia, it is so common in 2nd hand furniture shops etc, that we kinda cringe when we see it in a guitar! - Funny.

    I wouldn't use it as a fret board, unless it at least has poly on it and you use glue when fretting, or as has already been suggested, it has been "stablized" with resin impregnation. It is generally no tougher than mahogany. Might be better as a headstock vaneer, or as a decorative drop top. Perhaps as a neck, but with graphite reinforcement.
     
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Per USDA Forestry: the species Grevillea robusta is known as Lacewood, Silky Oak, Southern Silky Oak, and Kawilia.
     
  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Per GRIN:
    Brosimum guianense (Aubl.) Huber, syn. Brosimum aubletii and Piratinera guianensis Aubl. is known as Leopardwood, snakewood, and several other names. Found in North and South America.
    Flindersia maculosa (Lindl.) F. Muell. is known as Leopardwood, and is found in Australia.
     
  15. Garey

    Garey Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2003
    Northern California
    Artist Relations/Product Specialist: Mesa Boogie
    We have Lacewood growing naturally here in Hawaii, too. We call it Silky Oak...and there is a supplier on the Big Island, who I've turned on to many luthiers as a source for Koa....

    Steve at Hawaiian Hardwoods Direct www.curlykoa.com

    Lacewood is gorgeous for a top veneer...but not for fingerboard.

    Aloha, Garey
     
  16. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    The lacewood we are talking about here is almost certainly not the brosimium/pratinera, which is commonly sold as snakewood. Apparently somewhere they call it leopardwood. Piratinera is plenty dense and hard for a fingerboard if you can find a piece that isn't full of defects.

    Australian silky oak is generally the name for cardwelia sublimis. As Ken said, what we see here is most likely not from Australia, and more likely a south american variety. I'm not sure if the Brazilian stuff is cardwelia or grevillea.
     
  17. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    FBB, It is neither, as stated on my wood pages. Go here to see the names; http://www.kensmithbasses.com/woodpages/lacewood.html

    This wood is shipped by the boat load ''to'' Australia from Brazil.

    The two species you listed are native of Aust. and are in short supply, hence the import of a similar looking & working wood from Brazil.
     
  18. tdogg

    tdogg

    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    hmmm i just went to the lumberyard today and bought a georgeous peice of leopard wood... just the right size for a fingerboard. i think i might look for something else
    [​IMG]

    but its soooooo pretty!!!!!! ( i could have sworn that i saw someone use this for a fingerboard in the past)
     
  19. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    I've used it for neck stringers, I don't think I'd use if for a fingerboard but that's me.
     
  20. tdogg

    tdogg

    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    yeah ill probably be shopping around for some ebony or wenge, but it seems like a shame to cut up that grain pattern for neck stringers