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FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Walnut for fretboards?

wrnchbndr
Contributing Member
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New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
Sep 5th, 2017 08:54 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'm taking the plunge and am going to try to build a run of guitars for actual profit. I'm going to try to build a series of about a dozen guitars all at once. The cost of some materials has nearly trippled since the last time I purchased from LMI. I like buying pre-radiused fretboards from LMI because they are always awesome. I have a large 2" X 8" rough cut plank of black walnut. Does anyone know the pros and cons of using walnut for fretboards? I won't use it if its inferior for the purpose.

BbendFender
Contributing Member
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American Patriot

About as ordinary as you can get.
Sep 5th, 2017 08:59 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I think walnut would work just fine.

Leftee
Contributing Member
*******

VA

One foot on the brake, one on the GAS
Sep 5th, 2017 09:32 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I don't see a problem. In fact, I like the idea.

Whatcha building?

Cal-Woody

USA/California

Why do I keep fixing things that work?
Sep 5th, 2017 09:43 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Would you have to cut the wood into smaller pieces and let it sit for a few months to see if or how the wood might change? You know, like they do for guitar necks and fretboard stock.
Or at least cut it into 2"X2"by, whatever lengths you want the f retboards to be, then stack them and get it kiln dried, to determine the stability and straightness of the wood?
I'm saying this because that is what I've always seen from the manufacturers.
Otherwise, walnut is a very stable wood and would offer about the same expectations as that of rosewood, am also thinking that it would need to be quarter sawn to have the grain pattern to lay flatter without the wood wanting to open up and crack if cut flat with the grain pattern becoming open and splitting open from nut to body.
Not being a real knowledgeable about wood and some of the future concerns about how it may result if cut wrong, in my minds eye, I think this may be correct.
So, in mentioning all of this, I hope to hear how it is really done.
At any rate, it will be a gorgeous looking piece of wood and whomever beholds that instrument will definitely be awestruck!

Te 52

Laws of Physics

strictly enforced
Sep 5th, 2017 10:44 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

You've probably already done this, but...
(link).

The question, as always on the internet, is who knows what he/she is talking about and who is blowing smoke?

click

twangdoodles

michigan usa

Sep 6th, 2017 04:36 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Well, you wouldn't be alone. I saw that Gibson's J-15 uses walnut for the fretboard as well as the back and sides.

It's a lovely wood to work with, right up there with cherry with regard to hand-working. I have a bunch that's been air drying for a few years now that I plan on putting to use for acoustics. My concern with using it for fretboards is that while it is a hardwood it is definitely softer than rosewood, ebony, or maple. Maybe this would only be a problem for the heavy-handed player who doesn't trim his/her nails much, I don't know. There is also the color; natural black walnut is not for everyone.

If you just want to use what you have at hand then I say go for it. If you have to purchase wood then you might as well use maple as it's always cheaper and more plentiful.

While quarter-sawn is always nice, it's not necessary here. Walnut would probably be less likely to crack than any of the usual woods. While Gibson doesn't list any finish on the J-15 neck I would think that it would be necessary for a fretboard as it isn't an oily wood.

(This message was last edited by twangdoodles at 06:53 AM, Sep 7th, 2017)

BbendFender
Contributing Member
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American Patriot

About as ordinary as you can get.
Sep 6th, 2017 08:58 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have several pieces of walnut that I've had for years. Only thing is, I don't think any of the pieces are long enough for a fretboard or I'd gladly send you a couple of nice pieces.
How long do these boards need to be?

wrnchbndr
Contributing Member
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New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
Sep 7th, 2017 08:49 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have the black walnut. Its an 8/4 X 6" by 48" plank that was given to me by a client.
Te: the link was good and I read a lot of things that seem to follow a general consensus that walnut has its issues. I'm going to try it for a few mandolins. I'll stain it and try to find some sort of epoxy to do a saturation grain fill with a black pigment once I get the fretboard radiused. Well sealed and finished walnut furniture lasts for centuries. The worst comment I found was that walnut doesn't have much of a natural resistance to breaking down and overly drying out and becoming crumbly in the long term. Hopefully, I can find a way to seal the walnut without giving the fretboard the look of being lacquered. I don't find that fretboard wear is something that bothers me and the fretboard divits that I see on very old guitars just kinda tells me that the guitar was played often and enjoyed.
The owner of the shop I've worked in for the last 17 years has a thing about oiling fretboards. He even writes it down specifically on work orders. Maybe this is from the days that walnut was used often. I find that none of the manufacturers put much emphasis on oiling fretboards and in my tuition from Taylor, they kinda down play it a bit.

FunkyKikuchiyo

VT

Sep 13th, 2017 11:13 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

As far as bridge/fingerboard hardwoods go, walnut is probably the softest I've worked with. It is crazy easy to end up with fret slots that are too wide and sloppy. It is also really easy to just dent the frets down into the board if you're too aggressive. Maybe try on a piece of scrap and you'll see what I mean. You definitely need to glue frets with that stuff. Bridges can be hard to get flat, because they seem to move from day to day... but, also easy to clamp into place, so go figure. Ovation has used them at various points and they love splitting for pinless styles, so I'd recommend against that.

For conditioning/oiling, you're right. I've known some that just use tung oil, but I've found Howard's Feed & Wax works fine. It drinks it up like crazy, but it doesn't get too oily or weird with it.

FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Walnut for fretboards?




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