Padauk wood rarely tops the list of choices for fretboards. But, that all comes with the territory of being a tropical hardwood overshadowed by the more popular Ebony and Rosewood.
Still, Ebony and Rosewood aren’t the only top-choice hardwoods for your guitar fretboard, not by a long shot. You could even go so far as to say that Padauk wood could be a very real challenger to Rosewoods dominance in the guitar industry.
So, in this post, you will learn the impact (if any) fretboard wood has on the playability and tone of your guitar. You will also find out what we’re really looking for from a fretboard timber.
And stick around to discover why Padauk easily fits the bill as a top quality fretboard wood.
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Does Fretboard Wood Really Matter When It Comes To Tone?
Different tonewoods can impact sound quality if they’re used to make the soundboard of acoustic guitars.
However, the fretboard has little to no effect on soundboard vibration. So, any changes in tone, as a result of fretboards, are virtually negligible.
So, in short, the fretboard wood doesn’t effect tone.
Does My Choice of Fretboard Wood Affect Playability?
The type of wood used for a fretboard doesn’t restrict the smoothness of play. A smoothed fretboard surface doesn’t prevent guitar strings from thrumming. Nor does it stop your fingers from gliding along those strings.
You’re more likely to get playability issues from the type of finish you use on a fretboard.
So, What Is The Best Type Of Wood For A Fretboard?
The best type of fretboard wood is one that doesn’t need a sealing finish.
You see, some finishes can be sticky, and that can hurt your ability to play smoothly. But, if a fretboard is unfinished, there is nothing impeding your fingerstyle.
Now typically, wood that’s been left unfinished is vulnerable to drying out and cracking. That is because unfinished fretboards don’t have a protective sealing coat to safeguard them from humidity and moisture-damage.
This is why the best types of fretboards are made from wood so durable, they don’t even need a sealing coat to protect them.
So, very oily hardwoods such as Rosewood and Ebony, are the top two choices for guitar fretboards. They’re expensive, but they’re worth it, as their tree oil saturated grain prevents moisture from soaking into their wood fibers.
In addition to that, some other types of hardwood are specially treated to help make them more stable and moisture-resistant. For example, Roasted Maple is a super-heated version of regular Maple wood.
Maple wood is put through a heat treatment that all but caramelizes this lumber. And once the treatment is complete, Roasted Maple is left so stable it barely shifts around with changes in humidity.
This lack of ‘shifting around’ is otherwise referred to as wood being ‘stable‘. Stable woods can absorb water, but they don’t expand (as they absorb water) and contract (when that water evaporates afterwards).
And, if wood doesn’t shift around, it isn’t liable to crack either. Which makes Roasted Maple another great choice for fretboards.
What About Padauk? Is Padauk Wood Durable?
Padauk wood is a tough lumber that has a lot of natural tree oils in its wood grain. Similarly to Rosewood and Ebony, it’s able to shrug off rot and decay as a result of its oiliness. And this reddish lumber doesn’t need much help in the oil finishing department to last.
It’s as stable as Roasted Maple too (once it has been seasoned). So regardless of its natural tree oils, this wood doesn’t shift around much either.
And that’s why, between its natural oils and fantastic stability, Padauk makes for excellent fretboard material.
To Sum Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…
- 1). Fretboards don’t impact sound quality to any significant degree. Although, the type of finish used on fretboards can impact playability.
- 2). Unfinished fretboards are ideally made from durable hardwoods that are very moisture-resistant.
- 3). Padauk wood is an oily stable hardwood that is naturally moisture-resistant, making it ideal fretboard material.