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composite fingerboards


saintjohnbarleycorn
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Has anyone tried these out? With the possibility of ebony supplies drying up, is this a good solution. Some are already using composite tailpieces, mechanical tuners and the like. It seems like there will be a good supply of maple and spruce for along time to come as it grows in many places. The tropical forests are not so lucky, (aside from the current import problems) I am not sure about their re-forestation projects, they may be doing that also and in so many years there may be a good supply. Just as the ivory keys on the piano went the way of the mastodon, is ebony going that way too?

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I too wonder, Saint, when ebony supplies will dry up. It could always be available BUT AT A HIGH PRICE. Then, there is the question of quality pieces, and the availability of large pieces for cellos and double basses. :unsure:

Will old, cheap instruments be cannibalized for their fingerboards and other ebony parts?

Will other suitable woods be stained black or even left as is for their beauty?

The issue is how will this affect tone, and be accepted by the marketplace.

Those are my thoughts FWIW. Probably not much. :D

Stay Tuned.

Mike

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until ebony supply really dries up i see three obvious strikes against this composite fingerboard A;the price!! B; no mention of being able to plane it and who would be willing to ruin their plane on this stuff C; there "reccomending" titebond and a fourth D; there 4 mm thick at the edges not 5mm. as per weishaar et al

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good point about cannibalization, perhaps people will start buying up cheap old violins, to get the fingerboard.

Lydon, I didn't think of that, never tried, the local surfers were suing carbon fiber and such, but they always epoxied over what ever they did so super smooth was not an issue.

Yes grow more trees. being dense like it is I would guess it would take 50 years or so to get quality wood??

My parents went to see my sister in Africa in the 60's , my dad took some pictures of huge hardwoods seemed to me at least 6' or more across, that were being harvested , I think it was ebony,

and ivory tusks were still able to import.

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Ebony is very dense, too. I've heard people say that, except for the fingerboard, one shouldn't use ebony for fittings because it damps the instrument sound. No idea whether this is true. In the past ebony fingerboards were not so common, witness the maple fingerboards on baroque instruments. I imagine that if ebony becomes too rare for general use that some other substitute will be found and it will work fine after a period of learning how to use it in violinmaking.

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Around a year ago I became interested in composite fingerboards. I only made one prototype from epoxy and fiberglass. The original surface seemed very hard, harder than ebony, so in principle the idea can work. On the one that I made I didn't get the surface flat enough and had to sand the surface back. When I did this I exposed the fiberglass cloth which looked bad and probably wouldn't have had much abrasion resistance. At some point I'll try the idea again but I will need to make a really good mold this time so that I won't have to reshape the surface.

I've also picked up a board of 'Brazilian redwood' which is absolutely nothing like California redwood. This wood is a type of Manilikara which I think might be the 'Brazilwood' in some lower grades of bows. The wood is extremely hard and similar density to ebony. The wood has a uniform red-brown color so it should dye very well but I haven't tried doing that yet. The wood is naturally a pretty color so it's a shame to have to dye it to boring black.

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Carbon + epoxy are great materials, the carbon nanotubes appear very cool, but how does it feel on your fingertips?? (a question, not a statement)

When I did this I exposed the fiberglass cloth which looked bad and probably wouldn't have had much abrasion resistance. At some point I'll try the idea again but I will need to make a really good mold this time so that I won't have to reshape the surface.

You may want to try to apply a last coat of epoxy with aprox. 10% graphite powder mixed in, it will strenghten it considerably, plus it will feel more slippery -- if you can - apply always on top of other epoxy while on hard-gel state, if not water sand using 80 grit than epoxy/graphite - vacuum lamination is great- oven curing strenghtens a lot also.

if you heat hardened epoxy pass 120ªC aprox (depens on the material) it will gel again without any damage.

I'm not a chemist, speak out of past experience/research and many phone calls with some epoxy manufacturers.

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Yes, I did include graphite power in my epoxy. It was quite black looking until I sanded too deep and reached the fabric.

:blink:....I'll risk being redundant again...if I am please accept my humble excuse...:huh:......you probably know a lot more about epoxy than I, but just in case....if the fabric is not damaged structurally, no damage done, at all, I'd just carefully water sand 80 grit (for adhesion) clean with acetone and paper towels (the ones without chloriine or dyes) and apply the epoxy graphite coat and it's all new again.... :)

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By the time I sanded the fingerboard the epoxy had already fully cured. I wasn't sure how well a new layer of epoxy would stick to the old so I never used the fingerboard. I think it's best to just cast it to the right shape to begin with then you don't have to worry about how well different coats of epoxy will adhear to each other.

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By the time I sanded the fingerboard the epoxy had already fully cured. I wasn't sure how well a new layer of epoxy would stick to the old so I never used the fingerboard. I think it's best to just cast it to the right shape to begin with then you don't have to worry about how well different coats of epoxy will adhear to each other.

