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View Full Version : Rosewood vs. Ebony



liquid_wind
05-06-2009, 02:17 AM
Why do I want ebony when rosewood is much cheaper? Will it give me anything more in sound? tone? playability?, or just for looks?

Ukuleleblues
05-06-2009, 03:08 AM
Ebony is a harder wood. It polishes up very smooth. It is also less forgiving when workig with it, it will chip since it is so hard. Personally I can't tell much of a differece between ebony and rosewood on a fretboard on a uke when playing. I would assume after thousands of hours of playing the ebony would wear less.

Timbuck
05-06-2009, 05:57 AM
I've found there's lots of diffrent types of rosewood and ebony i've made some fingerboards with rosewood so dark it looks like ebony..and some ebony is not as black as it should be and looks like dark rosewood...When you press in the frets ebony boards curve convexed, while rosewood ones usually stay flat....strange stuff????:cool:

Wayne909
05-06-2009, 08:41 PM
Why do I want ebony when rosewood is much cheaper? Will it give me anything more in sound? tone? playability?, or just for looks?

I much prefer ebony for its playability and hardness (I havent built with it). I dont think the sound is desirable on every instrument, but the playability and durability exceeds rosewood by a noticeable margin. It is my favorite finger board wood. I have nails that I cant cut back beyond the finger tip, and so I cant help but wear on rosewood. My ebony banjo shows no wear..

koalohapaul
05-06-2009, 10:10 PM
Ebony, be it Gaboon or Macassar, is harder than most commonly available rosewoods. While the tone and feel of the instrument are affected, the most noticeable difference has already been mentioned. Durability. Ebony won't last forever under constant playing, but it does last for a very long time. It also weathers nicely, since the wood is naturally black, and blackens with age.

Timbuck,

The reason ebony finger boards bow after fretting, is because the ebony doesn't give to the pressure of the barbs on the fret wire tangs. Rosewood is soft enough to allow the barbs to push in, but ebony gives very little. Multiply that by 12-20 frets and you end up with a bowed fret board. It's usually not a problem, since you glue it on flat, but here's a trick if it really bothers you. Most fretting saw blades have a kerf of .022-.024". If you're doing it on a table saw, cut each slot twice, moving your fence or means of guide out by a couple thousandths. A nice shortcut is to use a piece of paper as a shim against the fence, then do the cut again without the paper there. Most paper reads about .003", which is perfect. Your fret slots will then be about .027", which is perfect for fretting an ebony board, without severe bowing. Any wider and you may have loose frets, but we work with .028" when doing ebony and it has been working for years. For rosewood and koa, we use the normal slot width.

Or, you could pick up one of those fret barber things from Stewmac. We don't use it for production, but it works great for builds in less volume.

Timbuck
05-07-2009, 02:11 AM
Ebony, be it Gaboon or Macassar, is harder than most commonly available rosewoods. While the tone and feel of the instrument are affected, the most noticeable difference has already been mentioned. Durability. Ebony won't last forever under constant playing, but it does last for a very long time. It also weathers nicely, since the wood is naturally black, and blackens with age.

Timbuck,

The reason ebony finger boards bow after fretting, is because the ebony doesn't give to the pressure of the barbs on the fret wire tangs. Rosewood is soft enough to allow the barbs to push in, but ebony gives very little. Multiply that by 12-20 frets and you end up with a bowed fret board. It's usually not a problem, since you glue it on flat, but here's a trick if it really bothers you. Most fretting saw blades have a kerf of .022-.024". If you're doing it on a table saw, cut each slot twice, moving your fence or means of guide out by a couple thousandths. A nice shortcut is to use a piece of paper as a shim against the fence, then do the cut again without the paper there. Most paper reads about .003", which is perfect. Your fret slots will then be about .027", which is perfect for fretting an ebony board, without severe bowing. Any wider and you may have loose frets, but we work with .028" when doing ebony and it has been working for years. For rosewood and koa, we use the normal slot width.

Or, you could pick up one of those fret barber things from Stewmac. We don't use it for production, but it works great for builds in less volume.
Intresting stuff there Paul ..I'd already worked out why the ebony bends:)...
My set up for cutting the slots is with a .025" X 4" blade ( i got a few on E-bay years ago) I made up an indexing mini table saw out of an old B&D drill and the table off an old scrap cheap band saw, some threaded rod and other stuff from the scrap box and Hey presto ..It works just fine for me it can cut frets on the neck or as individual fretboards...and it cost nothing to make.
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT1700.jpg
This is the indexing bit..I marked it out under a toolroom microscope (Another E-bay item from way back) to get as accurate as possible.
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT1707.jpg
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT1703.jpg

Bluke
05-07-2009, 08:14 AM
How am I supposed to know why you want one wood over another? Are you talking about the fingerboard, where those woods mentioned are the typical choices, or the body of the instrument? Two very different applications.