From Ebony to Sound Composites Acoustic Carbon...
... and why Sound Composites Fingerboards are remarkably superior to wood (and Phenolic) fingerboards!

Ebony has been chosen for use as the premier, preferred fingerboard surface for classical stringed instruments in preceding centuries due to its consistent hardness, tight grain, and even coloration.

In using ebony for this purpose, instrument builders and repair people have re-enforced the perceived top value of this wood to luthiers and musicians for generations.

Due to its slow growth pattern, ebony, along with other hardwoods, has been over-harvested through clear-cut deforestation. This has resulted in the increasing cost for wood of similar quality. Larger top quality pieces of ebony are becoming increasingly hard to acquire. One result is that standard ebony upright bass fingerboards are becoming less thick. Additionally ebony is being supplied with coloration and grain “blemishes” as well as provided prior to being fully dried, allowing for cracking and warping.

Whereas Brazilian Rosewood is no longer legal to import into the U.S., some other exotic hardwoods are now being used as replacements for ebony in limited production situations. However, none of these are available in sufficient quantities to be used as a true replacement in larger-scale commercial manufacturing.

In the current economic environment, there is a race to produce good quality products at increasingly moderate cost. Competitive manufacturing has resulted in the use of processes and machinery with tight dimensional tolerances and continually improving surface qualities. At the same time, most manufacturers continue to provide the fingerboard playing surface out of ebony.

Ebony is not only susceptible to warping during instrument production, but also to swelling throughout and in isolated areas on its surfaces. This swelling results in a need by players to have the surface periodically refinished. As the fingerboards are retooled, they become less thick and weak, and are eventually replaced. Thus, whereas advances are being made in many aspects of production, this important performance surface has yet to be fully addressed.

The industry has to date propped up the image of ebony as the top wood despite its inherent durability and increasing availability problems. In that other woods have been noted for centuries as being less suitable and desirable for the fingerboards, producers have essentially boxed themselves in. It is difficult to suddenly convince musicians that the more normal and available woods previously considered unsuitable are now the best choice. It is our opinion that making move to a completely new, technically superior, sonically transparent and aesthetically pleasing material is a cleaner transition.