Faded Fingerboard?

May 1, 2006 at 03:08 AM · I recieved a new violin last Christmas and its very good. Its just when I play it the black color from the fingerboard gets on my fingers. My mom tried wiping it with a damp paper towel thinking that it was just because it was new but it looked like it was all coming off so I made her stop. It now looks like its fading from where the strings are lying and in other places. Is this normal? Is there anything I can put on my fingerboard to make it stop coming off or to make it look dark again if it does fade? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!


Replies (5)

May 1, 2006 at 03:57 AM · What kind of violin do you have? When I first began playing the violin, I had a student model violin that was worth about $400 (with the bow and case), and the fingerboard was not really ebony wood, but from the same piece of wood as the rest of the neck. The fingerboard area was painted black to look like ebony. If this is the case with your fingerboard, then the paint does in fact wear off. Don't worry, it doesn't affect the sound. If the fingerboard is true ebony, then it is not the paint wearing off, but the strings making your fingers black. It was easy to tell on my instrument that the fingerboard was painted because you could see the line where the black paint ended, and there was no seam, since it was all one piece.

May 1, 2006 at 03:25 PM · It almost certainly indicates that your fingerboard is not made of ebony, but, other than being irritating, isn't any real problem. Ebony is a very dark colored, very hard wood, which is traditionally used for fingerboards, but is very expensive, so a lot of cheaper instruments, including an old factory fiddle I have from the 1920s or 1930s, used something else, probably maple or poplar (hard but cheap, and not black at all) for the fingerboard. This results in the need to color it black so it looks "normal."

I just had the fingerboard on my old, cheap fiddle regraded (it had worn under the E string 1st position...whatever fiddler had it before me spent a lot of time there) by a local luthier, and the coloring he used to re-black it keeps coming off on my fingers when I play now...but I expect it may stop or lessen in time. (I think he may have used a permanent marker or somesuch simple trick to darken it - the instrument has almost zero value except to me, and he didn't have it long enough to use stain...not even sure if one would use stain or varnish in such a circumstance.)

Anyway, this should have no real effect on your sound or playing, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. Less finger pressure may help, or it may not.

May 2, 2006 at 04:03 AM · Even genuine ebony fingerboards often have some type of stain applied to them to even out the color. Many higher grades of ebony still have some areas of lighter coloration. The pigment is easily replaced, however I don't recommend you taking care of it yourself, take it to your luthier.

May 3, 2006 at 12:57 PM · Wait, so does that mean my violin is cheaper(or not as good) because they didn't use ebony for the fingerboard? :p

I have the Florea 75th Anniversary Edition Violin.

May 3, 2006 at 11:39 PM · "Ebony" means about as much as "mahogany" as far as a specific species goes.

When you go to the lumberyard, they tell you, "we have some sugar pine here, and some yellow pine, and some red pine" but what they don't bother to tell you is that "yellow pine" could be loblolly (likely) or longleaf (unlikely but far superior) and others. So the "trade name" or "common name" (not always the same)is rather meaningless or even misleading, as in "philipine mahogany" which is actually Lauan, which is a shorea, also known as meranti, and could be any of something on the order of 30 different species, between which the variation in properties is more than incidental. Oh, and not even from the same continent as mahogany, which is from central america.

So it is all very frequently Wool Pulled Over Eyes.

But who really cares? The wood in a violin is worth pennies. It is very little pieces of wood, and wood, being gathered by either poor shoeless natives or by powerful machines, or both, is very inexpensive on a per pound basis.

The cost of a violin is mark-up, not materials

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