alternative fingerboard woods

Talk about musical instrument construction, setup and repair.

Moderators: kiwigeo, Jeremy D

Post Reply
Posts: 533
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:36 pm
Location: North East Victoria

alternative fingerboard woods

Post by blackalex1952 » Tue May 01, 2018 2:35 pm

I'm interested in anyone's experience and comments re the use of alternative Aussie woods for fingerboards and bridges. I have some bulloak which seems suitable, but has poor cross grain strength and splits easily. I have listed some data gleaned from the internet re a few possibilities along with rosewood and ebony. I have listed raspberry jam and gidgee as I have some. Also I have heard from one respected luthier that Gidgee to his ear seems to kill tone a little.(BTW his opinion is that Rosewood bridge and bridgeplate are the best tonally. I have abandoned using maple bridge plates and use Rosewood wherever possible...this raises the obvious question: Alternative bridge plates for guitars?
name weight Janka hardness shrinkage: radial tangential volumetric tangential / radial

Rosewood 835kg/m3 12410N 2.9% 4.6% 8.5% 1:6
Gidgee 1150kg/m3 18990N 4 5.1 9.2 1:3
Raspberry Jam 1040kg/m3 13810N 2.1 3.2 5.4 1:5
Ebony 1,120kg/m3 1414kg/m3
Bulloak 1110kg/m3 16740kg/m3
Sheoak 750kg/m3 9730kg/m3 4.0 10.8 14.8 2.8
Red Ironbark 1090kg/m3 13000N
Bloodwood 12900N

Does anybody have any other data? Can anyone suggest other suitable woods?
I'm a little confused re the shrinkage data after the wood has dried to 45% or less. Do the higher ratios indicate how stable the timber is after drying, and obviously for a fingerboard how a normal moisture cycle for a finished instrument would affect neck stability given the different combinations of neck and fingerboard wood? I seem to recall seeing some data once on the dried moisture figures as well as the figures here. (source International Wood Database0
Interestingly, I made a gypsy jazz style of pick out of the Gidgee and it was actually good although a little percussive when compared to other materials. Roughly 2.4 mm thick. The thicker ones are less percussive (clicky) and the thin one I made, which is 2mm thick, is still quite strong and I think a 1.5 mm one would certainly have enough strength for the playing without the wood itself failing. The Bulloak also doesn't wear easily when used as a plectrum. There are many wooden picks available online, but not too strong and wear resistant like the bulloak. Interesting test for hardness, wear properties and brittleness...One last question: How does the bulloak hold a fret and is it too brittle for fret extraction and replacement ie does it chip easily which I suspect that it does? Of course if no one answers this question, I can easily test by installing and removing a fret...the bulloak seems to have a short long grain as well, which is why I'm wondering.
"Everything I say on the topic is based solely upon inexperience and assumption!"

Crafty Fox
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 3:09 pm
Location: Perth, WA

Re: alternative fingerboard woods

Post by Crafty Fox » Tue May 01, 2018 11:10 pm

I've used jarrah on a few guitars, but mostly electrics.

User avatar
Posts: 287
Joined: Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:43 pm
Location: Hunter Valley

Re: alternative fingerboard woods

Post by Steve.Toscano » Wed May 02, 2018 12:50 am

Jarrah, QLD Walnut, Cooktown ironwood, and Mulga are some others that come to mind that i've used successfully.

User avatar
Trevor Gore
Posts: 1309
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:11 pm

Re: alternative fingerboard woods

Post by Trevor Gore » Wed May 02, 2018 9:13 am

Brushbox is another that works really well for fretboards.

User avatar
Posts: 544
Joined: Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:52 pm
Location: Bega, NSW

Re: alternative fingerboard woods

Post by peter.coombe » Wed May 02, 2018 10:00 am

I like Lancewood for mandolin fingerboards.
Peter Coombe - mandolin, mandola and guitar maker

Bruce McC
Posts: 332
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:29 pm
Location: Canberra ACT Australia

Re: alternative fingerboard woods

Post by Bruce McC » Wed May 02, 2018 8:00 pm

Hi Trevor

Did you have any issues with using Brush Box? I understand that it is generally regarded
as a challenging timber to work because of the interlocking grain, the high silica content
which dulls cutting edges and the natural waxiness which can make it difficult to glue.
Bruce Mc.

User avatar
Trevor Gore
Posts: 1309
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:11 pm

Re: alternative fingerboard woods

Post by Trevor Gore » Thu May 03, 2018 8:51 am

The stuff I have has worked quite easily. The grain does interlock, but nothing like as much as EIR, for example. Planed with the grain with a high angle plane will give a mirror-type finish. I've glued it with Titebond, fresh surfaces, no problem at all. Again, I've probably met more silica in EIR than in brushbox. The Shed Guitar has a brushbox fretboard, as does the "All Australian". It's not as stable in humidity changes as EIR, but more stable than ebony. After a couple of truss rod tweaks it settles well. Whilst the colour is not everyone's cup of tea, the stuff I have is really hard, and very fine grained.

Posts: 65
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:48 pm

Re: alternative fingerboard woods

Post by Jim » Fri May 04, 2018 7:26 pm

I'm only a newbie to the game so my opinion doesn't carry much weight I'm afraid, but I've used sheoak which I really like for fretboards, bridges and bindings. It's dense and pretty stable, can be prone to chipping and looks amazing when finished. Bends really well too. Takes a high sheen when sanded up to 2000 grit. Mine came from a huge old tree that blew down at Dad's place.
Just noticed the other day that Cole Clark is using it for fretboards and bridges too.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Steve.Toscano and 10 guests