Laminated Fret boards

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
RedCliff
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Laminated Fret boards

Post by RedCliff » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:23 pm

Apologies if this has been covered elsewhere - I did a search but couldn't find a thread on it.

I was reading the thread on bound fret boards and that got me thinking, if you are going to bind the fret board there is no reason why the fret board couldn't be made in a sandwich construction i.e. a laminate of ebony (say 3mm) and some other dimensionally stable, strong and light wood - something like Alaskan yellow or port orford cedar comes to mind.

The advantages would seem to be that the resulting fret board is lighter which isn't always a bad thing, less likely to warp and react to humidity changes, and yet retains all the advantages of ebony (fine grain, nice colour, hard wearing material, seats frets well, traditional look). Additionally it makes better use of a scarce resource, making ones ebony stash go further.

The downside is labour - but if you are binding the fret board anyway...

Was interested to know if anyone laminates their fret boards and any observations on this process? Was wondering whether to give it a try at some point.
Giles Ratcliffe
Sheffield
England

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Michael.N.
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Re: Laminated Fret boards

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:46 pm

Common practice for baroque violins and baroque citterns, pine/spruce core capped with ebony. I can't say I've ever seen it done on later instruments.
Historicalguitars.

RedCliff
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Re: Laminated Fret boards

Post by RedCliff » Tue Mar 14, 2017 10:01 pm

Thanks Michael. Presumably, that was done primarily to reduce the cost of materials as ebony was so expensive? Or do you think it was for structural reasons?
Giles Ratcliffe
Sheffield
England

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Michael.N.
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Re: Laminated Fret boards

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:15 pm

Cost and weight. They had to be sawn veneers and probably sourced from the furniture and marquetry suppliers. They weren't thick veneers, 1 mm or a touch over.
Historicalguitars.

John higgon
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Re: Laminated Fret boards

Post by John higgon » Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:38 am

There's a material called Rocklite which is a man-made ebony substitute, and the manufacturer says it's great (!), but I haven't used it myself. It's said to be more dimensionally stable than ebony, but similar in terms of its workability. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's used it.

Douglass Scott
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Re: Laminated Fret boards

Post by Douglass Scott » Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:49 pm

RedCliff wrote:Apologies if this has been covered elsewhere - I did a search but couldn't find a thread on it.

I was reading the thread on bound fret boards and that got me thinking, if you are going to bind the fret board there is no reason why the fret board couldn't be made in a sandwich construction i.e. a laminate of ebony (say 3mm) and some other dimensionally stable, strong and light wood - something like Alaskan yellow or port orford cedar comes to mind.

The advantages would seem to be that the resulting fret board is lighter which isn't always a bad thing, less likely to warp and react to humidity changes, and yet retains all the advantages of ebony (fine grain, nice colour, hard wearing material, seats frets well, traditional look). Additionally it makes better use of a scarce resource, making ones ebony stash go further.

The downside is labour - but if you are binding the fret board anyway...

Was interested to know if anyone laminates their fret boards and any observations on this process? Was wondering whether to give it a try at some point.
I've seen it done on some modern high end calssical guitars. One used a douglas fir core. You can't refret as much as with solid wood, so it'll be a headache for someone someday. But it'll certainly help stretch out your ebony stash. Trade-offs are labour cost and possible issues from more glue joints.

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Les Backshall
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Location: Aylesbury UK

Re: Laminated Fret boards

Post by Les Backshall » Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:10 pm

John higgon wrote:There's a material called Rocklite which is a man-made ebony substitute, and the manufacturer says it's great (!), but I haven't used it myself. It's said to be more dimensionally stable than ebony, but similar in terms of its workability. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's used it.
A while ago I used rocklite for the fingerboard of a demo guitar. In my view it's as good as the manufacturer says it is - easy to work and stable.
Several dozen people have since played it, including several pros and no one noticed it wasn't ebony until I pointed it out to them. Except for 'copies' I'm using it on all my instruments now.

Les
Lester Backshall, Guitar Maker - Aylesbury UK

mqbernardo
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Re: Laminated Fret boards

Post by mqbernardo » Wed Mar 15, 2017 5:36 pm

Les Backshall wrote:
John higgon wrote:There's a material called Rocklite which is a man-made ebony substitute, and the manufacturer says it's great (!), but I haven't used it myself. It's said to be more dimensionally stable than ebony, but similar in terms of its workability. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's used it.
A while ago I used rocklite for the fingerboard of a demo guitar. In my view it's as good as the manufacturer says it is - easy to work and stable.
Several dozen people have since played it, including several pros and no one noticed it wasn't ebony until I pointed it out to them. Except for 'copies' I'm using it on all my instruments now.

Les
Interesting... being a man made product, is it good to use right away or do you let it season? And what about dimensional stability?

Thanks,
Miguel.

John higgon
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Re: Laminated Fret boards

Post by John higgon » Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:03 pm

mqbernardo wrote:
Les Backshall wrote:
John higgon wrote:There's a material called Rocklite which is a man-made ebony substitute, and the manufacturer says it's great (!), but I haven't used it myself. It's said to be more dimensionally stable than ebony, but similar in terms of its workability. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's used it.
A while ago I used rocklite for the fingerboard of a demo guitar. In my view it's as good as the manufacturer says it is - easy to work and stable.
Several dozen people have since played it, including several pros and no one noticed it wasn't ebony until I pointed it out to them. Except for 'copies' I'm using it on all my instruments now.

Les
Interesting... being a man made product, is it good to use right away or do you let it season? And what about dimensional stability?

Thanks,
Miguel.
According to the manufacturer, it doesn't need seasoning and it is stable in comparison to ebony. I haven't used it yet but am likely to try it soon. Les seems to like it...!

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