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Why don't we use something like cocobolo or buckeye burl for fretboards!!?!?


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Buckeye burl is too soft and fragile to be used as a fretboard. It won't withstand the wear of being exposed to guitar strings and fingers, nor will it retain the frets once they're installed.

Pretty sure cocobolo is used regularly as a fretboard, but its rarity makes it much less commonly seen. Bocote is another related timber that makes for another exotic fretboard option.

There's far more options out there for fretboards than just the five you list. You're not looking hard enough. A lot of Australian desert hardwoods make good fretboards - Jarrah, Gidgee, Cooktown Ironwood, River Oak. I used a piece of Merbau decking as a fretboard once that worked quite well.

Strictly speaking, any timber that has a high stiffness and hardness, and good stability once dried and cut should work as a fretboard. Maple, ebony and rosewood just get the spotlight more due to their plentiful supply (or at least before widespread over-logging started endangering supply) and the expectations of customers and manufacturers that 'traditional' timbers be used in guitar construction.

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If you've NEVER seen anything else been used for fingerboards, you haven't seen much. Even on this site there's numerous examples of other woods. For example I've used Merbau for my last builds. Cocobolo is a common wood for fretboards as well as Ziricote, Chechen, Eucalyptus, Granadillo, Padouk, Wenge, Ovangkol, Walnut, Indian Laurel, Bloodwood, Bocote, Leopardwood, Zebrawood plus of course your list - available at Stewmac, Madinter or Exotic Wood Zone among others.

The reason why Buckeye Burl isn't used for fretboard is its softness. A fretboard has to withstand the wear of metal strings, fingernails and dirty fingers. The following lists woods from soft to hard, that might help in deciding whether a piece of wood could be used as a fingerboard or not: https://www.bestbassgear.com/ebass/ideas/wood-hardness-chart-bigger-better-more-woods.html

@curtisa you beat me in typing speed 😁

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On 11/22/2020 at 5:43 PM, curtisa said:

Buckeye burl is too soft and fragile to be used as a fretboard. It won't withstand the wear of being exposed to guitar strings and fingers, nor will it retain the frets once they're installed.

Pretty sure cocobolo is used regularly as a fretboard, but its rarity makes it much less commonly seen. Bocote is another related timber that makes for another exotic fretboard option.

There's far more options out there for fretboards than just the five you list. You're not looking hard enough. A lot of Australian desert hardwoods make good fretboards - Jarrah, Gidgee, Cooktown Ironwood, River Oak. I used a piece of Merbau decking as a fretboard once that worked quite well.

Strictly speaking, any timber that has a high stiffness and hardness, and good stability once dried and cut should work as a fretboard. Maple, ebony and rosewood just get the spotlight more due to their plentiful supply (or at least before widespread over-logging started endangering supply) and the expectations of customers and manufacturers that 'traditional' timbers be used in guitar construction.

Hey guys, sorry to dig up an old post, but Curtisa, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Marri, if you have an opinion at all? It's quite similar to jarrah in terms of working with, but I've not seen anyone who's used it? I've got a nice piece at home that would be suitable, I'm considering having a crack at it. Not sure what it's actual hardness would be though relative to jarrah

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I've never used Marri. Have you tried searching for some of its properties? Google suggests that Marri has a Janka hardness of 7-8kN. Not as hard as Jarrah but harder than maple, so on face value it looks like it would work OK.

But that's not the only property to look for. You want dimensional stability, straight grain, good crush strength (for holding on to theose fret tangs), free of gum veins or anything that might weaken it etc. Maybe start somewhere like a wood database and compare the properties of Marri with the other well-known fretboard timbers and see where it fits in. There might also be other foibles to consider, such as whether the wood has extremely open pores (which might capture all manner of finger crud and look ugly very quickly) or whether it has any special requirements for gluing (maybe it has a high natural oil content and won't adhever to standard PVA?).

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