Fingerboards


Stonefield offers a range of different fingerboard woods, allowing you to get the look and feel that suits your personal style. Obtained from sustainable and ethical sources, some of our timbers are rarely available to luthiers. 

Jarrah

Eucalyptus marginata is one of the most common species of Eucalyptus in the southwestern part of Western Australia.  The tree and the wood are usually referred to by the aboriginal name for the Eucalypt is jarrah, which was adopted into English from the early days of Australian settlement

Jarrah produces a dense and richly coloured wood.  When fresh, jarrah is workable but when seasoned it becomes so hard that conventional wood-working tools are near useless on it, which just happens to also make it an excellent choice for fingerboards.

Highlighted by beautiful grain lines, the finished lumber has a deep, rich, reddish-brown colour that darkens over time.  In addition to the typical clean clear and string grain, a variety of figurings may be presented in the wood.  The main ones we’ve seen have been similar to a tiger-stripe or fiddleback pattern and also a wavy, rippling pattern.

 

Wenge

Millettia laurentii is a tree from Africa and native to the forests of Zaire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Gaboon and Equatorial Guinea.  The wood is stiff, strong in compression, and stable.  It is moderately hard and resistant to wearing and marring, qualities that make it an excellent choice for fingerboards.

Coloration is on the dark side, ranging from medium brown, sometimes with a reddish hue, to nearly black.  Grain patterns often appear with black streaks crossing through predominantly dark brown boards and with the application of a wood finish wenge can become nearly black.
It has enjoyed favour by musical instrument makers for many years in applications as diverse as back and side wood on acoustic guitars, edge banding and decorative trim, solid bodies and complete necks on electric guitars & basses and, of course, as fingerboards.
    

Black Maire

Nestegis cunninghamii, a tree species endemic to New Zealand’s North Island, is one of the most dense timbers in the world.  Arguments persist over whether it is even more dense than lignum vitae, traditionally regarded as the hardest wood on Earth.  In traditional use, NZ Maori used it for digging sticks, mallets and as wedges for splitting other woods.  Since European discovery of the wood in the 1800’s, it has been used in industry for bearings and machinery parts.  On the other end of the usage spectrum it has found favor with makers fine furniture and woodwind instruments.

Black maire (prononunced my ree) is an even-grained timber that varies from creamy brown to dark chocolate in colour.  It is occasionally streaked with near-black grain lines.  We sometimes find boards that are almost completely one colour but the usual appearance is that of mixed, mottled and varied colour.  We’ve noted a lovely ribbon-like figuring in many of our boards.

All of our current black maire, enough for a couple hundred fingerboard and bridge sets, has been milled at a small local mill in Paraparaumu, New Zealand, from a tree that came down over 40 years ago.

 

Queen Ebony

Xanthostemon melanoxylon is a flowering plant in the Myrtacaea family native to the forests of the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and some other island nations in this the same geographic region of the Pacific.  Known by the locals as tubi, the heartwood of X. melanoxylon is a dark, dense wood that rivals lignum vitae and any of the African and Indian wood species that are commonly referred to as ebony for strength and durability.

Queen ebony varies in colour from chocolate brown to black.  We’ve noted a ribbon-like figure in some boards and have a few that present a remarkable quilting figure, though this has only been very localized as opposed to running across the entire piece like what we’ve observed with the ribbon figure.


This was a rare find for us.  Tomm came across a gentleman on NZ’s North Island that had purchased a small stack of this timber in the form of chain-sawn  4x6, 6x6 and 8x8, all about two metres long, from a Solomon Island’s confiscation sale.  The trees had been illegally logged and the infringing parties caught, after which the wood was sold by the Solomon Islands government.  We love this story because one of our key policies is responsible sourcing and in this case includes the satisfaction of turning an illegal action into a legitimate one.  We purchased most of what was available and have enough of it for about 100 fingerboard and bridge sets.  It is uncertain as to whether we will ever again have this species available once these stocks are used.

 

South American Massa

Manilkara bidentata is a species is native to a large area of northern South America, Central America and the Carribean. Massa is an extremely hard wood and is so dense that it does not float in water.

The colouration of the wood ranges from the whitish or pale brown sapwood  to the dark reddish-brown heart.   We have found some boards with very dark streaks running through them as well.  The grain is generally straight and interlocked but can appear wavy, with a fine and uniform texture.  The odd board has been sawn to reveal a tight tiger stripe or fiddle back figure.

The source of our current stock of Massa is slightly unusual; we discovered a batch in a lumberyard, milled and dressed to become a patio deck.  Upon making an enquiry as to whether the wood was available in rough sawn sizes we were informed that the customer who ordered the decking had canceled the order and we were offered the lot.  Our reference is to use quartersawn wood for our fingerboards, so the time was taken to sift through the (rather large) pile and select only the boards with a quartersawn orientation.

While this wood was a bit of an unexpected find, we like it enough that when our current stock begins to run down we will most likely find a regular source.

 

Kowhai

Sophora microphylla  is a native tree of New Zealand of which there are eight species.  The natural habitat of kowhai (pronounced koh fai) is beside streams and on the edges of forest, in lowland or mountain open areas.  The tree grows throughout the country.

The pale, yellowish-white coloured wood is dense and strong.  It is so hard that in past times it was used for tools, machinery parts and bearings.  It has been used by New Zealand luthiers for fingerboards as well as back, side and top sets on acoustic instruments such as the guitar and ukulele.

The kowhai that we’ve made into fingerboards came from an old tree located on a friend’s farm that had fallen over in a wind storm.  The fact that kowhai is not commercially milled on any scale makes this a seriously unique wood.  We have stocks for about 20 fingerboards and it is unlikely that we will ever have this species again once these stocks are depleted.

 

Zebrano

The wood of Microberlinia brazzavillensis is sourced in central African countries such as Gabon, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Referred to as Zebrawood or Zebrano, the heartwood is a pale golden yellow, distinct from the very pale color of the sapwood and features narrow streaks of dark brown to black. Zebrano is almost always supplied quartersawn in order to get the alternating color pattern, which adds to its value as a great timber for use as a fingerboard.

It is a heavy, hard wood with a somewhat coarse texture, and like many tropical woods has an interlocked or wavy grain. Long standing uses include veneers, wall paneling, flooring, furniture and marquetry. It more recent years it has come into favour with luthiers for back and side sets on acoustic guitars, decorative tops on solid body instruments and fingerboards.

 

 

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