Ebony is a very special type of wood. It is one the very few timber species that does not float on water, but sinks to the bottom. It’s heavy, dense and has superior bend strength as compared to any other wood species. Whereas a guitar doesn’t really need such an extremely stiff fretboard to function perfectly well, ebony does have many qualities that make it a fantastic species for fretboards. Ebony finishes super smooth and it is very durable – it’s the only fingerboard wood that can take decades of wear and tear in violins and other fretless instruments. When compared among our choice of fretboard materials, an ebony fretboard could be described as slightly brighter sounding than rosewood, but not quite as bright as maple or arctic birch.
There is another part in my guitars where I love to use ebony. Certain wood species, such as spanish cedar, are extremely responsive and vibrate strongly. Responsiveness is a great thing, but in certain parts of the guitar – such as neck – it needs to be controlled, too. The fretboard (regardless if it’s made of ebony, rosewood, maple or birch) adds a laminated structure to the length of the neck and makes the neck stiffer.
But the headstock vibrates too, and perhaps you’ve noticed that all my spanish cedar necks have a thick ebony overlay on them. It does miracles to even out the resonance peaks of the neck by adding bend strength and density to the headstock. So the ebony headstock veneer is not there just for the looks – it serves an essential structural function.
The availability of top quality Ebony is becoming more and more scarce. Most manufacturers and also many individual guitar makers have stopped offering ebony already. We have reliable, FSC certified ebony suppliers with whom we’ve worked with since the 1990’s. In skillful hands, carefully selected and dried with patience, ebony works beautifully and will remain in our choice of options as long as possible.
Check out our online Maintenance Guide for detailed instructions how to clean and maintain your Ebony fretboard in good condition.
All the ebony parts of Ruokangas guitars are made of FSC certified African ebony (Diospyros Ebenum). Ebony does not require CITES documentation to be delivered with the guitar.