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Question concerning wood choice for...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by McHack, Nov 10, 2005.

  1. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Ok, I was putzing around in GC this past weekend & fell in love w/ a fretless bass w/ an unlined ebony fingerboard. It was new, & frankly, I've no intention of buying a new bass right now.


    I have been considering a new neck for my warmoth PJ... what I was originally WANTING, was birdseye maple neck, birdseye maple fingerboard, mother of pearl block inlay....

    My question is, how well does maple.... birdseye maple... hold up as a fingerboard wood... on a fretless neck... Not realistic? or Doable... or what. I'm wanting birdseye maple of asthetic reasons... but ebony sure does seem like the fingerboard wood of choice,, from a playability stand point.
  2. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Raw birdseye maple wouldn't be a great idea, but if you did an epoxy or similar coating on it is should be fine.
  3. Giraffe

    Giraffe Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    San Diego, California
    In my opinion, playability is not the reason most players and builders prefer ebony boards for fretless instruments. Ebony sounds great (terrific balance and high-end detail), it wears very well, and it is easy to touch up when the inevitable string wear occurs. Maple boards on fretlesses seem to sound very good as well, and they wear pretty well, but your post seems to indicate that appearance is important to you, so think about what the board will look like after a few months! Maple boards on fretlesses don't look so hot after some serious playing because the light color tends to show the wear much more than a dark board does. Maple will usually get a hard finish, and when it starts to wear the marks will be very noticeable. When resurface time comes around you need to refinish the neck after leveling the board, which pumps the price up. You could avoid this issue by using an oil finish on the board, but the cosmetic problem remains. Even with a super finish like Pedulla uses, wear will be a lot more obvious on maple than on an ebony or even rosewood board.

    Another consideration is the use of block inlays on a fretless board. The A and D strings are going to be "speaking" off of the inlays sometimes, and you may notice a difference in the voice of the instrument when you finger on top of the inlay and when you finger on top of the board itself. A consistent, even response may not be available to you. The inlays may wear at a different rate than the maple, meaning you will need resurfacing more often.

    These maintenance issues may or may not matter to you, but Tone is King for me, and I wouldn't take that plunge if I didn't have some positive testimonials from informed persons that the inlays won't create tone problems!
  4. shameandspite


    Oct 12, 2005
    Ask Gard, I think he did this with the fingerboard. Link to follow.

    Progess Pics

    (Second Page)
  5. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Also, I would think that block inlays would look strange on a fretless bass... even a lined fretless bass. Nateo did an epoxy coating on his EUB fretless (of course) fingerboard. I can attest to this being increadibly hard. The epoxy on top of this will not wear faster than this epoxy on top of ebony. I would warn that epoxying it is going to be a fairly major undertaking. Nateo must have done at least 6-10 coats of the stuff and each coat had to cure and then be basically finish sanded and buffed before the next one could be applied. I know that Sheldon Dingwall builds a dam around the fretboard and flows the stuff on pretty thick in one coat and then radiuses the board again. That could be something to try.
  6. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Well, I originally WANTED some sort of block inlay, as I love the look... But, I can agree it would look odd on a fretless. Perhaps I'll just convert my existing wenge/ebony fingerboard to fretless & to heck w/ the appearance...
  7. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    Re: Dingwall and building the dam:

    Does he build the dam with the fretboard & neck attached to body already? Or does he apply the epoxy before he glues the fretboard to the neck?
  8. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    The fretboard is on the neck, but the neck isn't on the body. There would be a risk of getting epoxy on the body.
  9. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    Roger that!
  10. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    My problem is, I have too damned many desires... to accomodate them all.

    I love the block inlay look, & was really thinking of just going that route on my warmoth...

    But, then I really enjoyed myself on a fretless & I dont have one, so I started lusting for one... My warmoth has a USACG jazz neck on it,, made from Wenge, Ebony fingerboard.

    But, i'd want my fretless to wear Jazz pups, & my warmoth has a Bart PJ setup, the P is a CB series & probably could pull off the fretless nicely.

    Then again, my USACG neck is awesome as it is... I'm leary if messing w/ a good thing, & half wanted to put it on a pointy bass.... either explorer or a t-bird, & then put a maple block inlay neck on the warmoth PJ... BUT, that doesnt get me near a fretless, now does it?

    ARGGGGGHHHH.... once you start fiddling w/ this stuff, it never stops!
  11. sounds to me like you got two basses in your mind. I don't know what the other guys will say but my advice would be to keep it that way, as two basses, and not try to conform the two to one frankenstien bass. I've had this problem, I start down the track of one bass and suddenly it's 12 different ones. I know you may probably only have the resources for one right now. So build one right now. I'd rather have to save up alot to get five basses that pull off what they're meant to perfectly, than one quickly that can't really pull off any properly. You can have these basses for the rest of your life. Why compromise what they could be?

    ;) Keep dreaming. Keep gassing... Keep rockin.