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Sapele for a fretboard?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Verkton, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. Hey everyone,

    Work is progressing nicely on my Ric inspired bass:


    However, hit a small snag today, I think the rosewood I've got for my fingerboard might just be a little bit too thin, once its been radiused down (I don't think there will be enough meat left for 2mm side dots). However, I do have a couple of nice pieces of sapele lying around that would do the job nicely. Has anyone used these before? If I decide to use them, I will probably gloss lacquer them in the Ric style (Which was not my intention with the rosewood).

    Any thoughts?
  2. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    Sapele and mahogany are too soft for fretboards. They will eventually have ruts after being played for while. How thick is the rosewood blank? Should be 1/4".
  3. It's 5.5 mm, which i think is just slightly under 1/4. Certainly a lot thinner than my Jazz bass. Its going to have a 12" radius.
  4. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    Some people make their side dots so the middle of the dot runs through the line where the fretboard and neck are joined. Maybe that would solve the problem?
  5. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    i would not use sapele for a fingerboard.
  6. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
  7. Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I'll give it some consideration - the data about hardness vs maple is food for thought. I do also have a piece of Bubinga that I could use, although I wanted to use this for another projet. The Rosewood won't be wasted, I could always use it for something that requires neck binding.

    I don't know if it will make any difference, but I will gloss lacquer this fingerboard like Ric do on their production models.
  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Sapele IME is not very dense, and guessing not enough to hold a fret properly.

    Bubinga would be fine, though.
  9. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Published numbers put sapele around where hard maple is, maybe 5% less stiffness, density, and side-hardness. There are published numbers where janka is higher (1500 v. 1450) but also I have seen 1400. I lament that there is never a source attached to published data on the internet and that no variance is ever indicated.

    My sense from using sapele is that in general it is softer and less stiff than hard maple. Subjective, yes. My own opinion is that hard maple is the low end of strength characteristics for a fingerboard wood, and considerations must be made when using it. Sapele could be used for a fingerboard, possibly successfully, but I wouldn't do it.

    IIRC, bubinga is a wood that Rickenbacker has used (uses) on 4003s for fingerboards.
    Lacquer won't make any difference in terms of strength characteristics.
  10. Thanks guys,

    After a day of consideration in the 'shop, I've decided to go with the bubinga. The rosewood will still be useful, I'll probably use it on the bass somewhere, maybe for decoration or pickup rings.

    Thanks very much for everyone's advice!

  11. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    5.5 mm is fine for a fretboard, I have done 5 before. I used the 1/16" diameter side dots Stew Mac sells and all was well :).