Question about fingerboard

August 16, 2004 at 05:34 AM · The fingerboard on my violin is loosing the black color, mostly on my fingers when I practice. The violin is about 5 to 6 years old and of fair quality for an amateur. Does the finger board need replaced or ?

Replies (18)

August 16, 2004 at 06:26 AM · It's probably a fake fingerboard which used some sort of other hardwood dyed/painted black or very inferior ebony dyed black.

Depending on the value of the violin, I'd replace the fingerboard. It would cost around $200 to do in most places, but sometimes cheaper and most times more expensive. If the violin is worth only a few hundred dollars ($400 and below), it's not really economically wise to spend up to that amount to replace a violin. However, if the violin is worth about $800 and up, I'd replace it.

Some luthiers do really good work for a good price, so look around.

August 16, 2004 at 11:39 AM · Hi,
Sue, sorry to hear about your messy fingerboard. Instead of replacing the whole fingerboard, try this: in the baroque era, fingerboards wheren't made from solid ebony, but from cheaper hardwoods and then a strip of ebony veneer was applied on top. Maybe this could be a middle-of-the-road-solution to your problem.
You can find a luthier in your area via The American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers.
Bye, Juergen

August 16, 2004 at 02:37 PM · My first full sized violin (what seems like a million years ago) had the same problem. I personally never "fixed" it. It is purely cosmetic and I think you are better off saving the money to put towards another violin later.

August 16, 2004 at 02:43 PM · I would agree. I don't think that the board necessarily needs replacing. However, it could be time to have it planed and dressed. Put the scroll up to your eye and look down the fingerboard. If you can see little hills and valleys everywhere, then it's probably time to plane it. While it's being planed, most luthiers will dye it again for you, and it'll look good as new.

Planing the board can vary in cost, but you can probably get it done for $50-70.

August 16, 2004 at 09:37 PM · I am from a small town, and my luthier did a literally top-notch job on the fingerboard for twenty dollars.

Look around in small towns, villages surrounding you, because you need not be at Hill's to get a good job.

August 16, 2004 at 09:43 PM · ...but if you planed and dressed what could be a fake fingerboard, it would have to be re-painted.

August 16, 2004 at 10:35 PM · i'd just find a reputable luthier and ask him what he recommends

August 18, 2004 at 05:54 AM · If your violin is just 4-5 years old, it probably doesn't need replacing. Who is the maker? I played a $400 violin/bow/case combo when I began that was labeled "Andrew Schroetter," and the fingerboard did exactly the same thing about 2-3 years into playing it. It was purely cosmetic and warranted no need for replacement, especially on such a low quality instrument. I do not know about your instrument specifically, but if your scenario fits mine, don't worry about it and save your money for an upgrade later.

August 18, 2004 at 05:32 AM · Incidentally, what do you think contributes more to the "blackness" of your fingertips? The actual erosion of the fingerboard paint or the natural imprint of metal from the strings?

August 18, 2004 at 11:29 AM · Thank you for all the good ideas about my fingerboard. Lewis: in response to your question, it could be the metal of the strings on the board, this has been happening since I have had the violin (4 or 5 years). The violin was made by Lewis and Company and cost about $2,000. Thanks, Sue

August 18, 2004 at 08:20 PM · My fingertips also turn black when I practice. I haven't really thought about fixing it, since it was a cheap violin (around $300 with a case and bow), and the "blackness" washes off my fingers with water. But the fingerboards also has many tiny bumps, some that catch my fingers a little when I'm playing. Is this a big deal? There isn't a luthier around here, so I would have to go to another city to get it fixed and I really don't think it would be worth it considering the price of the violin. What do you guys think?

August 19, 2004 at 12:35 AM · Ah, Sue. Is the fingerboard actually changing colors or showing light-colored wood beneath the black, or are your fingers just black? If it is just that your fingers are black, that very well could be the strings alone. I play on Dominants, and my fingers are always black. So much metal comes off those strings that it actually discolors my sink after repeated washings of my hands. Just don't scratch your nose between movements at a performance!

August 19, 2004 at 06:07 PM · i've noticed that only occurs in certain weather conditions as well, it happens here in california, but not back east or even in oregon, curious.

August 20, 2004 at 01:24 AM · Owen,

Thats so strange! I just returned from NY where my fingertips were consistently black. Now that I am back in CA my fingertips are normal again. I thought that the high humidity of upstate NY was causing my fingerboard to rub off onto my fingertips but I guess not!

August 20, 2004 at 03:25 AM · i have no clue

August 20, 2004 at 04:02 AM · It's more likely dirt from your strings; the black from the fingerboard, made of ebony, should not rub off!

August 20, 2004 at 03:58 PM · But it does. Some -- but by no means all -- of what you see on your fingers is ebony, being taken off by the sweat, oils and other compounds on your skin. That combined with the force exerted by your fingers as they strike the board causes small amounts of wood to be taken off.

That's why over time the fingerboard develops pits -- your fingers are literally eating away at the board.

August 22, 2004 at 07:04 AM · But that should take a long time and a lot of practicing.

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