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Buying fingerboards


Jim Bress
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I was thinking about stocking up on fingerboards with the assumption that availability and quality of FBs are decreasing.

First, is this a false assumption?  If I buy some FBs (with Fb in hand) what should I look for so that I'm not buying a pigs ear made up to look like a silk purse?  

Thanks,

Jim

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I'll let someone else chime in about what to look for.  I'm still learning that ( although well seasoned, even grained  come to mind.  I'm not that interested in even color but might jus be my ignorance). As far as availability and quality go... they are definitely going to go downhill on both counts. 

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2 hours ago, Jim Bress said:

I was thinking about stocking up on fingerboards with the assumption that availability and quality of FBs are decreasing.

First, is this a false assumption?  If I buy some FBs (with Fb in hand) what should I look for so that I'm not buying a pigs ear made up to look like a silk purse?  

Thanks,

Jim

High quality has become scarce but availability is not an issue as fingerboards don't make a dent in "ebony" consumption - cooking does. With what's on the market now you'll have to adjust your technique because they plane horribly if at all and you'll have to let them season for some time because they're pretty green and they move a lot. The absolute top grades for clarinets and the like are still available but not in small qty and not processed. There will be a lot of wastage. A LOT. 

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1 hour ago, carl stross said:

With what's on the market now you'll have to adjust your technique because they plane horribly if at all and you'll have to let them season for some time because they're pretty green and they move a lot.

Have you tried the ones from International Violin? The last one I had from them planed nicely.

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29 minutes ago, Guglielmus Carinius said:

Have you tried the ones from International Violin? The last one I had from them planed nicely.

No. My consumption is so small ( 2/months ? ) that it won't make a difference. I use a scraping plane which does a fair job and it's quite aggressive. And mine cost $3.50... :) And they were specially made for me, slightly longer than 270mm - 275 or so. I cook them for a day or two at around 120C and that seems to stabilize them. 

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Hi Guys, thanks for all the answers.  I do know to look for straight grain and tight pores. I've shaped 3 FBs.  They all looked great to me, but two of them had terrible tear out.  I had to flatten the bottom with sandpaper on glass and could use scrapers only.  My planes would cause tear out freshly sharpened in either direction.  One board head zero tear out with my planes, so I'm clearly not seeing something.  I was also thinking about FBs that have had their pores filled and dyed to look great until you start shaping them.  I have heard there are processes to make boards black throughout and the color is permanent, i.e., won't bleed onto sweaty hands, but I don't know what that process is so I reserve some doubts.   I agree, IV customer service is great and they do their best to sell quality products.  I've always done well by them. 

some old threads mentioned Josef Klier fingerboards as being good.  Still the case? What of other suppliers?

Thanks,

Jim

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FWIW

1. I look very carefully at both ends of the board to try to define the grain orientation and I avoid wacko stuff cos it may warp with changes in humidity.

2. I look carefully at the underside which is often less tarted-up with polish etc to check the colour and see how the grain is running (I move the board up an down in an oblique light) and to check the pores.  I try to avoid highly undulating grain (cos it may make the top side difficult to work) and I don't like big pores. I pass on variegated-colour wood.

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6 minutes ago, Janito said:

FWIW

1. I look very carefully at both ends of the board to try to define the grain orientation and I avoid wacko stuff cos it may warp with changes in humidity.

2. I look carefully at the underside which is often less tarted-up with polish etc to check the colour and see how the grain is running (I move the board up an down in an oblique light) and to check the pores.  I try to avoid highly undulating grain (cos it may make the top side difficult to work) and I don't like big pores. I pass on variegated-colour wood.

Thanks Derek that's information I can use.  I do have a source that I will be looking at next week. :ph34r:  Also keeping in mind the hard truth of David's caveat that I won't really know until the wood is worked. 

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18 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

I do have a source that I will be looking at next week.

The underside usually has the remnants of  sanding that can obscure the wood.  Take a flat scraper and pass it over underside to get a better view of the wood. 

The underside can tell you much about what you will encounter on the top surface.

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15 hours ago, Jim Bress said:

 I have heard there are processes to make boards black throughout and the color is permanent, i.e., won't bleed onto sweaty hands, but I don't know what that process is so I reserve some doubts.

Thanks,

Jim

I've been using boards from Metropolitan Music, and they have been fine and they are located very close to me. For blacking I've been using India ink and then either a light mineral oil rub or I've been using Formbys satin tung oil. Not sure what I like better but neither one leaves black fingers. Also I've been using iron water rubbed on the raw wood a couple of times to darken a board, works ok but not as black.  I picked that up when I visited a pro shop in western NY. I have no idea what folks are using to fill the pores.

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13 minutes ago, Janito said:

And a pair of strong glasses so that you can see the end grain direction (can be quite subtle).

End grain is very difficult for me to see on fingerboards.  Also scraping or otherwise removing wood might be frowned upon FBs that I don't yet own.  Are Fingerboards plain sawn or quarter sawn?

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A light scrap to remove sanding marks should be acceptable to the seller - the bottom surface is going to be planed anyway.

I have seen anything from slab to quarter -/+ twist where there is a marked difference in nut direction and end direction.

(I also check edges for weirdness - a splinter coming off the edge later when planing can be a pain to correct).

Just a few things to be aware of.

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Jim,

Aside from wood quality you have to be pretty careful about measurements. Some manufacturers take so much out of the bottom hollowing that you will have trouble with  the board being too thin in the center  and or too thin at the end looking from the bridge  end. You should also check to make sure the board can be planed from the lower end toward the top as you will want to be able to dress the board by planing in that direction.

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29 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Jim,

Aside from wood quality you have to be pretty careful about measurements. Some manufacturers take so much out of the bottom hollowing that you will have trouble with  the board being too thin in the center  and or too thin at the end looking from the bridge  end. You should also check to make sure the board can be planed from the lower end toward the top as you will want to be able to dress the board by planing in that direction.

Thanks Nate.  I was going to measure length and width at both ends as well as edge thickness.  Didn't even think about the thickness of hollowed section.  I think I need to make a list for my graying gray matter to remember to check.

-Jim

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37 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Jim,

Aside from wood quality you have to be pretty careful about measurements. Some manufacturers take so much out of the bottom hollowing that you will have trouble with  the board being too thin in the center  and or too thin at the end looking from the bridge  end. You should also check to make sure the board can be planed from the lower end toward the top as you will want to be able to dress the board by planing in that direction.

Problems with all these factors led me to giving up buying "pre-shaped" fingerboards a few years ago and start making them from scratch. Only about 50% of the blanks I get tick all the boxes, but the they are a lot cheaper than pre-made ones and I can usually sell on the rejects to "normal" woodworkers who seem to regard the things we don't like (flaming/gnarly grain, streaking) as positive assets.

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1 hour ago, nathan slobodkin said:

 You should also check to make sure the board can be planed from the lower end toward the top as you will want to be able to dress the board by planing in that direction.

Again FWIW, I check the grain direction along the sides to get an idea whether the plane blade will dig in or ride over the wood on the top surface.

I have said enough, time to shut up.

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1 hour ago, Janito said:

Again FWIW, I check the grain direction along the sides to get an idea whether the plane blade will dig in or ride over the wood on the top surface.

I have said enough, time to shut up.

I got you loud and clear Derek.  I'll be making a check list from this thread to use after the first selection of FB candidates.  Then take more time with my check list after that.

I appreciate everyone's input even if I don't specifically mention someone or some detail.

-Jim

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