Oily Fingerboard Woods

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by rickbass, Jun 11, 2001.

  1. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    My first choice for a fingerboard wood is snakewood, (on the custom the luthier is selecting the stock for now). Snakewood is an oily wood that shrinks quite a bit as the stock is dried. It looks like this as raw lumber -


    It's been a long time since I've owned anything with other than a finished maple or ebony fingerboard.

    Do you think, or do you know if, a naturally oily wood, (another one is Indian rosewood), will gunk up the strings sooner than other woods? Responses based on expertise or just speculation are welcome.
  2. Tyler Dupont

    Tyler Dupont Wesly Headpush

    I can offer no input .. really nice looking wood though.
  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    That stuff is the nuts, isn't it? One reference said it is the most highly figured wood in the world, (other than freaks of nature, like burls and quilts).
  4. I don't really have anything useful to say either.. but man alive! That is nice looking stuff. It looks like sunlight on water.. if you know what I mean.
  5. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    That's a great description, steamboat. That's exactly what it looks like.

    Speaking of freaks of nature, notduane posted some kind of quilt from Warmoth that was so figured that it hurt your eyes. It was quilted sycamore or something like that.
  6. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Rippled??? That's how it strikes me.

    The price also strikes me! :rolleyes:
  7. Yeah, rippled is a good word. What do you know about it's tonal characteristics?
  8. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    If you can find their website, email Acacia. Snakewood is one of their primary fretboard woods.

    If you can't, email a big supplier. The Low End, maybe?

    All I know is I've seen plenty with snake wood boards...though, they were all unfigured.
  9. I know that Warrior uses snakewood on several of their guitars. They had a few of them at the Dallas Guitar Show this year. Chris Stambaugh also uses it on his basses by request - last I checked it was a $200-300 upcharge. You might call him to get a POV.

    Beautiful wood - especially on an unlined fretless...

    Did you find a supplier for snakewood?

  10. Hello Rickbass1.

    Well, what stunning timber. I think there's a type of ebony out there with strands of orange / yellow running through it. That looks really good too.

    Some speculation to your original question...

    I guess oily timbers are bound to clog up the strings, eh? Perhaps, though, it's all a matter of degree / time. To regular string changers that perhaps doesn't matter: for such as me it certainly would. I'm not certain that the problem would be any worse than the gunk coming from the fingers. The amount of string surface area in contact with the wood should be much smaller that the corresponding amount of string in contact with the finger. I'm certain snakewood would be OK and your luthier will obviously know.

    One thing, if it moves so much with drying, are you going to be able to keep it in tip top condition OK?

    Keep us informed.

  11. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Jeff - Thanks for the suggestion with Stambaugh. He put in a bid on this bass when I spec'd it out for Luthiers Access Group.

    Before I spec'd snakewood, I made sure there were sources, (as I did for everything else). Righteous Woods, Eisenbran, Gilmer Wood, and others get it when they can, and seem to have as reliable a supply as one could reasonably hope for.

    What varies so much is price. Perhaps it doesn't sell well for some sources and they build in the cost of obtaining it, (rare wood), and keeping their money tied up in inventory, by charging the customer for those kinds of costs. I'm sure quality also plays a part.
  12. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    John - Always good to hear from you. I appreciate your views on the "gunk thing." I think you're right, that we get more crud from our fingers than the fretboard could ever produce. After practicing, I have to wipe the skin particles from under the stainless, roundwound, strings.

    The only dirty, oily fretboard I ever had was my first one. It was made of cheap, porous, Indian rosewood. The underside of the strings turned black in short order. (What did I know? I was 12).

    So, I thought I'd ask here, what with all the expertise on TalkBass. Some luthiers offer snakewood fingerboards, but it gets ordered so rarely at present, they don't have much experience with it.

    Properly dried stock is solid and very firm, from what I've found. So, it should be a rock solid fingerboard. The downside for the luthier is that it is famous for dulling tools and the dust from it is poisonous.

    That wood you described -- could it be macassar ebony? The orange yellow strands you mentioned depend on the supplier. One of the big things I found about wood sources. is that they aren't interchangeable. Some are content to get plain jane wood while others try hard to have the most stunning stock available. One tipoff I've found to these better sources is that they often have "one of a kind" lumber for sale or special burls offered.
    For instance, some offer marbled macassar and others' stock looks ho-hum.

    Maybe this is what you were referring to -
  13. Loucks


    Jun 10, 2001
    I've attached a picture of a Warrior guitar with a snakewood fingerboard.
  14. notduane


    Nov 24, 2000
    [​IMG] NNNNnnnnnnngh! Mongo resemble that remarkably!

  15. Wow, that does almost hurt.

    I wonder how it would look with a nice finish on it?
  16. notduane


    Nov 24, 2000
    I remember votin' for a French Polish to give it depth and
    even greater hallucinatory powers :p. I think embellisher cited
    a kind of two-tone...a black background and a transluscent, high-
    gloss to bring out the grain. I can't recall the maker (Dingwall?)
  17. Does This hurt your eyes?
    Where is the Black Dot?

  18. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    gruffpuppy - OUCH! That hurts!

    I haven't slept in 4 days due to some new medication that I am on and that picture is giving me fits!

    notduane, Dingwall has a way of finishing ash where the black grain really jumps out at you, and then applies a nice stain over it.

    A similar technique on that warwoth wood would be more painful than that danged pic that gp posted.
  19. Luis Fabara

    Luis Fabara

    Aug 13, 2000
    Ecuador (South America)
    Audio Pro - Ecuador
    Uhmm.. Nowhere?
  20. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Black dots are in your eye!

    Many other oily woods have been uesd for fingerboards over the year, actually, ebony is quite oily, too.
    It seems to me, that hard and oily leaves less debris in the string than a wood that is easier to wear dust from.
    Oil doesn't harm the strings much. It will increase the weight of the string very slightly, which will have to be compensated, but you tune your axe before every practice and gig anyway.
    Dust, however, will affect th stiffness of the string, and that very unevenly! Which cannot be compensated.

    :oops: Snakewood will do nicely.:oops: