Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Ask your wood and other materials questions here. Please DO NOT post pictures and ask us to identify your wood, we have found that accurate ID is nearly impossible, and such discussions will be deleted. Thanks.
Christopher Boswell
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu May 31, 2012 4:52 pm

Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Christopher Boswell »

I'm a new builder and only have built a few guitars to this point. I'm just finishing up a furniture project and I have a nice stack of 3/8" cherry left over and was thinking of trying this as fretboard stock. Is it hard enough? Are there any tone quality issues that anyone has an opinion on?

Thanks!!

Alan Carruth
Posts: 962
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Alan Carruth »

I'd think it would be a bit soft, but sometimes you get pretty hard pieces. It makes a good neck, though. In fact, it makes a good guitar, except for the top, of course....

Alan Carruth / Luthier

Steven Wilson
Posts: 103
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:11 pm
Location: Eastern Shore Maryland

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Steven Wilson »

I would avoid it as fret boards as well. But it is great for necks!

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1438
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Some cherry is about as hard as "soft" maple which has been used for necks/ fingerboards on many electric guitars. If you are talking about an electric guitar with a low action and light gauge strings I think it would work fine. Obviously it won't wear as well as a harder wood might, but it could be good enough. A lot depends on the player, as many a Fender neck will attest. Pressing forcefully into any fretboard will wear divots behind the frets eventually.
My thinking is that a fretboard is a part of the instrument that does eventually wear out and needs to be renewed periodically.
How often is a matter of the material it is made from, how much the instrument is played and the players technique. I wouldn't use cherry for a high action, heavily strung bluegrass guitar, but for an electric player it might work fine.

User avatar
Mark Swanson
Posts: 1972
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:11 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan USA
Contact:

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Mark Swanson »

I agree with that, and I'll add that electric necks these days are usually fretted with large and high frets, they make string bending easier and the strings, with most players, don't get pressed all the way to the fingerboard that much.
  • Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff

User avatar
Beate Ritzert
Posts: 588
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2012 8:20 am
Location: Germany

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Beate Ritzert »

Clay Schaeffer wrote:... My thinking is that a fretboard is a part of the instrument that does eventually wear out and needs to be renewed periodically.
Mhmm, i think we must get used to the idea that especially the woods typically used for fretboards are becoming increasingly rare (and that CITEC protection like the one on Dalbergia Nigra can occur on some of them in unforseeable future). So i consider a fretboard an integral part of an instrument which shall last at least as long as possible.

But anyway: a freatboard can also be protected, e.g, by an (almost invisible) coating by polyurethane, can't it? At least some players of fretless basses with rosewood necks like such an approach. At least i do. And well, that would be more or less the Fender way to protect their maple fingerboards, only better. Wouldn't it?

best

Beate

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1438
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Beate,
Welcome to the forum.
I do see the fretboard as a part of the instrument that should last a long time, but one which will periodically require resurfacing and eventual replacement. Using harder, more wear resistant woods for this part is desirable, but in some situations a softer wood will work for a reasonably long time. Using a protective coating and renewing it periodically is probably a good idea.

Alan Carruth
Posts: 962
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Alan Carruth »

At a local luthier meeting yesterday, one of the wood suppliers was showing samples of persimmon wood that he'd dyed black. He's been working on this with another fellow, ans could not say how it was done. He had pieces that were split open to show that the dye went all the way through. If this pans out, it could be a solution to the problem, sine persimmon is a not particularly rare north american species, with decent hardness.

Alan Carruth / Luthier

Christopher Boswell
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu May 31, 2012 4:52 pm

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Christopher Boswell »

Thanks to everyone for the advice!

I'm a guitarist long before I was a woodworker, and I've been playing for 35 years. I play daily, gig frequently when I have a band, it's mostly classic rock and progressive rock. To be honest, I've never gotten the relic-ing thing. I have no wear (to speak of) on any of my necks other than accidents, and that includes my 70's Strat w/maple neck that I bought new and is my go-to guitar. But I am liking my PRS'

So what I'm taking from all the advice is, there's no tone issues, and if you're a Cro-Magnon guitarist with Schwarzenegger gripping strength you may have wear on the fretboard that may need repair years from now, or replacement.

My biggest concern really was with the frets and the "hardness" to hold/grip the tangs over a long period of time. Any thoughts about that?

Again, my reason for considering cherry is that I have these blanks, I’m pretty new to this, and figure I need a lot of practice building. Just trying to conserve and “recycle” so to speak.

So, am I wasting my time?

Thanks again for your imput!

Chuck Tweedy
Posts: 1152
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:25 pm
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

My biggest concern really was with the frets and the "hardness" to hold/grip the tangs over a long period of time. Any thoughts about that?
No problem - it will hold the frets just fine.
If you have not worn a maple FB in 40 years, the the cherry will last just fine. Go for it.
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

Jim Kirby
Posts: 42
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:01 pm
Location: Newark, Delaware

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Jim Kirby »

Alan Carruth wrote:At a local luthier meeting yesterday, one of the wood suppliers was showing samples of persimmon wood that he'd dyed black. He's been working on this with another fellow, ans could not say how it was done. He had pieces that were split open to show that the dye went all the way through. If this pans out, it could be a solution to the problem, sine persimmon is a not particularly rare north american species, with decent hardness.

Alan Carruth / Luthier
Yes, it would be nice to get some mileage out of our own North American version of Ebony. I'd like to give it a try.

Jim Kirby
Posts: 42
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:01 pm
Location: Newark, Delaware

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Jim Kirby »

Christopher Boswell wrote:Thanks to everyone for the advice!


My biggest concern really was with the frets and the "hardness" to hold/grip the tangs over a long period of time. Any thoughts about that?


Thanks again for your imput!
Lot's of fretted mountain dulcimers out there with cherry fretboards, so I don't think that's an issue. But they don't take much abuse.

User avatar
Alan Peterson
Posts: 127
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:32 pm
Location: Washington DC USA

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Alan Peterson »

Just for information, what would be a good manufactured/synthetic material that could stand in for ebony on a fingerboard?
Alan Peterson
Name in Anagram Form: "Resonant Peal"

User avatar
Mark Swanson
Posts: 1972
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:11 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan USA
Contact:

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Mark Swanson »

Phenolic has been used before and with good results.
  • Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff

Mario Proulx
Posts: 821
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:08 pm

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Mario Proulx »

Martin has also used Micarta or Corian, if I remember correctly...

Chuck Tweedy
Posts: 1152
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:25 pm
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

Michael Lewis
Posts: 1472
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:22 am
Location: Northern California USA
Contact:

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Michael Lewis »

Yeah, Chuck. But that requires carbide tooling. Got carbide?

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1438
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

I mentioned the possibility of using Richlite material for guitar fingerboards on this forum some years back, as a "green" ebony substitute, and lo and behold, both Gibson and Martin are now using it. It is icky stuff to work with and is best milled with carbide tooling, but it is hard and black and relatively stabile.
I still like wood.

Chuck Tweedy
Posts: 1152
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:25 pm
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Michael, I've cut the black GaroliteXX stuff with steel hand saws - no problem.
Table saw - carbide.
Bandsaw - carbide.
Router bits - carbide.

It works very much like wood. Easier than Corian.
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

Jim Kirby
Posts: 42
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:01 pm
Location: Newark, Delaware

Re: Is cherry good for a fretboard?

Post by Jim Kirby »

Phenolic or the stuff that Chuck pointed to is built with a layered matrix, yes? I can see that working OK for classical guitars with flat fretboards, but do you get witness lines on radiused boards for steel strings?

Post Reply