Fretboards, fretwire, etc.
Our wood selections for banjo, mandolin, and mandola fretboards include Gaboon ebony, pre-embargo Brazilian rosewood, and Indian rosewood, with other woods available on custom order. Computer-generated slotting scales are used to develop the gang saws for our .023" fret slots at the most accurate and properly-intonated locations. Fretboards are then profiled to their final shape. Mandolin and mandola boards are available flat or with a 12" radius.
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1) Which fretboard wood is best?: This is really a personal choice. Both rosewood and ebony are hard, durable woods that stand up well under fingernail gouging and repeated contact with the strings. Brazilian and Indian rosewood eventually darken from dirt, but when it is cleaned it offers a warm and rich appearance. Rosewood's higher oil content gives it a tiny edge over ebony for long-term resistance to shrinkage and checking (cracking). In prolonged dry conditions and years of non-use, ebony can check if not treated from time to time with lemon oil or a fretboard-care product. From a luthiery standpoint, they both hold frets well and are similar to inlay.
2) Our banjo and mandolin fretboards are fully profiled to their final outer shape and ready for inlay and fret installation. They are slotted with .023" cuts to accept all standard fretwires with a .023" tang.
3) While the F5/A5 fretboards and F4 fretboards are the same 13-15/16" scale length, they are not interchangable since the F4 fretboard is wider, shorter, and has a different shape on the fretboard extension. To suite your playing tastes, we can provide wider fretboards for F5s and A5s on request.
4) The original F5 mandolins featured an ebony fretboard extender (our part #338). After 1925 Gibson (and most luthiers, today) turned to using maple extenders because of cost and ease of manufacture. Although more difficult to make than maple extenders, the ebony fretboard extender has almost twice the mass and rigidity of its maple counterpart, and provides improved sustain and timbre by inhibiting damping at the end of the fretboard.
5) Our fretwire is made from nickel-silver alloy, a hard, durable metal that polishes to a bright silver-ish color. All of our fretwire is made with "beads" on the tang to ensure solid bedding of the fretwire into the fretboard.
6) For ease in setting frets in our radiused fretboards, we have an aluminum Fret Setting tool with a 12" radius edge to match our 12" radiused boards. The flat sides can also be used for setting frets in flat fretboards.
7) We recommend a radiused saddle when using a radiused fretboard. (A radiused nut is not necessary since the slots can be cut to the appropriate depths to match the fretboard's radius, and the top of the nut can be left either square or given a slight radius.)
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