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Choosing A Fretboard Wood

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So how does one go about going "this wood is ok for a fretboard"? Yeah we all know rosewoods, ebonies, purplehearts, maples, etc. etc. are good choices. But what do you do when you come across a piece of wood that you DON'T know if it'd be hard/durable enough for a fretboard but think it'd look good if it was. What do you do to find out? Look at fact sheets and compare durability and hardness numbers... what ranges are good for fretboards? What about woods you don't know the species of? Any "press a thumb-nail in, etc." tests or the like? Or what about a piece by piece analysis? Cause I've heard from some people "most koa won't be good for a fretboard, but every now and then I come across some that does work for it". How does one judge something like that?

Any tips and tricks would be great.


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i once saw somebody impregnate an otherwise unsuitable wood with epoxy and use it for a fretless...don't know how well it worked out...but i THINK holding the frets in is a major consideration.

add to your list bocote and bubinga...bocote you do not have to put a hard finish on,i think with bubingayou do.

i don't know...i feel like the fingerboard should be the hardest wood on the guitar.

think quartersawn...very important for a fingerboard

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Oh, I can add ALOT of others to that list too. But what really got me thinking about this are two people:

1- Ron Thorn, who uses Koa (which I hear is a no no on FBs) but then told me he only has found a COUPLE piece he can do it with... was just wondering what makes those pieces totally different from others.

2- Roscoe Basses. He uses sapwood mixes for fretboards that are just AMAZING looking. Also uses some spalted purpleheart etcv. alot... but personally it's the sapwoods that I'm interested in.


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Heartwood vs Sapwood. This should give you everything you need to understand the difference-click

From a woodworking point of view-click

I don't think there is a good hard rule of thumb on whether or not to use it, but understanding that part of the tree is very different from the heartwood will clue you in as to what you should watch out for in that part of the wood. It looks great when bookmatched and I love to use it for ornimental reasons. Some sapwood is extreamly durable because of the species(ebonies, rosewoods and so forth). It will most definately be more pourous than the heartwood of that species(but that isn't to say Ebony Sapwood is extreamly pourous compaired to even some other species heartwood). The one thing you would definately want to be sure of is that the wood is dry and has stabalized. You would also want to consider future movement between the wood you are glueing it to(which is true of any wood). Just treat it as a different wood than heartwood of that species and you will do fine.

As far as fretboard selection(IMO). Durability, Stability, feel, how well it holds frets, finishing,looks, density and stiffness all come into play in my selection.


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