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Fingerboard Made Of Mother Of Pearl?


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Can anyone tell me a good reason why it would be a very bad idea to use mother of pearl as a fingerboard? I found an old italian guitar company by the name of Baleani that used mother of pearl over their fingerboards and it looked great. I'm thinking of designing a neck-through with a bit of 50's-60's styling and that mother of pearl would look great. What about laminating it to a traditional fingerboard? what could be some problems with this design? Any thoughts?

Thanks - Eddie

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Can anyone tell me a good reason why it would be a very bad idea to use mother of pearl as a fingerboard? I found an old italian guitar company by the name of Baleani that used mother of pearl over their fingerboards and it looked great. I'm thinking of designing a neck-through with a bit of 50's-60's styling and that mother of pearl would look great. What about laminating it to a traditional fingerboard? what could be some problems with this design? Any thoughts?

Thanks - Eddie

Well the first thing that comes to mind is that wood expands and contracts at a greater rate than shell, so you might run into a problem there. That said you need to have a very stable fingerboard IE. low moister content to start with. As long as your fingerboard is stable and you think it would make the project a hit why not try it. you just need to keep this guitar from moving from extremes temp and humidity and let it acclimate slowly when moved to a new location as you would any guitar, but this one more so. Ten years down the road you may see a little lifting here and there but nothing that is not a kwik fix.

That's my two cents anyway good luck and have fun with it.

Mike

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A mother of pearl overlay covering the entire exposed bit of wood is actually fairly common on Banjos. DePaule Supply actually sells pre-cut sets for that very purpose. Expansion and contraction shouldn't be an issue in any piece of wood seasoned enough for fingerboard use, although I would use rosewood over ebony (more stable in general) in this applicaiton. You don't want to have much if any radius, though, as it would require massive hunks of shell.

Martin's also made stuff with corian fingerboards and bridges when they're trying to recreate that 19th century ivory board/bridge look.

You'll also likely want to glue the frets in.

Edited by Mattia
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Thanks everyone for the help. After a little more research I found that what was being used on those old guitars was lucite. The mother of pearl might have been a thin laminate underneath the lucite. A lot of lap guitar fingerboards use that same method. It's definitely an over-the-top look, but it may be just the thing for the 60's inspired thing bouncing around in my head. I'm going to experiment with different gluing methods and see what works best.

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Thanks everyone for the help. After a little more research I found that what was being used on those old guitars was lucite. The mother of pearl might have been a thin laminate underneath the lucite. A lot of lap guitar fingerboards use that same method. It's definitely an over-the-top look, but it may be just the thing for the 60's inspired thing bouncing around in my head. I'm going to experiment with different gluing methods and see what works best.

They sell paper thin Lam sheets of MOP. Thin enough to place under a finish? This could work and save you big bucks and time. Probably better with binding since I have no idea if it has any backer material that may show. It must be flexable enough to wrap over a fingerboard.

I can tell you if you are in the US it will be expensive using solid mop. Plus it comes in .05 and .06 not really thick enough to go too far around a radius without using several Pieces. The first half dozen frets will be a pain because it will require many large pieces to fill the gap or many small pieces. Then after all that work you will probably have to glue in the frets.

Here is a link for the thin sheets .006 inches thick best I can find for reference. This would save many hours of work not sure about the money part.

Ebay Veneer Shell Auction for reference

Edited by Woodenspoke
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I was looking through an issue of guitar player magazine today and saw an ad for a Parker acoustic with an "ivoroid" fingerboard. It looks as if someone else had the same idea, and much more means with which to accomplish the thing. They look pretty nice, and I imagine the fingerboards would hold up well. So now there are three good alternatives to chose from; ivoroid, MOP veneer, and artificial MOP venner (which costs 50% less than the real stuff). all of these could be topped off with lucite which can be shaped and buffed to a shine.

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