Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Please put your pickup/wiring discussions in the Electronics section; and put discussions about repair issues, including "disappearing" errors in new instruments, in the Repairs section.
Post Reply
John Sonksen
Posts: 356
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 12:16 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by John Sonksen »

I have a relative who is a sales rep for a composite counter material, it's essentially the same as Richlite or Paperstone, and she was asking me what I thought about using it as a fretboard material. Most of the colors are probably not something I'd be interested in but two, black and white are intriguing. I think they'd probably be fairly heavy compared to wood, but pared down thin enough it seems like it could be doable. Just curious what other folks think about such a thing, worth looking into or just a waste of time and energy?

User avatar
Hans Bezemer
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 1:01 am
Location: The Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Hans Bezemer »

There are some fretless guitar players who install high pressure laminate material (brandname: Trespa) for their fretboard.

Jason Rodgers
Posts: 1554
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:05 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Jason Rodgers »

So, do you have access to some samples, then? You saw my abandoned phenolic fingerboards: I'll eventually put those to use. I say give it a go. If you can't get it free from your source, I have some leftovers that you could have.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

User avatar
Hans Bezemer
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 1:01 am
Location: The Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Hans Bezemer »

I've did a google search and found this fretless Gibson.
Instrument builder and player Edward Powell also uses it.
I think it is mainly used for fretless fingerboards.
For what kind of neck are you planning to use it for?

John Sonksen
Posts: 356
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 12:16 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by John Sonksen »

Hans Bezemer wrote:I've did a google search and found this fretless Gibson.
Instrument builder and player Edward Powell also uses it.
I think it is mainly used for fretless fingerboards.
For what kind of neck are you planning to use it for?

I actually wasn't planning on using it but my Sister said she wanted to explore making them as another sales avenue for the product line. I was wondering about how well it would hold frets, though I suppose you could simply glue the frets in to deal with that. I mainly thought black and white would be intriguing, black as a substitute for ebony obviously, and white would allow for a different look. I am currently working on what will be a white guitar too so it had crossed my mind to make a white fretboard on this. It would be an SG copy electric.

I was really more into gauging what folks thought about it as a buyout product. I'm actually thinking it might not have a ton of potential as I'd think most builders would prefer natural wood to a grainless composite except for unique applications.

Jason Rodgers
Posts: 1554
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:05 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Jason Rodgers »

Well, it'd take someone showing that it's a viable and appealing product... like someone trying to make their name in the market. ;)

And, of course, ebony and rosewood aren't getting any cheaper, more plentiful, or less endangered.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

David King
Posts: 2688
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 10:01 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Contact:

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by David King »

The paperstone makes a pretty rock solid bass fingerboard. It's stiffer than ebony in both the length and width. The density seems on a par with African blackwood or a little heavier. The fact that it's recycled paper and a water based phenolic resin undoubtedly makes it greener. It holds frets really well if you can get them in in the first place. Where things fell down for me originally was that the company, Paneltech, wanted to charge $25 per fingerboard which was just a little more than I was paying for ebony at the time. I subsequently discovered that paneltech sells factory seconds for pennies on the dollar and I was able to procure a large sheet of the 1/4" onyx that yielded about 20 fingerboards for around $6 each.
A white or off-white could be very handy.

Gordon Bellerose
Posts: 1186
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 11:47 pm
Location: Edmonton AB. Canada

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Both Gibson, and Martin are using Richlite for fret boards.
Reports are that it is a bit slicker than ebony, and more consistent in color.
Fret installation doesn't seem to be an issue.
Just Friday evening one of my friends let me play his Martin with a Richlite fretboard, and quite frankly it played very nicely.
If I had not been told it was Richlite I may not have noticed, although the too consistent color, and too smooth feel did raise my curiosity.

How "Green" it is may be open for debate. It does take paper to make it, and we all know wood is used to make paper.
I am involved in the pulp industry to a certain extent, and I can tell you that pulp and paper production, while huge strides have been taken, are not all that environmentally friendly.
Most pulp is made from poplar. Those trees are farmed here in Canada. One pulp mill can use up to 20,000 acres of trees in a single year.
The pulp producers do replant every acre they cut, which is mandated by law. The target is to have another cut from the same land in twenty years. Meanwhile they cut another half million acres.

