Making a FB choice

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Making a FB choice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:11 pm

Working on this Lester clone that will have a flat (not carved) body top, veneered with some pommele sapele as shown in the pic of a practice piece below. I have three choices in the stash for the FB material, some wenge, some jatoba/brazilian cherry and some E.I. rosewood.

I'm using a piece of the sapele veneer to face the headstock, and was thinking that a piece of veneer made from the same material as the fretboard would be cool to use for a backstrap. In looking at my choices, I'm thinking that the rosewood is going to be more dark-brown and not providing much of a contrast. The wenge has a bit of a gray cast to it, and I'm not sure it represents the right kind of contrast against the sapele. That leaves the jatoba, which is the hardest of the three, so a good choice from a mechanical standpoint, but I'm having trouble picturing the finished guitar with that combination. In the pic below I applied some Howard's Feed-n-Wax to the bottom end of the jatoba to darken it to what it will look like on the guitar.

If I do the rosewood, I'll have to find another piece or purchase some veneer, as there isn't enough meat on this piece to re-saw it, but the jatoba and wenge are plenty thick. I will be using cream-colored binding and gold hardware (including the gold-colored EVO fretwire) so maybe I'm giving the rosewood short shrift, but it just seems to be too much. The jatoba has a bit of a reddish cast which seems to work well with the sapele veneer, and should work well with the solid sapele body too.

I did some web searching, and the second pic below is the closest pic I could find of what a jatoba FB would look like against a dark reddish-brown body, but without binding etc. it's still a bit hard to see if this is going to look ok, or odd...

Anyway, has anyone done a build (and has pics) that uses this kind of contrast between a dark-brown body, and a much lighter fretboard?

PS - if the jatoba isn't a totally goofy brain-fart idea, I should probably re-think the FB inlay markers. Not sure what, but the traditional MOP I was thinking of might not be the best choice against the jatoba.

Fretboard choices.JPG


Jatoba fretboard example.jpg
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:20 am

Well, no-one had any input on this, and I've been looking at this combination (sapele/jatoba) and I'm kinda warming up to this idea, so unless someone jumps in here with a dope-slap in the next few weeks, I'm probably going with it.

I did have an interesting thought on the FB inlays, though - what do y'all think about rosewood?
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Freeman Keller » Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:34 am

Steve, I didn't comment for two reasons. First, of your three woods I only have experience with rosewood for a fretboard - I like it just fine and use it on most of my guitars. AFAIK I've never seen the other ones other than your pictures. My criteria for fretboards is relative hardness, stability, and lastly, appearance.

Second, the last criteria, appearance, is totally subjective. I pick woods that fit themes and my choices of fretboard woods have to fit into that theme. Other people have completely different aesthetics than I do - that goes along with your question about rosewood inlays. It might look really nice, it might not, but what I think really doesn't matter.

I'll give you whatever help I can with geometry and the little bit I've learned building mine - you need to pick your own theme.

One minor comment however. We often use naphtha or DNA on raw wood to get an idea of what it will look like under finish. Both of those evaporate completely - I would be concerned about using any sort of wax or other product that could make gluing and finishing difficult. I keep my wood stash as far from any oily or waxy products as I can - I'm pretty paranoid about contamination.
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Barry Daniels » Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:56 am

I don't worry too much about oil or wax. I use both frequently in my shop. I apply paste wax to fretboards and all my steel surfaces. Never had a problem with it messing up finishes. The thing I do worry about is silicone. I won't let it get anywhere near my shop.
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby David King » Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:21 pm

Wenge makes a great sounding fingerboard but it takes careful sanding to get past the splintery stage. Once you've fine sanded I've never seen or heard of a splinter problem unless the edge was damaged. For it's weight it's quite stiff and it transmits sound quickly and efficiently compared to ebony.
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:10 pm

Thanks, guys.

Like Barry, I use wax all the time, all over the shop, and the little swipe of feed-n-wax I put on that fingerboard will come off when it gets re-sawn and radiused. It's what I use to maintain the fretboards on my other guitars, and what I used to finish the rosewood FB on the Tele I finished last fall, so I knew it would accurately reflect the finished color of that jatoba. I too use naphtha or DNA to pop the color and figure, but will also use mineral spirits - it too will evaporate leaving no residue, but it won't flash off as fast as DNA or naptha, giving me time to snap a pic! :)

And yah, I guess I was asking something pretty subjective. I was hoping that someone else had done a similar wood combination that would better help me visualize it. That one picture I found of a jatoba FB really looks pretty nice against the reddish-brown of the body. The veneer I'm using is more of a chocolate brown, but I think it will look ok against the jatoba. I also think it will look good if I use a slice of it for a backstrap.

Is there any reason not to try using rosewood for FB inlays? Any other suggestions that might work well against the jatoba? I'm thinking that MOP looks wonderful against a dark FB like rosewood or ebony (or that wenge), but I think something dark would pop real nice against the jatoba. I have some ebony that I could use too, but that almost seems too stark a contrast. This will also be my first experience with inlay, so I'm also interested if using a contrasting wood over something non-wood might present some problems that I'm not aware of.

And David - thanks for the info on the wenge. I've never worked with it, so that's helpful. I found it in the bin at Woodcraft for something like $10, and grabbed it thinking that it would likely get used someday!
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Freeman Keller » Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:03 pm

There was a lovely fretboard on an OLF thread a while back featuring wood marquetry. I have problems with lighter wood when I use the sand dust in epoxy trick - it works really well for dark wood (rose or ebony) but it leaves a dark line around my inlay on light wood. Of course if I cut my channels a little more accurately....

If you and others have good luck with waxes or oils or whatever, more power to you. I don't, I'm paranoid of anything that can screw up my finish or my glue joint. I've had some issues with fisheyes in my finishes, never quite understood why but I don't want to introduce any unknowns. I don't use anything on fretboards except a damp rag, never wax my guitars and keep all that stuff as far away as I can. And yes, I know that stickered wood should have the ends waxed - my wood stash is pretty small.
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Dan Smith » Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:45 am

Steve,
For what it’s worth, I just finished a build using a Jatoba fretboard.
I applied Howard’s wax n feed.
The body is African Mahogany.
My Jatoba plank was a light color similar to yours.
My fret board darkened quite a bit during the course of the build, which I like.
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Apr 17, 2018 8:15 pm

Dan - thanks so much for that picture. That really does look nice!!

What is going on there on the sides? Looks almost like a metal band, but might be curly maple or something. Looks amazing.
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Dan Smith » Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:56 am

Thanks Steve!
The body core and neck is curly Maple.
I concocted a turquoise dye.
Looks better in person.
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Re: Making a FB choice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Apr 18, 2018 11:30 am

Ah - blue dye! That's why it was looking metallic to me.

That is awesome!!
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