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What woods are used for "ebonized" fingerboards?


Jason Hoyt

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Well, it is obvious that my Gibson's "ebony" fingerboard is not ebony, so what kind of wood is it? Any guess's? Is there a typical wood used for "fake" ebony?

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I always thought ebony was used for ebony boards, at lease it seems that I pay more for the ebony boards. Maybe it's a huge conspiracy against me and Jason, or Jason is just part of the big conspiracy. Like everybody saying Elvis is dead and all the Elvis impersonators. Maybe Elvis is one of the Elvis impersonators and he's making more money impersonating himself, so he faked his own death and the record companies pay him to not tell people he's really Elvis, but they let him do the impersonator gig because it keeps him occupied. But, the joke is on them because he keeps winning kareoke contests and making big bucks impersonating Elvis on top of what they pay him. Or, maybe not.
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Maybe your board is ebony. Some lower grade pieces of ebony are brownish red in color and actually look more like rosewood. They often paint the ebony black just to make it look like the good stuff. Or maybe Elvis is making money off of fake fingerboards ;)
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most non-ebony ebony fingerboards are phenolic which i believe is some sort of funky plastic. i'm sure someone like greenboy could tell you more.

 

Originally posted by BNC:

Some lower grade pieces of ebony are brownish red in color and actually look more like rosewood. They often paint the ebony black just to make it look like the good stuff.

as for "the good stuff," ebony is ebony and just like anything else, coloration varies from piece to piece. almost every commercially available fingerboard is stained black to achieve uniformity. so if you get a stained one, you're not getting one of inferior quality, just one that had some lighter grain figures.
Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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but getting back to the real point: ebonizing.

 

ebonizing is the process of staining a piece of wood black. and i mean blackblackblackblack. so black that it loses all it's own charecteristics. thusly the woods used are usually those less pretty and plain grained like maple or poplar. for a fingerboard it would have to be rather hard, so i would bet on ash.

 

by the way, factoid: the old school (so old school it's actualy olde schoole) method for ebonizing that is widely considered to be the best method available in modern times is to make your own stain by soaking iron nails in vinegar. the the iron leeches into the vinegar and the vinegar oxidizes it black. the oxidized iron is your pigment and the vinegar penetrates very deeply and won't raise your grain. good stuff.

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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Ebony comes in several flavors; striped ebony can actually be quite beautiful, my EUB has a striped ebony fingerboard.

 

Pure black ebony is expensive these days, lots of ebony will have grayish streaks, or in the case of some varieties, creamy tan grain. It's not unusual for mfrs. to use it. In the case of URB fingerboards, black dye is used, though since good ebony is so dense it won't let it soak in, so it needs renewing. Black shoe dye is commonly used.

 

I got a bottle from Stewart McDonald that worked very well on my URBs as well as the fretless ebony fingerboard of my Gibson Ripper.

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Ash's grain is too open for fretboards and maple is very difficult to stain. Honduran rosewood is relatively cheap and available as well as suitable for fingerboards so chances are an ebonized finger board would be this.

 

Phenolic is a laminated material made from layers of paper and a thermoset plastic resin, formed under considerable pressure.

 

And Bastid E is right - the 'old school' method for making black stain is the best way to make wood midnite black. I turned my hands black for two weeks the first time I tried it!

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Originally posted by Bastid E:

...

Originally posted by BNC:

Some lower grade pieces of ebony are brownish red in color and actually look more like rosewood. They often paint the ebony black just to make it look like the good stuff.

as for "the good stuff," ebony is ebony and just like anything else, coloration varies from piece to piece. almost every commercially available fingerboard is stained black to achieve uniformity. so if you get a stained one, you're not getting one of inferior quality, just one that had some lighter grain figures.
Not exactly true, Bastid. The, "good stuff," which is indeed black in color, is heart wood of the ebony tree. The closer you get to the center, on a tree that has lived a long life, the darker (and denser) the ebony is.

 

From my short time at Gibson Customer Support I can assure you that any instrument with an ebony fingerboard is, indeed, ebony. The fact is it has become difficult to find old growth ebony, so many ebony fingerboards are now made with less desirable outer wood. It's still a superior fretboard material, no matter what color your ebony is.

 

Here is a short summary from Guitar Museum Online , a site with lots of info on Gibson guitars and the productin process.

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