Walnut Fingerboard? OK or Bust?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Old Garage-Bander, Feb 26, 2018.

  1. Hello Gals and Gents,
    Kind of long. If you want to skip down to Paragraph five, that's were I get into it.
    The rest is more for background.

    I brought this up in a couple of other forums and searched for info here and on the Google machine, without a whole lot of response. I hope you don't mind me asking here, in hopes of getting more of a response. If it is not appropriate to post here, please let me know and I'll ask to have it removed.

    I know less than squat about the different kinds of wood and how it works, or not for a bass.
    As far as fingerboards (fretboards) all I really know is Rosewood and Maple, possibly Ebony and only know them as being what seems to get used the most. Here's the deal.

    I am looking at buying a new Gretsch, Junior Jet Bass. If you are not familiar...
    Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II - Walnut Stain

    Anyway, the seem to get a lot of love around here and right up there with the Squier Jag SS, which I also have. Until just recently, there were two color available, Black, my Jag is Black, wanted something else, and Sunburst, which I don't really care for how they did it.

    (5) Now they are coming out with two new colors, and the one I have my eye on is a Walnut Stain. The thing about these new ones is that the fretboard (fingerboard)... which us more correct? Anyway, the F-board is made of Black Walnut. I know even less about this than the other woods. What I do know is this.

    Blk Wal is quite a bit softer than the other Common F-board woods. Is this really a big concern or not?
    I've read, but don't know the truth of it about not being able to hold frets very well.
    Also that it would need to be treated (coated?) somehow to improve it's performance as a F-board.
    Some people have advised to stay away from it. But have only cited it's relative softness compared to others as the only reason.

    The bass is a short scale, don't know that that matters. I like playing flatwounds, and that seems like it might matter. I don't gig, and don't plan too anytime soon, unless Eric want's wants to do Cream II and needs a bass player. :laugh: And I don't play aggressively. Just basement noodling.

    One of my questions I guess is.. If Black Walnut is so terrible, why would FMI Gretsch use it?

    How about the durability issue?
    How about the holding frets thing?
    What sort of coating if any could be used to improve performance?
    Any other comments also welcome.

    Thanks for helping me in making my decision.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
    Fat Freddy likes this.
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    A fretless has a fingerboard.

    Seems to me that Gretsch would prepare the fretboard properly for use. If I liked it, I would buy it.
    Fat Freddy likes this.
  3. Thanks.

    Fretless = fingerboard.
    Frets = fretboard.
    It all makes sense now. Kind of a "duh" moment for me.:p
    Fat Freddy, yodedude2 and S-Bigbottom like this.
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    a better question might be: why did fender, et al, ever make a fb on a fretted board with ebony/rosewood/maple in the first place? the fb material on a fretted instrument is more about tradition/aesthetics = it's the frets which do the heavy lifting, not the fingerboard.

    i think you'll be fine. i look forward to seeing pics and hearing about it if you get it. good luck! :thumbsup:
  5. Wow! I never looked at like that!
    Thanks for your reply.
    JRA likes this.
  6. Gretsch sells a lot of instruments. I doubt they would use walnut as a fretboard if they didn’t think it would hold up. Warranty claims and damage to the brand and all that. As long as the wood will hold the frets you’ll be fine. Maple, rosewood and, to a lesser extent, ebony are as much about tradition, availability and cost as anything, especially in the case of maple and Fender.
    Bill Whitehurst likes this.
  7. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Black Walnut works fine for a fretless fibgerboard. It will show wear quickly with roundwound strings.

    Peruvian walnut....not so much.
  8. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    I made a neck in about 1985 with a black walnut fretboard. It held the frets fine and seemed to work. It went into other hands and I lost track of it so cannot say as to how it held up in use. I think on any fretted bass it would be fine.
  9. Thanks for your thoughts.
    I wondered too, why would they use something that might cause problems.
    So what you say makes sense. It's not an expensive bass, but then it isn't a Blue alight Specual either.
  10. Yeah, I sure the thing will ship with some low end rounds.
    But I'll take about a week of that and find a decent set if flats.
    Thanks for your response.
  11. Well I guess that's an endorsement that's a chip off the old Walnut block.
    Thanks for getting back to me with your experience.
  12. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Warmoth makes walnut necks, but not walnut fingerboards. Probably a reason for that.

    Still, for a $300 bass, I wouldn't think about it too much.
  13. Am I old if I remember what a blue light special is?:laugh:
  14. Attention Old Talk Bassers.

    -BTW... apparently you're never too old.
    Welcome to Kmart.com
    S-Bigbottom, gebass6 and mikewalker like this.
  15. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Yes, because if Warmoth doesn't do it, it can't or shouldn't be done.
    sssmmike likes this.
  16. Warmoth doesn't have Blue Light Specials?

    Attention Warmoth Shoppers! :roflmao:
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
    ThinCrappyTone and Old Blastard like this.
  17. Well for me, that's an expensive bass. :smug: And buying new? OMG, I've gone completely off my meds!
    LowActionHero likes this.
  18. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    You're thinking Walmart. I get them confused too. :laugh:
    Old Garage-Bander likes this.
  19. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    I've used walnut for a couple of fretless instruments using flatwounds. No problem, but I did top coat the boards with water-weight CA which made it considerably more wear resistant.
    Old Garage-Bander likes this.
  20. I was going to put a walnut board on my next build, but chickened out. I'm using dyed maple instead.