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stevepetergal
06-10-2012, 07:42 AM
My curiosity has been peaked by another thread. The original poster says a plastic fretboard is out of the question for his/her new ukulele. Those of you out there who do have or have had a plastic fretboard, what do you think? I've owned a few oldies and have been pretty impressed with them. I'm not planning to defend them, I just want to know who's had a positive or negative experience with one.

Markr1
06-10-2012, 07:50 AM
I would be interested also. Good question. I've never owned a plastic one but it just doesn't seem right to me.

ukemunga
06-10-2012, 07:53 AM
I first played a Fluke with plastic fretboard last weekend and like the fretboard very much. Can't quantify why, but it felt good and played easily.

rocko
06-10-2012, 07:54 AM
On the up side, the intonation is spot on. The minus for me is the feel.

tigersister
06-10-2012, 07:56 AM
I've played my friend's vintage Harmony with a plastic fretboard and I was pleasantly surprised. If I found a good deal on a similar uke, I'd grab it.

soupking
06-10-2012, 08:07 AM
I think "the feel" of a plastic fretboard is fine. The problem I found with the Flea I had was that the frets wore down pretty fast. There were indentations from the nylon strings on the various frets. I sold it off before it became an issue, but I'd imagine had I kept it, I would've needed a fretboard swap after about two years. Just a guess, though, and I suppose individual playing styles affect it differently. I'd say I probably press harder on the fretboard overall coming from a guitar playing background.

Gmoney
06-10-2012, 08:10 AM
In addition to the plastic, the other most common feature of a fretboard like these is the "zero" fret. No need to fiddle with the nut as the zero fret correctly terminates the string vibration at precisely the right point. The mold obviously has to be spot on, but I have a 50's w/plastic fretboard & it has obviously lasted a long time w/o raised frets or the ends sticking out. Short of someone putting steel strings on one, the plastic is going to "just work" w/o any special attention. It may also give a bit of different sound than wood, but for fleas, flukes, & these old Harmony's - it works for me.

uke4ia
06-10-2012, 08:12 AM
I like the plastic fretboard on my Fluke just fine. I've had it for 6 years now. The only problem I've had is that I wore off the position markers on the fretboard. I used my daughter's suncatcher paint to paint them back on. I haven't had any problem with the frets themselves wearing down.

Hippie Dribble
06-10-2012, 08:13 AM
personal preference , but mine is that I don't like them at all. Just feels wrong to me, kinda weird and hard and synthetic. My harmony I never play for that reason. I also owned a fluke with one that wasn't too bad but I just could never enjoy the sensation of playing it.

SweetWaterBlue
06-10-2012, 08:22 AM
I like the perfect intonation and lack of buzz etc on my Flea. The feel never bothered me. Easiest uke to play I have ever had with very low action. What I didn't like was when I wore grooves in it within 6 months of buying it. They will replace them free (you pay the shipping), but its still a hassle to send it back.

bazmaz
06-10-2012, 08:51 AM
Own a flea and a fluke with plastic. Both work flawlessly. Comfortable, supreme accuracy. What's not to like?

KimosTherapy
06-10-2012, 09:05 AM
Love my Fluke as well ... for a go anywhere, take anywhere durable uke that plays and sounds great!

Plainsong
06-10-2012, 04:24 PM
My fav was the fretboard on the koa flea I used to have, but I had a plastic one as well that gave me not a bit of problem. If I was getting a koa model... I think those come with rosewood anyway, but if I were getting a more colorful one, I'd not sweat the plastic.

itsme
06-10-2012, 04:39 PM
I have both a Flea and a Fluke with plastic fretboards and don't mind them at all, don't really even notice much of a difference. If you stroke the frets, you'll find they don't feel quite the same as metal frets, but hey, you're not supposed to be touching the frets when you play anyway! They seem to work just fine. :)

Only thing I've been cautioned about is that using would strings could wear the frets down. Not crazy about most wound strings anyways, so I just avoid them on the Flea/Fluke altogether.

nix
06-10-2012, 05:11 PM
I have a Flea with a plastic fretboard and a Fluke with a walnut fretboard. I have had no problems with the plastic and I kinda like the way it feels. The only caveat to that is sometimes it is slightly more difficult to bar a chord on the plastic fretboard than the wooden one. That could be just my personal style of playing though. I definitely wouldn't warn anyone away from the plastic fretboard and I play mine all the time.

Nix

stevepetergal
06-11-2012, 04:29 AM
I have a Flea with a plastic fretboard and a Fluke with a walnut fretboard. I have had no problems with the plastic and I kinda like the way it feels. The only caveat to that is sometimes it is slightly more difficult to bar a chord on the plastic fretboard than the wooden one. That could be just my personal style of playing though. I definitely wouldn't warn anyone away from the plastic fretboard and I play mine all the time.

Nix

Okay, second question- same thread. Are the frets any different shape on the plastic as opposed to the wood on comparable Fleas/Flukes? Thinner, Lower? On the many Harmonies I've owned, the frets were pretty thin.

Thumper
06-11-2012, 05:25 AM
I had a pair of concert Fleas, one with the plastic and one with a rosewood fretboard. To be honest, I like the feel of the plastic one better, and ended up giving my rosewood-fretted Flea to a family member. But they both felt good - it's just that the plastic one felt smoother along the edges.

