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Wenge for Fret Board

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Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sat Jan 07, 2017 1:35 am

I have some wenge that would make a beautiful fret board. I have seen pictures of wenge fret boards, so it is possible.
My concern in using wenge for that, is how to finish it.
As wenge is quite porous, it needs filling.
How would you fill it, and then how would you finish it?

I don't really care for a highly lacquered fret board, so if that is the only way to use this wood, I will find another use for it.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Jan 08, 2017 1:15 am

Anyone?
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Dave Weir » Sun Jan 08, 2017 1:45 am

I just finish wenge necks and fretboards with an oil varnish like Minwax Tung Oil Finish. I don't try to fill the pores. Sand it to 600 and it has a fast, natural feel. Sometimes on open pore bodies like mahogany I'll mix rottenstone in with the finish, and use that to fill the pores. I never found a pore filler I like, and always try to keep it as simple as possible.
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Stephen Neal Saqui » Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:05 am

I think it's a poor choice for a fingerboard...I can't help thinking of splinters...but....think about this: 2P-10
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:54 pm

Dave Weir wrote:I just finish wenge necks and fretboards with an oil varnish like Minwax Tung Oil Finish. I don't try to fill the pores. Sand it to 600 and it has a fast, natural feel. Sometimes on open pore bodies like mahogany I'll mix rottenstone in with the finish, and use that to fill the pores. I never found a pore filler I like, and always try to keep it as simple as possible.

So I wasn't wrong in saying wenge could be used as a fret board. That's good.
I take it the Minwax Tung Oil leaves a bit of a shine?
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:57 pm

Stephen Neal Saqui wrote:I think it's a poor choice for a fingerboard...I can't help thinking of splinters...but....think about this: 2P-10

Yes, untreated the wenge is very dry and powdery when worked.
Thus the questions.
I am considering not using it, but in a couple of the bass forums I have been reading that a few players really like their wenge fret boards.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Dave Weir » Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:07 pm

I like the end product a lot. I've found ways to work it that are less problematic. Mainly always routing with the grain and taking very small passes. My main objection is the price, and that I can't find boards the size I need. I like boards that are 1.25" to 1.5" thick so I can slowly plane them down to 1" for a one piece neck/fretboard. I can typically only find Wenge 1.75" or .75". It seems like too much waste of expensive material. I can buy Ipe or Merbau for a quarter the price, and at the size I want.
Minwax T.O.F. doesn't have much shine if you keep it under 2-3 coats. I usually sand to 220 and coat, sand to 400 and coat, and then 600 and coat. So there is a little finish in the pores, and very little on the surface. If you put on ten coats, you can get a simi gloss or better. The grain on this one is actually a lot like Rosewood.
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Stephen Neal Saqui » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:23 am

I've used wenge for veneers on multi piece maple necks and had access to large boards. I should have listened to you guys back then (70's-80's).
Dave, have you used it for normal fretboards? How well does it re-saw?
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Dave Weir » Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:08 am

I only make one piece neck/fretboards. But like I said the boards are wider then I need. So rather than plane it down to the 1.25" starting width I want, I saw off the extra half inch. With a new 1/2" blade, I din't have any problems with 30" long 4" tall boards. I cut is so I have a little more than 1.25", plane it flat, drill for the truss rod, and then plane it down to 1". Then I rough cut the outline, and clean up the heel and head stock on the router table. Then I go back to the band saw and use it like a spoke shave to shape the back of the neck. Clean that up with a belt sander. Radius the top with a belt sander.
I'd say I'm a little more cautious with Wenge when shaping the back. It seems more likely to splinter than Maple or Goncalo Alves, and I think that in combination with the cost makes me take it slow.
I have had a couple of Wenge necks that twisted pretty badly after shaping the back. This is why I started planning them down to thickness over several months. Take it down a bit let it rest check and re-true if needed. It seems to have greatly reduced any twisting and back bow.
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby David King » Sun Jan 15, 2017 1:08 am

I've always found wenge to be extremely stable and I've been lucky to never find a piece that was case hardened or wanted to twist up on me during resawing. I've found it to be one of my favorite fretless fingerboards provided that the grain is fine enough and hard enough. It goes without saying that it much be quartersawn for fretless. I've never tried to fill the grain, in fact the open pores handle sweat really well. You do have to sand it carefully through all the grits but the results can be highly polished and very comfortable to play over the long term. I sand my FB radius and have never had an issue doing it this way. Because the grain is interlocked abrasives seem like the best way to deal with it.
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Gilbert Fredrickson » Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:33 pm

Jose Ramirez II used Wenge for the fingerboard and bridge on a 1949 Flamenco guitar. The guitar has a four piece Spruce top and Cypress back and sides. It's on my list to copy.
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Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:56 pm

I have been working with wenge for the last couple of guitars.
On one of them I used it for the main pieces in a multi-piece neck, and also for the top. It is beautiful when finished.
I am using it as an accent wood on the bass that is in progress now.

The dry powdery aspect and the tendency to chip along the edges is why I doubted using it for a fret board.
When flat sawn the surface feels a bit rough until sanded finely. I could see using it if it was quarter sawn.

Maybe on the next one. I have ordered some Macassar Ebony for the bass I'm building.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
Gordon Bellerose
 
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Location: Edmonton AB. Canada

Re: Wenge for Fret Board

Postby Kerry Werry » Wed Jan 25, 2017 3:40 pm

I've used Wenge for a fretboard, it was bound so edges were not an issue. Wenge sands and polishes very well IMHO..

I've also used it for back/sides, splinters are a bit of an issue but not that bad and it bends fine.. I like it..

Currently making a crossover guitar with Wenge B&S and Fretboard..

Kerry
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