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Custom Shop Home: On Fingerboard Design

All our fingerboards are "radiused" to 12", resulting in a clean grade "A" look and extremely comfortable feel. The 12" radius on the fingerboards offers a great overall feel for both string bending and chording. Combined with jumbo frets, you get slick fingerboard results that will not "note out" in the most demanding string bending.  In addition to radiusing our fingerboards, we also use Compensating Drop-off.  Compensating Drop-off helps compensate for the natural tendency of the neck to pull forward under string tension.  This drop-off is between .015-.020" at the the upper portion of the fingerboard's 24th fret and between .020-.040" at the lower end of the fingerboard, helping to offset for larger dimensioned strings.  The standard scale of our guitars is 25" which offers a greater sustain, volume with slightly improved harmonic complexities than the smaller scales. It is a slightly smaller scale then the Fender, resulting in a very comfortable neck. Additionally, all Ballurio Guitars use a zero-fret which has a number of benefits over a straight nut: 1) perfect string height over the first fret, 2) fewer intonation problems, and 3) the difference in sound between open and fretted strings is eliminated.

Type Pattern Material

Standard Marker Pattern

MOP, GMOP & Abalone
Side By Side Marker Pattern MOP, GMOP & Abalone
Triad Marker Pattern MOP, GMOP & Abalone
Brio Style Marker Pattern Maple, Walnut & Others
Tiger Marker Pattern MOP & GMOP 
     
View Fingerboard Examples

Overview of Fingerboard Woods

The fingerboard is one of the most significant elements on the guitar and its feel and tonality are critical to the guitarist. The wood used contributes to the overall sound of the guitar as well as the look. The following provides an overview of woods we use for fingerboards and their respective sound qualities. 

Maple:
Maple is a very bright and dense wood. It has a tight response with higher overtones while lacking in bottom harmonics. Maple is a great wood when used with darker sounding neck and/or body woods. The variety of wood figuring such as quilted and birdís eye, provides a very appealing look.

True Rosewoods (Delbergia):
Rosewood is one of the most frequently used fingerboard woods in the guitar industry. At Ballurio Guitars, we use only a few of the true Rosewoods, as we believe that there are other woods that offer better tonal response. From this wood family, we use Kingwood (Delbergia cearensis) on several of our models and have Tulipwood available for those who wants something visually different and exciting. Rosewoods are both stunning in appearance and well-suited as a fingerboard material. The natural oils make it a durable wood and the sound is richer and more complex than Maple, slightly compressing the upper range.

Ebony:
Ebony has a clean, bright attack similar to Maple in sound and density but with a more delicate structure. The oil and pore structure produce a stronger tonal foundation than Maple. It is dynamic and percussive in the pick attack with improved sustain.

African Padauk & Purpleheart:
The characteristics of both of these woods fall between Maple and Ebony. They have tonal variation similar to Ebony but with a "rounded" top that is found in Rosewood. They have good sustain and warmth. Both have excellent durability and appearance and are perfect alternatives to the standard of Maple and Ebony.

For additional information on currently available wood please see our Wood Bank section.

Our Top Eight Favorite Fingerboard Woods:  The quality of wood is a product of several factors, such as grain, workability, appearance and other slightly more esoteric reasons.  

Ranking Wood Appearance Tonal qualities & Additional Attributes
1 Maple Good to Excellent Very bright with very good sustain.
2 Purpleheart Good Bright with a overall tone similar to Hard Maple but warmer and only second to Hard Maple in sound quality. The highs are slightly restrained due to the oil content of the wood.
3 Padauk Good Bright, similar to Hard Maple. Highs are a bit restrained due to the oil content of the wood.
4 Kingwsood  Excellent Bright, similar to Hard Maple. Highs are a bit restrained due to the oil content of the wood.

Note:  See Cocobolo notes, for additional information.  While Kingwood shares in many of the attributes of its other true rosewood cousins it does not have many of the oils that affect sanding and finishing as found in Cocobolo in particular.  This makes Kingwood easier to work, glue and finish.  Much of the cost associated with its use is the wood's actual cost. 

5 Ebony Good Bright, similar to Hard Maple, with excellent overtones, highs are a bit restrained due to the oil content of the wood.
6 Ipe Good Bright with an overall tone similar to Hard Maple with highs that are a bit restrained due to the silicon content of the wood.

Note:  Ipe makes an excellent fingerboard, its ranking is largely due to workability.  The wood is difficult to glue, sand and finish, however it accepts frets very well.  These workability issues result in added cost, not found in other fingerboard wood options.

7 Cocobolo Good to Excellent Bright, similar to Hard Maple. Highs are a bit restrained due to the oil content of the wood.

Note:  Cocobolo makes a nice and exciting looking fingerboard, however it shares many of the workability issues found in Ipe, but does not share in Ipe's overall sound quality in the upper range.  These workability issues result in added cost.

8 Other Rosewoods Good to Excellent Bright, similar to Hard Maple. Highs are a bit restrained due to the oil content of the wood.

Note:  See Cocobolo notes.