Expert luthiers as well as novices think and research a lot about the body and neck of the guitar before making a purchase. But not everyone is much concerned about the wood used for making guitar fretboards. The truth is, fretboards are also as important as any other wooden parts used in a guitar. Let’s check the features of some of the best woods used for making guitar fretboards.
Which are the most popular woods for making guitar fretboards?
Rosewoods are one of the favorite woods for luthiers in making almost all wooden parts of guitars. This exotic wood is used for centuries in the musical instrument industry.
There are 3 main Rosewood types: Honduran Rosewood, Brazilian Rosewood, and Indian Rosewood.
Indian Rosewood and Brazilian Rosewood are the most commonly used varieties. However, the Brazilian Rosewood species are banned in several countries and are listed as endangered wood species. Hence Indian Rosewood is the alternative wood chosen by guitar experts due to its close resemblance, availability, and cost-effectiveness.
Rosewood has a natural luster due to the oily content in the wood and requires no extra medium for shining. They are seen in dark reddish-brown color and are the most commonly used for making fretboards around the world. The open pores in the wood produce softer and warmer tones. Rosewood fretboards add premium style and quality to your guitar and they are very durable as well.
Ebony woods are the darkest wood species that are used in guitar fretboards. The tight pores in the wood leave a perfect finish for the guitar. The pitch-black color and the smooth surface makes this one of the most beautiful wood choices for guitar making.
The two major variants of Ebony are Gaboon Ebony and Macassar Ebony. African gaboon ebonies are expensive and hard to buy due to the trade restrictions. The Ebony trees grow slowly and need 60-200 years for reaching maturity. This black beauty has been exploited to a large extent and is now listed under endangered species.
The natural oil from the wood gives a polished finishing to the guitar and does not have a sticky feeling like Maple fretboards. Ebony fretboards produce brighter tones and can last for a very long period. The color, finishing, durability, and smoothness are the major reasons why ebony fretboards are popular among metal, hard-rock guitar players.
Unlike rosewoods, a whole piece of maple woods can be used for making both neck and fretboard of the guitar whereas rosewood is attached to another wood by gluing. There are mainly two types of Maple woods namely soft maple and hard maple. Even though there is a name difference, both wood types are hard to an extent. Hard maple woods are costlier than soft maple. Top guitar brands such a Fender, Charvel, etc are some of the best promoters of hard maple made guitars.
They are mostly used in electric guitars compared to the acoustic ones. When compared to rosewood and ebonies, this wood needs extra coating like nitrocellulose. Such polishes can make them a bit "sticky". Since the maple fretboards are creamy white in color, it will get dirty easily and requires good maintenance. Maple fretboard guitars produce a warmer, brighter, and well definer top-end tone.
Experts suggest that Maple wood is best known for sound quality and stability when compared to the rosewood and ebony. But when it comes to durability, maple stands behind the other two. Some of the other woods used for making fretboards are Pau Ferro, Purpleheart, wenge, and Bubinga.
Checkout Exotic Wood Zone's amazing collection of fingerboards here.