alternative fingerboard woods

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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
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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.

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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.

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Trevor Gore
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Re: alternative fingerboard woods

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

Brushbox is another that works really well for fretboards.

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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
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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.

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Trevor Gore
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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.

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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.

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