Woods For my Custom (Neck/fretboard)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Brendan, Jul 4, 2001.

  1. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Hey...mulling over the Specs on my future DP custom (a mere 2 months from ordering :D, mostly because I believe in having all the money at once, not half now, and earn the rest while it's being made...) and I've come across a rather disturbing dilemma.

    I don't know what woods to put on my neck. :eek:...the horror...the horror..

    The fretboard I wanted a dark, dense wood (IME Rosewood isn't that dense), Dave suggested Ziricote or cocobolo, while I asked about Purpleheart or Ebony...I'm really not to sure. I'm just thinking things out. Any suggestions/opinions are welcome.

    In the neck, I wanted a 5 peice, with a Maple/?/Maple/?/Maple configuration. I wanted Maple, and a dark, stiff wood. Tone...well, tone something warm I guess. I was thinking about Purpleheart, Padauk, Rockwood, Wenge, even Ebony...I'm not sure really...I was leaning towards Padauk, because of it's almost red appearance, but here, I REALLY open to suggestions from the peanut gallery...

    Little help here?:)
  2. Luis Fabara

    Luis Fabara

    Aug 13, 2000
    Ecuador (South America)
    Audio Pro - Ecuador
    I really suggest Ebony for the Fretboard.
    Or even Wenge, wich makes a great wood for the fretboard if treated properly.

    For the neck I highly suggest Wenge or Walnut. Nothing else.
    Specially Wenge, it mixes very well with maple.
    Purpleheart is also a great "heavy" choice if you like the color.

    BTW, Rockwood is not available because it Semi-Man Made, it is not a natural wood.

    Do not use Padauk!!!
    It is a little soft in my experience and I dont like the tone.
  3. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Dont use purpleheart, at least for the fretboard. Big yuck.

    I vote maple/wenge/walnut/wenge/maple, or some variation thereof. Maybe just M/W/M/W/M, W being wenge. Flamed maple, of course! Then again, ebony makes nice laminates!

    For fretboard..ebony. Nothing but.
  4. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I was sorta leaning toward the ebony fretboard myself...and now I dunno what to make the neck out of! Maple and Walnut seems to be a pretty stable choice at this juncture...But I still dunno...what is a good website to comparecolors/characteristics/grains?
  5. Dox


    Aug 17, 2000
    Millville, New Jersey
    www.warmoth.com has a section where it discribes the wood and gives you a picture example of the grain.
  6. Sammy


    Aug 31, 2000
    Pau Ferro is another option. It has a good feel and sound IMHO.
  7. what about a bass with a lot of maple on it, for example, my 5 neck is virtually all maple,,

    it goes


    the basswood is most of a vaneer of the sandwich, an accent line as the body uses the same woods with a birdseye facing, very crisp

    you don't have to go for masses of different woods

    i think a well thought out combination of woods based on their tonal and construction properties is a lot better than how pretty they are
  8. Adam Bartram

    Adam Bartram

    May 31, 2001
    London, UK
    Are you going for equal thicknesses of each? It would look odd, but different. Is it a through neck?

    I'm finishing a maple/mahogany/maple/mahogany/maple with the centre maple 9mm, the mahoganies each 2mm and the outer maple 35mm, an it looks pretty smart.

    I'm also starting ebony/maple combination with the outer maple each 30mm, and the three inner splices 9mm each (E/M/E), polished up it will look amazing, particularly with an inlaid ebony fingerboard.
  9. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    It's a through neck...and no, they won't be equal. The M/?/M/?/M will have the outside strips of maple thicker than the middle strip, which will in turn be a little thicker than the non maple strips..make sense? If not, Thick/thin/medium/thin/thick...

    I dunno, I like the light/dark dynamics...And at this point I'm looking at Maple and Walnut...I think that might be it...unless you can convince me Walnut is the devil :D. I'm seriously putting some thought into maple and ebony though, if for no other reason then the woods would match the ebony fretboard.

    Thanks for the help and keep it coming!
  10. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Something to consider - the fingerboard is the only thing holding Dave from starting the saw on mine.

    I'm waiting for some pics from two wood sources of goncalo alves pommele. The piece I would have to buy will yield at least two fingerboards, (my spec's are for a 35" scale), IF both sides of the wood are useable and the stuff cuts as hoped for Dave.

    If you want to consider it, let me know. Goncalo alves is very hard and dense. The pommele figuring makes it a freak of nature. I've been told by the wood sources mine will have the only fingerboard like this in the world, but exclusivity doesn't amp my ego all that much. It would be a shame to just have Dave send the leftovers to me.
  11. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Well now Rickbass...I'd like to see some pics of that! Thatmight be kinda cool to have. What kind of coloration does it have?
  12. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    If you can find Macassar Ebony...yikes. That's some of the most beautiful stuff I've ever seen.
  13. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    ...Well...ya'll gotta remember I'm not exactically rolling in the cash, ya know? I mean, I'm willing to get some good woods, but when it becomes cosmetic, I get a little leary... But, hey, why not get the best right? just means working a bit longer I guess...I would appriecate some pics of the woods you guys have mentioned...it's kinda hard to just imagine really hard, ya know?
  14. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Until the I get actual pics, we have to use our imagination. Because it is so unusual, I have never found any pics or even mention of goncalo alves pommele at wood source sites.

