I'd like to make some electric guitars using all US-sourced wood. The only problem is that maple seems to be the only viable fretboard wood, and even that needs a finish on it. Osage orange is another possibility, but there really isn't a practical supply of properly sized, quartersawn planks.
I've known about "Dymondwood" for quite a while, and have kept the idea of using it in the back of my head for a long time. In doing a little research, there is a lot to like about this stuff...hardness, stability, cost, availability, sustainability. The downsides that I can see are: unknown tonal qualities, fret-holding qualities (could that even be an issue?) & customer acceptance.
Just wondering if anyone else has thought about this or maybe have you actually used this product. I know some fretless basses have been made using it, but my main interest is in fretted guitar fingerboards. I'm pretty sure I've seem some Martin & Gibson guitars with some types of laminate fretboards that might be dymondwood as well.
Here's what Martin uses for their FB's on their "pretend" HPL guitars. http://www.rutply.com/solutions/stratabond.html Same manufacturer as Dymondwood...different product.
As a luthier, DW looks to be tough to work with for FB's. There are all sorts of cautionary notices about saw blade spec's and warnings about heat. I'd venture a guess that it's "tonal" properties are inert...it has none. Also, frets may be pressed in OK, but I pity the guy that would have to refret that neck down the road.
As a buyer, I never consider instruments with synth or composite FB's....but that's just me. I personally don't view some the things Martin & Gibson are doing with their budget series of instruments as good or innovative. They are simply cost cutting features that have greatly tarnished both manufacturers' reputations. Again, that's a personal viewpoint.
If you restructured your goal spec's to "North American" hardwoods, your options would be greatly expanded and your problem solved. I encourage you to at least consider that change.
Best of luck with your project,
looking at the specs for stratabond, I didn't think it would be a great fb material...at least when compared to dymondwood, but I'm going to look into it a little more.
I agree that it would probably be quite hard on tools. I called Luthier's Merc., & they won't radius or slot the stuff...which is understandable.
Still, I think the material may be worth experimenting with...maybe Martin already has and has dismissed it. I don't think a person can judge it's tonal effect on an instrument based solely on its specs, either.
Off Topic: I worked on a Martin HPL guitar a few months ago...terrible design from a repair standpoint. Sounded awful, too.
Thanks for your perspective.
The fact that LMII won't accept it should be a pretty good indicator as to it's usefulness as an industry standard useable material.
To expand my "tonality" guess, all it is is colored hardwoods strips held together by & suspended in a resin adhesive. I base my assumption on the fact that narrow & thin wood-strips don't have enough mass to resonate and the proven fact that resin is an acoustically inert substance. Again, this is only a guess.
I think the best effect it could have is to render the FB a neutral item as part of a sound producing or transmitting component.
Give it a shot & if you could, post your results?
Oh, and it's also possible to have maple FB's dyed under extreme pressure so the color penetrates the entire roughed out piece, thereby minimizing the cosmetic severity of wear marks on the dyed piece.
Have a good day, man :)
I'm about a half-step away from being in total agreement with you. I was really hoping that there were others out there with some hands on experience using this stuff.
If I ever get around to trying it, I will certainly post my results.
Thanks for posting,
I'm not from around your parts but I'm familiar with the problems makers face when they want to use in-country wood.
Out here in the antipodes we have a small hot climate shrubby/tree called Gidgee. It doubles as a go-to for boutique makers when they need a passable local wood for fingerboard duty. Its hard to get and expensive but does the job.
I looked through the list of N. American hardwoods for an equivalent and the most likely looks like Mesquite (Prosopis ssp) which has a list of promising characteristics. I recall one of my hosts used chips of it on his BBQ smoker a while back - promising? But seriously, its used in rifle stocks, pistol blanks, cabinetry and for durable posts - all of which are good indicators. It is available in furniture making lengths,is hard and durable and is also prone to figure.
Now, I don't have a clue whether this will work but having read the specs I will now hand over to the forum to yeh or nay this as a prospect. It has to better than plastic and resin anyway.
Interesting Russ. Mesquite is very hard and dense, the only thing I'm not familiar with is its stability. Definitely a wood worth looking into though, I'd say. Oh, and I second the anythings better than plastic and resin statement, as well.
The fact that Mesquite does service in rifle stocks and pistol blanks (American black walnut is another wood used for this service) attests to its dry stability. Rifle stocks in particular have to be both beautiful and stable (in the old school days before composites). Still, none of that makes it a tone wood however, I note it is also used in bagpipe making (the joys of random Google searching) and Ukes.
It's a bit hard to get straight grain runs of mesquite because it more bush than tree. One thing to remember when you look at gut stock materials in the U.S it that Texas is a state full of guns AND Texas is pretty proud of it's Mesquite. It wouldn't have to be the best wood for guns stocks for Texans to embrace it for their guns. My vote would be on the black walnut. It's hard, fairly available and it's a tree rather than a bush.
Lots of ideas here. I'm with Ned on the mesquite deal...not a viable guitar wood.
If I was set on a USA grown hardwood, I would more than likely go with osage orange (Maclura pomifera).
I use black walnut all the time at my regular job building folk harps for Stoney End. In my opinion it is a great tonewood & I have guitars in the works that use it for neck and body...but it is not nearly hard enough for fretboard use.
So, has anyone used, worked on, or repaired Stratabond?
Here in the UK wood is scarcer than in the US. One way of reusing wood waste is to take wood dust and chippings and using only heat and pressure produce small blocks for burning in wood stoves. These blocks are very good fuel, dense and very low in moisture, but they are flaky. They tend to crumble particularly if they get wet. It's the resin in the wood that forms the natural 'glue' that holds them together and these woods are nowhere near as high in resin content as, say, pitch pine.
I wonder if a person was able to separate the wood dust from processing a rosewood back and sides set and add the right amount of wood resin could they, or someone else, compress this into material suitable for fretboards or bridges.
Here's a great site for checking wood characteristics:
Some good articles such difference between hard and soft maple, Brazilian rosewood and Indian rosewood, etc.