I've been playing my plastic-fretted Flea and Fluke extensively since 2009, and am starting to see some slight wear on the plastic frets, but it hasn't become a problem. The biggest downside of the plastic fretboard is that the frets themselves can be hard to see. If you look at the neck a lot when you play, you'll have an easier time with conventional frets. But if you're past needing to look at it very often, this problem goes away, too. Both the plastic and rosewood fretboards were perfectly in tune all the way up the neck.

The frets on the "Fake Flea" from Schoenhut seem to be a little thinner than those on the Flea, for what it's worth, and was not glued to the neck nearly as precisely as a real Flea. But it still has good intonation, just crappy tone.

SweetWaterBlue
06-11-2012, 05:29 AM
I believe the great intonation and easy playability of the Flea with the plastic fretboard is due mostly to the zero fret. True popping the fretboards out of a mold makes them all just about perfect without any setup, but its just hard to beat a zero fret if you like the action that is already built in.

kaizersoza
06-11-2012, 05:44 AM
i love the action on my fluke with a plastic fret board, the intonation is spot on and it sounds really lovely, the one small gripe i do have which i don't notice on my other wood fret board ukes is the fact that when i am fretting the A string it sometimes slips off the fret board completely, probably due to my ham fisted way of playing but i don't notice it on other ukes, apart from that everything is just peachy

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
06-11-2012, 05:49 AM
I love plastic fretboards. New ones on Fleas and Flukes are great. Old ones on Harmony and Islander ukes are great.

bazmaz
06-11-2012, 05:57 AM
re your second question - I compared to the frets on my wooden fingerboard Fluke Firefly - yes, I think they are a bit thinner. But you know what, just sat and noodled with both - I think the plastic fingerboards are faster and easier to play than the wooden. The wooden one kind of creates a resistance on the fingertip and can 'grab' it if you see what I mean - my fingers can move around far more quickly and with more comfort on the plastic.

bpedaci
06-11-2012, 07:41 AM
So, beyond aesthetics, what are the downsides of a plastic fretboard?

bazmaz
06-11-2012, 07:59 AM
Beyond aesthetics the only one I can think of is that some have found the use of a wound string can wear grooves in frets. Oh, and on mine the painted fret markers wore off.

Otherwise I can't thnk of any. They work!

SweetWaterBlue
06-11-2012, 08:04 AM
Beyond aesthetics the only one I can think of is that some have found the use of a wound string can wear grooves in frets. Oh, and on mine the painted fret markers wore off.

Otherwise I can't thnk of any. They work!

Its not just the wound string that wears em out. I wore mine out with a set of high G Aquilas on strings C,E & A. Others have had the same result, but they will repair them for free.

Thumper
06-11-2012, 08:05 AM
Even non-wound strings can produce some minor fret wear. I use Aquilas on my Flea and Worth Clears on my Fluke, and both of them are showing very slight wear on a couple of the most frequently used frets. This is after three years of heavy use, mind you - both of them get played daily. But at this rate it could be a few more years before it becomes a problem - if it ever does.

haole
06-11-2012, 08:43 AM
I have a Flea with rosewood and a Fluke with plastic. The rosewood feels slightly better to me, but the plastic fretboard is still very comfortable and is designed well so the intonation is always right. It's a little hard to see the frets sometimes, so the plastic fretboard begs to be customized with paint. Either choice is fine, though!

Skitzic
06-11-2012, 09:00 AM
I don't really have a problem with plastic fret boards. I find they can be slippery, which makes bending interesting sometimes...but it could be my terrible skills making my bends slip too far. :D

nix
06-11-2012, 04:01 PM
Okay, second question- same thread. Are the frets any different shape on the plastic as opposed to the wood on comparable Fleas/Flukes? Thinner, Lower? On the many Harmonies I've owned, the frets were pretty thin.

I just examined them really closely and the plastic frets on the plastic fretboard and the metal frets on the wooden fretboard seem to be exactly the same shape and height. I don't have a tiny micro-measuring device so I can't tell with certainty that they are the same height but they look and feel like they are. They only difference (and it is a tiny difference) is that the angle where the base of the fret meets the top of the fretboard is not as sharp on the plastic one. I can't figure out a better way to describe it.

As others have said, the plastic fretboard is really well done and very comfy to play on. I don't have any problem with not being able to see the black frets but I did put some pretty jewel stickers in the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th frets to make them easier to find as I learn to play up the fretboard.

Nix

Ukulele JJ
06-11-2012, 04:43 PM
I love my plastic-fretboard Flea. Wouldn't change a thing about it.

No problems with fret wear after many years, but the fret markets wore off very quickly.

JJ

joekulele
06-11-2012, 07:51 PM
This is from my post on a different Flea/Fluke thread, but it has relevance here so I copy and pasted it.

"My very first uke was a concert Pineapple Flea that I ordered with a plastic fretboard. As it happened, I won a soprano Flea in a contest on FMM that had the rosewood fretboard. After playing both for several more months, I decided I favored the rosewood fretboard over the plastic, so I sent my Pineapple in and had it replaced. Cost then was $75 including return shipping. IMO it was totally worth every cent."

One reason I really liked the rosewood fretboard over the plastic was that at that time I was a brand new player and had to look at my left hand. The plastic fretboard with no contrasting fret wires was hard for me to see, especially in low light conditions. The fret markers wore off quickly on mine too.

I also like the aesthetics of the wood. I just used LoPrinsi fingerboard conditioner on both my Fleas and they sure look good. (They smell good too, haha!)

Peace through ukulele,
-joe