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Thread: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

  1. #1
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Finally got around to making some persimmon blocks into fret boards.

    This is part of a quest to build a couple of mandolins 100% out of North American woods.

    The fret board project started with procuring some 2"X2"X12" American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana; aka white ebony) blocks. They were purchased from NCWoods located in North Carolina. Of course, persimmon is in the same genus as the African ebonys traditionally used and its hardness and density are very similar. However, persimmon is a tan color (sometimes with black streaks - esp. core wood) rather than uniformly black.

    The persimmon blocks were cut into 0.35" slabs which were sanded smooth and then set up to cut the slots for the frets using a scale of 13 5/16" with 29 frets. (frets #23 to #29 are not exact because they are going to be scooped and filled with fake frets).

    A 10" radius was sanded into the boards which resulted in having to make the slots deeper - so now they are a bit too deep in the center but that should be OK (I hope).

    The templates were cut out with a band saw and scroll saw for the tight stuff. The board on the left when bound will fit up to a 1 3/16" nut the one on the left a 1 1/8" nut.

    The tops of the boards (not the back or sides) were stained with Fiebing's oil dye to make it look like traditional African ebony. It looks amazingly close!

    Over all I am pleased with the results. Next project is to make some persimmon bridges.
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    Bernie
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  3. #2
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Bernie, those fretboards look great!

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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Kelley View Post
    Bernie, those fretboards look great!
    Thanks -- you're in the heart of persimmon territory!
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    Henry Lawton hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Great pursuit of sustainable resources Bernie. They look good both stained and natural. Time and use will tell you the rest. How do they compare in wt. to tropical ebony boards?
    "A sudden clash of thunder, the mind doors burst open, and lo, there sits old man Buddha-nature in all his homeliness."
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  7. #5

    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Looking good Bernie. It's not a mandolin, but I am nearing completion of a 000 guitar with persimmon back & sides, fingerboard & bridge. I decided to leave it all unstained. At first I wasn't sure about that, but the more I work on it, the more I like it. It works wonderfully, and the color has grown on me a lot. Can't wait to hear it.

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    Tom Thiel from Northwind Tonewood http://northwindtonewood.com/
    has been working on a chemical process, for a few years, that turns persimmon black all the way through. At first it was leaving light spots randomly in the lumber, but they got that figured out. The last time I talked to him about it the problem was that the chemical bath was only good for a one time use, which made it prohibitively expensive. I don't know if he is still pursuing it, or not. The samples he had looked great, I would definitely be interested in trying some.

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    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    Thanks -- you're in the heart of persimmon territory!

    Bernie, there are quite a few near the house. The trees are all small. The best part is making persimmon pudding!!

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    I just built my first mandolin and used Osage Orange for the fretboard. It is rated between the persimmon and ebony for hardness in the wood database. It is material that I had on hand from some other projects. I used it natural, which is a yellow color, but it will turn a darker orange over time as the wood oxidizes. Straight grain pieces are difficult to find but a mandolin fretboard is small enough that you can fit a piece in the split section usually. I have a piece cut for mandolin #2 which I am planning for this autumn or winter. It is readily available and sustainable.

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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by hank View Post
    Great pursuit of sustainable resources Bernie. They look good both stained and natural. Time and use will tell you the rest. How do they compare in wt. to tropical ebony boards?
    I have not looked it up in a while but as I remember it persimmon and Gabon ebony are comparable in hardness and density.
    Last edited by Bernie Daniel; Aug-01-2016 at 1:54pm.
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    I just built my first mandolin and used Osage Orange for the fretboard. It is rated between the persimmon and ebony for hardness in the wood database. It is material that I had on hand from some other projects. I used it natural, which is a yellow color, but it will turn a darker orange over time as the wood oxidizes. Straight grain pieces are difficult to find but a mandolin fretboard is small enough that you can fit a piece in the split section usually. I have a piece cut for mandolin #2 which I am planning for this autumn or winter. It is readily available and sustainable.
    Very cool! Last year our township (for reason unknown0 cut down a bunch of Osage oragne trees -- they must have been over 100 years old. But we were out of town -- would have loved have tried to get some wood out of that. I'd like to try osage sometime -- I think it is a very attractive wood. It sure is hard.
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    That is one beautiful looking guitar Joe! Years ago I talked to someone who was making a guitar with a back and sides out of ebony. It really looked nice but I only saw the guitar in the build stage but never did find out how it turned out. I agree the is nothing wrong with the color or appearance of persimmon
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    Registered User David Houchens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

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    This is persimmon Finger board, bridge and peghead veneer.

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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    I have not looked it up in a while but as I remember it persimmon and Gabon ebony are comparable in hardness and density.
    Density, yes, but I have a 10+ year old section of beautiful local persimmon that moves seasonally more than every other board in the shop.

    That said, the images look very nice. Keep up the great work!

    j.
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by David Houchens View Post
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    This is persimmon Finger board, bridge and peghead veneer.
    That mandolin looks beautiful! maple and spruce for the rest it? I'm starting to regret that I stained both of those boards now. I think on the next batch I will leave some in their unstained.natural color. The persimmon I have is slightly more yellowish -tan not such a lovely creamy white as the sample you used. How was carving the bridge?

    Are you sensing any issues of instability as mentioned in #12 with that fret board or bridge?
    Last edited by Bernie Daniel; Aug-01-2016 at 6:44pm.
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Joe - that was a very well timed post re.the guitar you're building using Persimmon. Bernie sent me an e-mail with pics.of his fingerboards both un-stained & stained. It was the first time i ever saw Persimmon & it's such a beautiful wood, that i mentioned to Bernie that it might make very good back & side wood. As Bernie hadn't used it before,he wasn't too sure about that,but your pics. have proved that it can be bent,at least for a guitar - but what are your thoughts on Persimmon for an "F" style mandolin ?. I could see it being usd for an "A" style & i think it would look stunningly good,& Joe - that guitar IS stunning !!.

