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Purpleheart as a fretless fingerboard

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by embellisher, Apr 26, 2009.

  1. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    OK, I did a search on this, but didn't find much info.

    I am thinking of getting a Conklin GT-7, and if I like playing a 7, then either getting a second GT-7, or a BD-7, or maybe even having a Roscoe 7 built.

    If I do any of these things, I will wind up defretting a GT-7 and using it for a fretless.

    I have never had any experience with purpleheart as a fretless fingerboard.

    How does it sound?

    How durable is it?

    Will it hold up unfinished, like pau ferro or ebony, or will it need a hard finish? I prefer to use stainless steel rounds on a fretless.

  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

  3. Foamy


    Jun 26, 2006
    Sac Area
    As a woodworker, I can say that it is not quite as hard as ebony. I'd say it's about the same as wenge. That is still darn hard. But I can't honestly give an opinion as to its toughness for a fingerboard. My "guess" is that it would be fine with just oil. It's pretty hard stuff.
  4. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    I've used purpleheart for fingerboards for years, including on fretless basses. I've had great results with it! Very subjectively- to my ears it doesn't compress the notes as much as ebony does, maybe because it is less oily. Anyway, it is very durable and very stable, good choice!
  5. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    It's pretty too.
  6. Foamy


    Jun 26, 2006
    Sac Area
    Also, when you first cut it, it can (will) look brownish. Set it out in the sunlight for a bit and that purple will blast out of that wood very nicely!
  7. fullrangebass


    May 7, 2005
    I've owned a fretless 6st w/ purpleheart f/b. Not being the best fretless player, I cannot comment over the tone with great comparative detail. The notes sounded more middy and open (compared with the ebony and the ironwood(???) that were on my other fretless basses)

    I've owned another 4 purpleheart f/b basses and never had any problems (still own 2 of them)
  8. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Thanks for the input, guys! Anybody else have experience with purpleheart as a fretless fingerboard?
  9. Not sure about the question marks around ironwood, Im guessing you mean Pao Ferro (Pao I assume means tree or wood, ferro being ferrum (ie iron).

    (which I must admit, while not on topic, is a nice fretless fingerboard (but my only other major experience has been with a maple one)).
  10. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City
    Weird, that's completely the opposite from what I've experienced with purpleheart: Back when I worked in an architectural millworking shop (many moons ago) we would saw open a plank of purpleheart and see this beautiful deep violet color. A week in the sun and it would have turned to a coppery-brown patina if we didn't use some sort of finish/sealer.

    At the time (this was in 1987) my coworker built a pickguard for his Strat out of purpleheart. 20+ years later his pickguard is now the color of baby poop.
  11. Foamy


    Jun 26, 2006
    Sac Area
    Odd, for sure. I turn a lot of pens and make a lot of boxes out of purpleheart. If I burn it just a bit when cutting, I get that sweet smell and it can be purple, but if I cut it cleanly, I always need to give it a half hour to an hour in the sunlight.
    Oh well...

  12. fullrangebass


    May 7, 2005
    The "ironwood" was definitely NOT pau ferro. It was more similar to teak in overall appearance and hardness, but more dark brownish in color (not dyed). Still beats me as to what exactly what wood it was
  13. Hopper


    Sep 24, 2008

    Here's a good example from ACG guitars.
  14. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Check with Gard...since you're thinking Roscoe, I've got to think Keith has good input on this...he's well known for using purpleheart fingerboards.
  15. Ironwood is Pau Ferro. For sure. I also know where a Conklin BD signature bass is, converted fretless with the purpleheart finger board. The work was done by Mr. Mike Lull, according to its owner, whom I trust, and the Purpleheart board is spectacular. Tough, very much like Wenge, but smoother in feel and finish. The BD is for sale, I wanna buy it, but funds scarce lately. Lemme know if you have questions, maybe you are interested.
  16. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    I've never played a fretless purpleheart fingerboard (although I have a piece that will work perfectly if I ever choose to build my bass), but I've played a couple purplehearted fingerboard basses and I'd agree that they are geared more toward the high mids.

    If you put flats on, you certainly have nothing to worry about. If you want rounds, I might suggest a thin coat or two of some clear enamel spray paint. I have some on my rosewood board (with rounds) and I only have one mark from where I dropped my bass and it knocked a string imprint into the wood.

    Have you checked YouTube for purpleheart fretless basses?
  17. fullrangebass


    May 7, 2005
    I know that ironwood translates to pau ferro, but... that wood was definitely NOT pau ferro (I've owned 10 basses with pau ferro board to know how that wood looks)
  18. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member


    Anybody else have experiences with a fretless purpleheart fingerboard? Tone, durability, etc?
  19. LowB-ing


    Aug 3, 2005
    Ironwood is also known as hornbeam. Wal used it in their necks.

    Back to the purpleheart topic :ninja:
  20. There's a guy on here that's had his Conklin GT-7 defretted. I think his name's 7string IIRC. Maybe PM him, he's a great guy. He's helped me out in the past.

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