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Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

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Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Gilbert Fredrickson » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:35 pm

Keeping the weight down is a concern. Also something in the mellow end of the spectrum to compliment an Englemann spruce top and Khaya neck and body. Thank you.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Steve Senseney » Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:30 am

Is there a reason you don't want to use ebony?

Now back to answer the question--From my reading--you can ebonize most any wood. If it is low in tannic acid, you can increase the tannin by buying tannin and applying this to the surface. The tannin is inexpensive. Maple is low in tannin. Oak and ash are high in tannin.

I have not done any ebonizing personally. I did buy some tannin from a leather supply place.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Craig Bumgarner » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:06 am

I use Stewmac's black fingerboard stain to ebonize Indian Rosewood bridges and occasionally headboards. Indian Rosewood is two-thirds the weight of ebony and hard enough for bridges and fingerboards.

The Stewmac stain is messy to use and comes off on the fingers for a couple weeks when handling or playing, but works well once it dries well. It is not completely opaque as you can still see some wood grain through it, which I like. LMI sells a black power dye that one mixes with alcohol to use, they claim it is a permanent dye. I have not used it, but it might be less susceptible to coming off on fingers when still fresh.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Gilbert Fredrickson » Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:43 am

Yes, I believe I needed permission to substitute a rosewood for ebony. Weight, price, tone, all considerations in building a modest personal guitar. I started this guitar with a kit from LMII, but the jumbo sized Sapele set was so beautiful I had to make a larger guitar. This one will be all 2nd grade Khaya, spruce, and rosewood. The maple and oak option will be important later on. I just put together a very plain kit on the Ol' Kit Wizard. However, I do now have a good selection of air dried maple and oak in big chunks to yield some nice bridge and fingerboard blanks down the line for the "Tree Huggin' Local Hippy Wood And Vegan Hemp Products" challenge.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Bryan Bear » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:49 am

Using Iron acetate (vinegar and steel wool) I have successfully turned several wood completely black:
Osage orange
Red oak
African mahogany (is suspect any "mahogany" will be the same)
Black Walnut
Jatoba


I have not tried adding tannin to other woods personally but that should also work. You could probably find an option for just about any properties you need using domestic woods.

Then of course, there is the black dye option that should cover just about everything. . .
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Rodger Knox » Thu Jun 06, 2013 4:40 pm

Historically, I believe pear wood was the most common choice for "ebonizing", as both bridges and fingerboards.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Bill Raymond » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:42 pm

I don't believe that tannin alone will dye wood black. Woods rich in tannin will turn black with the vinegar and steel wool mentioned, but woods low in tannin need to be treated first with a tannin "tea", most often made with quebracho bark.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Arnt Rian » Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:42 am

Pear wood has very small pores, similar to ebony, so if you can manage to get the color right, it will be a more convincing ebony substitue than e.g. Indian rosewood, which has a very different pore structure.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Craig Bumgarner » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:42 am

I've had the pleasure of replacing three 60-70 year old ebonized pear wood fingerboards in the last couple years and they were all in awful condition. The wood was just crumbling away. No idea why, I'm sure it was fine when new.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby G.S. Monroe » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:37 am

Craig Bumgarner wrote: LMI sells a black power dye that one mixes with alcohol to use, they claim it is a permanent dye. I have not used it, but it might be less susceptible to coming off on fingers when still fresh.


I've used the LMI powder dye before when mixing shellac flakes. Both the shellac and powder are alcohol based, and dries fast, hard, and permanent. You can control how translucent or opaque you want and it comes in a wide range of colors.

I would suggest ebonizing Maple, and using the LMI Black with shellac.
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Re: Best Wood To 'Ebonize' For Early Romantic Bridge and Fingerboard.

Postby Nicholas Blanton » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:46 pm

Handles for tea and coffepots were usually ebonized pear, in the 18th centuries, and I think viol fingerboards often were, as well. But the iron tannate inks will often chew up the paper they're written on, over time, so it would not surprise me if those iron tannate stains might do the same for wood as well. Cellulose is cellulose.

Most successful deep staining requires some pressure- people have actually used pressure cookers with water-based dyes. Even though an alcohol stain or acetone-soluble stain looks like it is penetrating deeply into the wood, it is deeply penetrating only in some places, not everywhere. It penetrates enough so that you can't sand back down to the pure natural color of the wood, but not uniformly enough to give you a nice solid dyed color deep in the wood. You might have to touch up the fretboard in a few years.
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