    I also mentioned to Bernie that Persimmon would look maybe 'better' as a fingerboard material on elec.guitars than the almost standard un-stained maple so often used,which to me, looks about as anonymous as you can get, & looks (to me) more like yellow plastic than wood. A very beautiful wood indeed & i wonder if Robb Brophy ('Elkhorn' mandolins) has ever used it. He's certainly used some of the most exotic woods i've ever seen used in mandolin building,
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Joe .... I also mentioned to Bernie that Persimmon would look maybe 'better' as a fingerboard material on elec.guitars than the almost standard un-stained maple so often used,which to me, looks about as anonymous as you can get, & looks (to me) more like yellow plastic than wood. A very beautiful wood indeed & i wonder if Robb Brophy ('Elkhorn' mandolins) has ever used it. He's certainly used some of the most exotic woods i've ever seen used in mandolin building, (Ivan
    I kind of agree with Ivan some samples of persimmon are too nice to stain!

    If the sample of persimmon I purchased would have looked more like the samples that David and Joe presented (posts nos. 5 & 11) I might have come to the same conclusion that the wood looked too nice to stain.

    Both of their samples (guitar and mandolin) seem to have a richer more "white ebony" (LOL!) look than the sample I procured.

    I was looking on-line and found a number of panels that claim to be "persimmon" -- it should be noticed that there are other species of persimmon around the world also -- I cannot be certain which species these panel are.

    But clearly my sample looks more like panels B or C while the Joe and David had examples more like panels A & D?
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Kelley View Post
    Bernie, there are quite a few near the house. The trees are all small. The best part is making persimmon pudding!!
    Since I have take more interest in the wood, a decade or so ago, I've been more interested in the fruit as well. We have a couple of small markets here who sell the Asian Persimmon fruits and I find them to be pretty tasty to eat raw. Some samples are a little bland though. They are a good source of fiber as well as vitamins A & C.

    I know there is a very active trade in the southeastern US in persimmon for making pudding!
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Bernie, They are not so good if they are not good and ripe....They pucker your lips up...I used to have a tree in my yard as a child and I know that first hand...Some call them a Quince...

  29. #18

    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    My Dad always said that if you ate one that wasn't ripe "it would make you speak french." I have no idea what that means, but it did get the point across, like Willie says they will pucker you up big time!

    Ivan & Bernie, thanks for the compliments, I agree it is a nice looking guitar, though I had doubts at first. If I hadn't bought it in person, from RC Tonewoods, I probably would not have bought it at all. I did kind of like the back and sides, but wasn't sold on the fingerboard and bridge, but when I jumped in, I decided to go all the way. I'm glad I did. They had to "sell" me on it a little and ended up giving me a great price on it to try it. If it turns out sounding good, which at this point I am convinced that it will, I will buy more. I like it a lot. I do think it would make great fingerboards in place of maple.
    As far as bending, I don't think it would present any major problems, even for an F-style. There weren't any tight bends on my guitar, but it bent very easily. I wonder how it would be to carve the back, I don't think it would be much harder than maple. Pure speculation.

    James, since working with persimmon I've wondered if it is any more or less stable than ebony, since they are related, ebony moves a lot too. I'd like to hear you thoughts.
    Last edited by Joe Mendel; Aug-02-2016 at 11:01am.

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    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    The old bromide in Virginia was to wait for the first frost to eat them. Otherwise, you were in for a puckering.
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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    I grow persimmons for the fruit. Asian and American persimmons are of at least 3 and possibly 4 different species, So expect that the wood will vary as much as the difference between (for one example) white and red oak.

    The Japanese variety I grow can be eaten safely before the fruit softens, although we never pick them until they get soft and very sweet. As others here have noted, biting into the unsoftened fruit of an American wild tree will ruin your day.

    I have seen the wood of one of the Asian species used in Japanese cabinetmaking. It had buttery sap wood running into the heartwood, with a varying dark gray stripe running through the middle of the board.

    Among other uses, we make ice cream with our softened Japanese persimmons, although using a base of coconut milk, and a few heaping tablespoons of cognac. Delicious!
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Nollman View Post
    we make ice cream with our softened Japanese persimmons, although using a base of coconut milk, and a few heaping tablespoons of cognac. Delicious!
    It's a good thing you live so far away. . .I'd make a pest of myself whenever I thought you might be making that treat! It sounds fantastic.
    Purr more, hiss less.

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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    If,as it seems it might very well be,that Persimmon could be bent fairly easily,i could imagine that a mandolin (A or F style) with Persimmon back & sides could look very beautiful,especially using the almost 'Bronze' coloured wood that Bernie used for the f/boards,which to my eyes,is glorious,
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Bernie, The mandolin has been away for a long time It sold right after completion. I have not had any complaints from the owner.

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  40. #24

    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    I'll find out how it sounds tomorrow I have high hopes. I just took the clamps off the bridge & finished the bridge pins holes. I'm done for today, I'll cut the nut first thing tomorrow.
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    Default Re: Persimmon fret boards for F-style mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Mendel View Post
    I'll find out how it sounds tomorrow I have high hopes. I just took the clamps off the bridge & finished the bridge pins holes. I'm done for today, I'll cut the nut first thing tomorrow.
    It looks stunning!
    Bernie
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