The adhesion will be very very strong, more than you would need. The cleaning is very important. Also wet sanding to remove amine blush (if it''s a cold day use warm water) :)

It's a good practice to apply a thin coat of plain epoxy on the cured surface before applying the thickened one (for deeper penetration), you can apply the thickened one immediately after, no need to wait for gel state.

Epoxy's tensile adhesion to cast iron (wet sanded) is 3970 PSI (West Systems) - Epoxy to Epoxy it is surely more.

it takes about 1 to 2 weeks to fully cure at room temperature.

If you want full power adhesion (I don't think it's necessary) you can heat the cured epoxy in an oven or with a heat gun until it reaches a hard/gel state (100ºC to 120ºC), than apply.

All the best

Carlo

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A couple of possibilities: A veneer of ebony over something like maple will greatly extend the current supply. I've been wiping on Minwax Wood hardener whenever I dress a fingerboard-it greatly extends the time before the next dressing is needed.

I could even imagine using a very hard maple, treating it with an additional hardener and dying black as a simple, cheap alternative to ebony.

Oded

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On the contrary of ivory (which is evidently of limited supply and rightly regulated) the most simple way to get ebony is to get trees planting programs. The demand for this wood is so high (and of course not only for violins) that it would be economically viable.

It's a nice idea to simply plant the trees, but unfortunately it's not so straight forward. About 15 years ago I was able to attend two seminars on sustainable ebony harvesting. I attended as a sceptic and left both even more of one. They were given by two independent wood importers and both had very opposite ideas about how it should work. The first one (importer "A") was given by a company that talked about how easy and responsible their method of random selective harvesting on a blanket area would be. The other (importer "B") was more informative and talked about how difficult true sustainability is with these trees. This second company set up a 12 year rotation of a giant forest. They set it up like a pie and would selectively cut trees in one slice of the pie one year and then skip over to the third or fourth slice the next year so as not to be working on adjacent areas. They were going to harvest much less then the other importer.

The reasons that importer B gave for their much more complicated approach was related to how sensitive these trees are. Apparently they require a healthy ecosystem to grow properly. The soil needs to have certain organisms that rely on a healthy ebony stand AND other plants or insects (sorry that my memory isn't perfect and I can't find my notes to be more specific). There are (were?) also regulations on how quickly a tree must be removed from the site once harvested and for some reason I think it had something to do with leaching which led to excessive damage to the forrest. This meant more healing time.

The question was posed at both seminars about cultivation and both said it's not viable. The trees are very slow growing and would take a few lifetimes to mature into quality lumber. This makes for a pretty hard business plan unless you are only thinking about future generations. It is also not an easy plant to grow or cultivate as mentioned above.

Both companies disappeared after a few years and it was found out by a colleague at NBSS that importer A "selectively harvested" as many trees as it could and sold them as sustainable.

--Joe

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america was built on a long history of clear cutting forests and planting towns and farms, which grew and grew and continue to grow, now these third world countries want to get rich of their wood like we did off ours and we say no way, conservation..... if americans were so gung ho behind conservation, theyd clear cut some towns and plant forests in america.

by the way regrown ebony may not be this lifetime sustainable but cocobolo is and can be regrown quite quickly, so worst come to worst well have to switch to cocobolo, not, i hope, carbon fibre

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I really like Cocobolo. It makes great fittings, and in fact, I used it for an entire violin (excepting the top) back around 1990. The plan was to use it for an amplified instrument with a bridge pickup, and it performed admirably, except for being a little on the heavy side. Acoustically however, it can hold it's own against a good maple violin.

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Has anyone tried these out? With the possibility of ebony supplies drying up, is this a good solution. Some are already using composite tailpieces, mechanical tuners and the like. It seems like there will be a good supply of maple and spruce for along time to come as it grows in many places. The tropical forests are not so lucky, (aside from the current import problems) I am not sure about their re-forestation projects, they may be doing that also and in so many years there may be a good supply. Just as the ivory keys on the piano went the way of the mastodon, is ebony going that way too?

My link

I believe it was from this company that I bought two composite fingerboards about four or five years ago. One had a wood veneer on the bottom for glueing to the neck. They cost about $35 each and were complete crap. They were not acceptable in their shape. When I did try to scrape and sand them, it exposed large air pockets. They were also very flexible and the veneer was scraps of veneer sloppily glued on and even peeling off. I decided to keep one for reference and return the other for a refund. It took a loooong time to get the refund. I also tried calling the guy to discuss his product so he could make improvements, as I think this is an important topic. He never answered the phone or returned my calls.

I would be interested in seeing one now, before paying for it. Perhaps they're much improved now.

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