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Saturday, April 25, 2015

FingerBoard wood selection

WT. Foster Guitars Tech Tip April 25, 2015

In Guitar building the fingerboard wood affects both the look and sound of the finished guitar. There are many choices available but the three main wood types used for fingerboards are rosewood, maple, and ebony. WT. Foster Guitars primarily used rosewood and ebony fretboard wood, after many trial and error sample neck and sound sampling, we are now offering maple fretboard on select models available later this summer. Below is a summary of the 3 main fretboard woods, we hope this sheds a little light or clarity on the different values and effects on tone by using each type of wood. These findings are subjective as for the effect on the tone or sound of the guitar, it is a more personnel preference than actual tonal difference. The actual change in tonal characteristics by the different fretboard wood are slight but could make all the difference in the world to individual players.  
Is the most commonly used wood for fingerboards in the guitar industry. Rosewood has an open porous grain and has natural oils giving rosewood a smooth feel and “warm tone”. It has a medium density that is less reflective than harder woods with a tighter non porous grain, giving rosewood a slightly softer feeling fingerboard. There are a variety of rosewoods, the most used by instrument makers is Indian rosewood. Indian rosewood has the familiar rich, darker brown color with even grain, with the availability and comparable lower cost of Indian rosewood this makes it a preferred choice for instrument manufacturers. Then there is Brazilian rosewood another favored variety but limited availability makes it costly for most guitar manufacturer to use on stock instrument and is usually reserved for custom shops and high end stock.

Combines the hardness and density of maple with the natural oils of rosewood, ebony is generally used as an in between fretboard wood offering the best of both worlds. Ebony has a consistent blackened color that is appealing to the aesthetics of guitars. The tight grain and natural oils in ebony offers a smooth glassy feel with a more “crisp and snappy tone”.

Maple is a light colored and very tight grained wood. Maple is a very stable wood, has “bright tonal quality”. Maple is almost always finished due to its lack of natural oil. Generally gloss or satin clear coat is used some manufacturers use tung oil as another option. Availability and re-growth make maple a highly sustainable wood choice and have some manufacturers experimenting with a curing process known as “baked” This gives maple a softer feel and sound with a rosewood type appearance. Moisture is also infused into the wood during torrification so clear coat is not used.