Fretboard wood durability


Looking for a some opinions on fretboard wood durability, specifically how different woods handle climate changes. I live in an area with seasons, and tour internationally on occasion, so I’m looking for thoughts on fretboard wood that can handle the rigors of the road well.

I’ve been attracted to darker woods lately, and think that a dark wood would pair well with my roasted swamp ash body, creating a violin-like look.

Rosewood and ebony seem like popular wood choices, but I’ve heard some pros and cons for both of them. I love the dark look and smoothness of ebony, but it seems that this wood cracks when faced with drastic weather. Rosewood on the other hand seems to be darker tone-wise, but seems softer.

Does anyone have experience with the stability of these woods? Also, I would be happy to hear recommendations of other woods. For instance, I know nothing about Wenge, or other dark exotic woods.
Ebony in the context of a fretboard is not likely to crack except in truly extreme circumstances. When glued down on the neck shaft, there's really no where for it to go, so splitting is extremely uncommon. Likewise for rosewood, with the exception that it may dry out faster in very low humidity. But you can oil the fretboard fairly regularly to stave off that likelihood. It really boils down to your own personal taste, really, unless your international touring includes the Antarctic interior or the more remote parts of Siberia or the Empty Quarter.
To be clear, in the latter three scenarios, you should still play what feels good, but consider the possibility of a phenolic fretboard or a carbon fiber neck or whatever the indestructible technology du jour is.
I've taken guitars around the world, to europe, australia, central america, east asia and south east asia. All over the USA. To humid places to some of the driest, and your worries about fretboards are unfounded. You have to worry more about baggage apes, I mean handlers. The fretboards I travelled with were rosewood, ebony and maple.

I too live in a place with seasons, as probably most of the people on this board. Average max high is about 37, average max low is -24. Wet in the summer, dry in the winter. Probably more extreme than a lot of places. Don't think you are alone!

If you get an unfinished fretboard, treat it as you normally would do, with a light treatment of mineral oil for christmas and you're good to go. You'll have no worries about fretboards warmoth offers.

I gotta ask, where do you tour?
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The biggest complaint I have heard in my research is fret-sprout, rather than cracking, though cracking being the worst case scenario of course. Would rosewood be more resistant to this?
Fret sprout usually happens when a guitar that usually occupies a comparatively humid space goes to a dry place and shrinks over time. If it happens, it's easy to just hit the ends of the frets with a fine bastard file running parallel to the neck. When I once proposed this in a Facebook guitar forum, Melvyn Hiscock his own self ratified the approach. In any event, you should probably take a file on the road as part of your tool kit for touring for just such occasions.
Do you ever make to upstate New York?
How do you take care of your freboards now?
Electric guitars are far less worrisome to travel with than acoustic.

After a couple of years of gentle fixes the fret sprout disappears. It won't be the traveling that will do it, but the natural process of the wood, where ever you are. For me, my summers are warm and humid, and the winters cold and dry.

On the issue of fret sprout, the most troublesome (and it really isn't any trouble at all) wood (to me) is ebony.
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Only upstate New York once, but northern Michigan/Canada several times. I’d imagine some things are similar. Sounds like I just should invest in a file. Thanks for the help!
I gotta ask, where do you tour?
So far I’ve done USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Poland, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan. Having my instrument packed up in the truck or plane with the rest of the gear, durability and reliability is a concern of mine.
I lived and built guitars in Phoenix AZ for a long time. Fret sprout and cracking of ebony boards are concerns in very dry climates, but keeping the ebony board well oiled will mitigate that risk a lot.

If you want to avoid the worst fret sprot, I recommend getting a neck without frets installed and then having a local luthier install frets with under cut tangs. This will leave only the fret profile at the edge of the fretboard and will be much easier to touch up on the road if it is needed.
Yeah, it’s no big thing. Just get a neck that feels / looks good, and you're good to go. It's not the traveling that will do it, it's the lack of attention when you're at home. Keep the file, you might use it once.
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Fret-sprout is generally a side-effect of poor care and poor climate control. I mostly see it in guitar shops that leave guitars hanging for months (years), and don't run a humidifier during winter months when the air is dry and the forced heat is even drier.

99% of guitars will be fine just in their case. But there are in-case humidifier options when needed. If hanging guitars or leaving them on stands, then you want to be picky about the room or have a way to humidify. Oiling rosewood helps seal in moisture, but a lot of people over do it, most fret boards only needs oiling every few years.
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I can't speak to this from personal experience, but many stringed instruments have had ebony fingerboards for an awfully long time, and they seem to travel and endure quite well. I would expect rosewood to be even more resilient given that it's less dense.