Open-pore woods as fretless fingerboard

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Le Basseur, Mar 30, 2002.

  1. Le Basseur

    Le Basseur

    Mar 26, 2002
    What about using,instead the classic ebony or rosewood,something in the wenge-padouk-bubinga range as fingerboard on fretless basses?
    I mean ,eventually,on budget repairs,wich means the instrument itself is not that worthy of investing,or the owner cannot afford ebony!
    And,what about the open pores on wenge-padouk,wich come out on a sanded surface?
    What's the sealing method?
    Thank you!
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I remember talking to Sheldon Dingwall about using wenge as a fretless fingerboard once. I believe for reasons of durability, he coated the fingerboard with epoxy.

    It's unclear to me whether the open pores would create issues other than durability-related ones. At any rate, coating with epoxy is going to add at least a couple of hours to the preparation of the fingerboard. This labor cost will quickly cancel out the savings in wood costs, so using an alternative open-pored wood is probably best done for another reason: either looks or tone.
  3. Pete skjold

    Pete skjold

    May 29, 2004
    Warsaw Ohio
    I agree. I do use Bubinga for fingerboards and it is one of my fav's . It makes a great fretless board and holds up well. The tone is very defined but warm around the edges. Bloodwood is my favorite for fretless. You might check on it ,it is cheaper than ebony and is also harder.
  4. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    UI use both Bubinga and Wenge. Bubinga does hold up better. I fill the open pores with CA glue.......t
  5. I've never done any of this but I would imagine that a natural finish without proper pore filling would invite every manner of finger gunk, ground up wood, sweat, boogers, whatever to build up and you'd NEVER get it completely cleaned.

    IMO best to do it up front and not take any chances.
  6. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    You might also consider a open pore or soft wood that has been stabilized from Gallery Hardwoods (

    Of course, the stabilization process fills the pores, and also costs a little bit more.... but Gallery can do it to very soft woods including black limba and even spalted maple if you want a very distinctive and unique looking fingerboard. I'm currently building a 5 string with a stabilized birdseye maple fingerboard from Gallery, and have two other stabilized leopard wood fingerboards waiting for basses as well.

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