    Pommele is usually described as a figure close to quilt but not as billowy. Here's some pommele figuring in bubinga -


    Here's some standard goncalo alves to mentally superimpose that figuring on -


    The cost of the gonacalo alves with the pommele figuring is very reasonable according to the first quote I got, (under $20 per board ft.)
  15. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Brendan -

    I've got 2 basses with the neck woods Maple/Wenge/Maple/Wenge/Maple, and can tell you that it's a GREAT choice. The wenge is very stiff wood, looks great, and imparts a nice warmth to the maple.

    As for the fingerboard, Rick's Goncalo Alves is a good choice, but one you left out was Pau Ferro, which IS a rosewood, BUT is much more stiff and dense than your typical Central American/African rosewoods. I've got it on both of my necks mentioned above, and it's a wonderful choice. Sort of a combination of the warmth of rosewood and the punch/snap of ebony. It also holds up well, my fretless has stainless steel roundwounds on it, and it's only been releveled once in 5 years! :D

    Angus' suggestion of Maccasar Ebony is also a good one, it seems a bit warmer than the African Ebonys I've seen, and it is beautiful. I've got a big honkin' slab of it on my NS Design CR5M EUB, and I love it.

    In any event, good luck in your choices, and hope the bass turns out to be everything you dream it will be.
  16. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Brendan - Not to sour you on macassar, just a heads-up;

    I looked at having a macassar ebony fingerboard. The costs ranged from $42 past $70 a board foot, without s&h. The oil prices are doing damage on African and Asian woods and making S. American and Central American woods look better.

    If Dave P. has some setting around he bought at a good price, or he can get a good price since he has contacts, it could be a good deal. If you go for it, the coloring on these boards varies widely, so see a pic before you buy.
  17. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Rick...that might be really cool for a fretboard! I'm imaigining it...and if I can do it any justice...that might well be my board plan!

    Gard- About the Wenge...I just don't like the grain, and color the more I look at it. Also, If I can get ahold of some pics of the Goncalo Alves and for some reason churns my gut, I might look into Pau Ferro...

    Actually, I'm leaninf towards Maple and Cocobolo for my neck. I really like the color on Cocobolo, and it seems to be a decent material for the neck. Comments?

    Thanks for all this help. It is most interesting. That, and I've always felt the need to learn more about woods. And keep it coming!
  18. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    It's nice to see someone acknowledging they appreciate help when they get it.

    Cocobolo is what I'm using for the top half of my bass's body. It would make a good neck, too, IMO. It is very hard and is the second densest wood in the world. In fact, it's so dense, it doesn't absorb water and doesn't float, (sweaty hands?). It's naturally oily, so you might see if Dave thinks it is too much so for a neck wood

    Like macassar ebony, the figuring and coloring can run from plain jane to eye candy. The eyeball stuff comes from Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The more ho-hum stuff comes from north of there. I hunted high and low to find examples of the kind of figuring I want so Dave had an idea of how nuts I wanted the wood to look. I chose one board from 3 samples Dave kindly sent and immediately sent a deposit to him that same week to get the wood so it wouldn't be gone when it's time to cut the body.

    Take a look at www.cocoboloinc.com to see some beautiful examples and to learn about it. For instance, the trees being harvested are 80-100 years old and the Costa Rican government requires a permit just to cut down one. But, like most woods of the Americas, the cost looks great compared to stuff from overseas.
  19. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Whoa...never knew that. If it's so oily, why Do I see it as a neck peice fairly often? If it's naturally oily, I can see why it would be a popular fingerboard. However, if it's to miserably oily for Dave, I then might have to explore other options. Rick, I'm getting some good info outta this, so what are your opinions on Walnut or Ebony for laminates?

    Of course, others are very much welcome to jump in here...that's why this isn't PMed to Rick. I love all this wood stuff. It's actually fun. Go figure.:D
  20. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I've never seen Cocobolo used as a neck, and always heard that due to the large quantities of oil in it, that it makes for a BAD neck. This would, I assume, be because of all the travel that it would have as it naturally dries over the years...ie, shrinkage. Not what you want in a neck, be it whole or laminates! Don't quite me though, as I'm obviously not a luthier!

    Seems to me with all the oil in the wood that it would be harmful to new strings...wouldn't it kill them much quicker? I've seen it used many times for fretboards, but I've never actually played one with it, so I don't know.

    If it were my bass, I'd spend the money for the Macassar Ebony if you can find a good piece. Great great wood for fretboards. Not quite as snappy or "brittle" as regular ebony, and it's slightly warmer...IMO, it's perfect. Pau Ferro would also work well, but I like the ebony.

    You can't go wrong with maple/walnut or maple/ebony for the neck...both are hard, dense woods that are tonally pretty similiar. Hey, if you're that adventurous, you could get walnut for the fretboard!

    If it were me, these would be the woods for my bass:

    Ash body (or flamed maple...very different from ash, but this would be a toss up for me)
    Macassar ebony top/back (rare and expensive as hell, but it's so beautiful)
    Flamed maple/ebony/f maple/ebony/f maple neck
    Macassar ebony fretboard

    If I couldn't get the ebony top and back, I'd probably go with Flamed Koa...or maybe flamed koa for the body! Oh, choices choices...