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Cocbolo Fretboard Gluing

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I can't decide on whether to use a cocobolo rosewood or madagascar rosewood fingerboard on my next guitar. Never having worked with either, my considerations are only based on what I've read, and pictures I've seen.

For Cocobolo:

Tone is a bit brighter (but less than ebony) which is what I want

Colours go better with the top and neck wood (Goncalo Alves)

It comes from South America which is emotionally more in keeping with the feel I'm going for ("Buena Vista" style music)

Against Cocobolo:

Difficult to glue

Less stable

more brittle.

Have any of you built a guitar with a Cocobolo fingerboard? How real are the concerns? Any advice on how to avoid the problems? Other advantages/disadvantages I haven't listed?

Thanks in advance,


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I wouldn't say a well quartered Cocobolo fingerboard is particularly unstable, and methinks its (un)gluability has been much exagerrated. It doesn't strike me as particularly brittle, definitely not more so than ebony, which is a lovely, wonderful fingerboard wood (and also, I might add, a not always very stable one).

If it looks the part, go for it. It'll probably wear better than a MadRose board.

Edited by mattia
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I haven't used cocobolo in a fretboard, but have used it in furniture. It is a beautiful wood, is nice to work with, but does have a lot of oil that causes some trouble. It is much less brittle and splintery to work with than ebony. In fretboard dimensions, it should be perfectly stable once glued down. Gluing it IS difficult, because of the oil. What you need to do is wipe it down carefully with acetone right before you glue it on. That will clean off the surface oil and allow you to get a good glue bond. Once the gluing is done, the oil in the wood should actually be a good thing for a fretboard. Don't add any more fretboard oil to it (at least not much)... you might get a sticky mess. It does eventually dry out, but can take (literally) several months. Avoid knots. Wear a mask ... the dust is very fine and bad for your lungs.

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I think ryanb's advice is sound. I have used cocobolo for a finger board and the results were fine. I used a 2000 pound bond epoxy to glue it to the neck because I was concerned about the oil migrating out of the wood and weakening the joint. That was MAJOR overkill. Wiping the cocobolo with acetone or naptha works fine, and titebond holds just as it is supposed to. Cocobolo wasn't the easiest to work with and if I had to compare it to anything it would be something like plexi. The stuff was hard! It did put some wear on the tools, but the hardest thing was sanding it. I think ryanb is spot on about oiling the finger board, don't do it for at least 6 months. Mine turned into a nasty, dirty, mess after oiling. At any rate I don't think the shortcomings of Cocobolo outweigh its beauty, so have at it - and good luck!

Nate Robinson

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I second the glueing advise. You do want to give it a good wipe down (Naptha works for me). As far as it being unstable. I have not found it to be particularly unstable. Be sure you get well dried wood. Cocobolo dries very slowely. I picked up a board that wound up being not as dry as it should have been. I made a cut for an acoustic back and man it started cupping like crazy. I worked with the cut piece for about a week till it settled down and set the rest of the board aside for a little over a year. I decided to go ahead and finish cutting it and it wasn't as bad but still wanted to move more than it should. So buy well dried material. It does make for a great fretboard. Then again I really like Mad Rosewood.


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I built the neck and fingerboard of my first guitar out of cocobolo and it's very stable.

It wasn't that hard to work if you sharpen your tools often.

It also wasn't hard to glue. I diddn't do anything special, I just used regular yellow glue and clamped it up tight for 24 hours. It turned out fine and the whole neck is very stable; I diddnt have to adjust the truss rod after I put strings on. The tension of 11's wasn't even enough to throw it off.

Basicly for a fingerboard it comes down to looks. Just get whatever you think looks best.

Heres a pic



Edited by Godin SD
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Oh man thats nice Godin SD. I'm using some cocobolo for a fingerboard and matching headstock veneer. I love the stuff, I think it had really rich color, which is what I like, and with a little heartwood like what you have it makes it look even better. Did you put anything on it for a finish? Again very nice lookin guitar, I can't wait to use it on mine. Jason

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