All winter long while the ground is frozen trees are cut, limbed, and hauled to the mill. The resulting wood pile is immense.
One mile long by 500 ft wide by 130 ft tall. It is really only impressive if you are standing beside it. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of trees.
The mill will chew through that by late fall, and as soon as the crews can get back into the forest, the cutting begins again.

Sorry. Didn't mean to turn the thread into something different.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Leonardo Silva
Posts: 124
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:04 pm

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Leonardo Silva »

I've been seriously thinking in using carbon fiber as a fretboard, I found some sort of retailer that goes by the name "BestCarbon" in Aliexpress, I just buy from them some bars (used for RC Cars and stuff) but wil fit perfectly for neck reinforcements, they also sell planks in different widths and thicknesses, since Ebony is quite expensive and scarse, I might like to try some Carbon fiber fretboards

I don't know how it would look, it shouldn't have that "futuristic" CF look after being radiused, just pure black, maybe like your composites, but still, never tried them but should work perfect as a fretboard.

David King
Posts: 2688
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 10:01 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Contact:

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by David King »

Leonardo,

Moses graphite has been making graphite reinforced fingerboards for the violin family instruments for years. Clover bass in Germany produced some basses back in the 90s that had carbon fiber fingerboard that looked like they were cast. You don't want to sand CF if you can avoid it. If you do sand it you need a good respirator and a way to gather the dust and isolate it.

Steve Senseney
Posts: 673
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:45 pm

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Steve Senseney »

And it will dull all of your edge tools quickly, even carbide.

Leonardo Silva
Posts: 124
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:04 pm

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Leonardo Silva »

thanks for the tip, I just need to sand the reinforcement to "square" it a bit, I'll try to be as carefull as possible.

but for a CF fingerboard, that's something I plan on doing later on, I'm not sure if we might be able to craft the phenolic resin/Richlite/etc fretboards by our own and don't know of a distributor for the materials yet.

I know it's a bit offtopic, but how could we compare CF to composites like Richlte or paper stone?, working, availability, etc.

Jason Rodgers
Posts: 1554
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:05 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Jason Rodgers »

Gordon Bellerose wrote:Both Gibson, and Martin are using Richlite for fret boards.
Reports are that it is a bit slicker than ebony, and more consistent in color.
Fret installation doesn't seem to be an issue.
Just Friday evening one of my friends let me play his Martin with a Richlite fretboard, and quite frankly it played very nicely.
If I had not been told it was Richlite I may not have noticed, although the too consistent color, and too smooth feel did raise my curiosity.
I don't frequent instrument stores to play the wall candy, so I didn't realize this, Gordon. Well, if the big dawgs are using composite fingerboards, then it looks like we're late to the game!
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

John Sonksen
Posts: 356
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 12:16 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by John Sonksen »

Interesting, it seems like most people are having a positive reaction to the idea. I was initially thinking it might be a tough sell, and haven't done any cost analysis of it yet, but based on the responses here I think it would be worth going forward with a deeper look.

Leonardo Silva
Posts: 124
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:04 pm

Re: Thoughts on composite fretboard material

Post by Leonardo Silva »

I just saw this video about composite fretboards, about refretting it specially. (it also has some stainless steel fretwire topic)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q82LXH9pLU

apparently, frteting a composite material works in a completely different way, as the composite doesn't hold the fretwire in the same way as wood and relies more in glue (the wood fiber compress the fret tang just like a nail), as I said, re-fretting was the main topic and getting the frets out it's quite a different monster to deal with comparing it to a wooden fretboard, and there is quite a risk of destroying the fretboard in the process.

they said that the composite material doesn't shrink or expands, so heating the fret won't have the same effect taking the frets off.

so well, that, fretting works differently, now I feel a bit more afraid of working with a composite as fretting wooden fretboards its still a bit difficult to me.

Post Reply