The fretboard on a guitar is the place where all the metal frets are located. The sound on a guitar is created due to the vibrating movement of the string against the metallic frets. It is the part of the guitar that sticks out and is also called the guitar’s “neck”.
There are different types of woods that can be used to manufacture the fretboard for a guitar. This part of the instrument is not only concerned with how the guitar looks but it also affects its overall performance.
Depending on the type of fretboard that your guitar has, your performance can vary a lot. A guitar with a great looking fretboard that also works great with the sound quality, is an amazing deal.
Speaking of this, maple wood is a commonly used raw material for guitar fretboards. Many well known guitar companies use it. However, even with maple wood, you need to make sure that you are choosing the right kind.
There is a heated debate on most online blogs about the use of unfinished or finished maple wood fretboards for guitars. Of course the debate exists because there are some differences between both these materials.
This is a crucial decision for you if you intend to purchase a guitar for your own use. This is one of those elements that you need to decide properly before going ahead and making a hefty purchase. Some of these key differences are:
Finished vs Unfinished Maple Fretboard
|Features||Finished Maple||Unfinished Maple|
|Physical Appearance||Sleek and shiny||Vintage|
|Feel||Smooth and comfortable||Rough and coarse|
|Maintenance||No regular maintenance required||Regular maintenance required like cleaning and oiling|
Finished maple wood is definitely a better raw material as compared to unfinished maple wood when it comes to fretboards. However, it all comes down to the basic composition of the wood.
Unlike other options such as ebony or rosewood fretboard, maple wood ones need some kind of sealant to help maintain the wood’s shape.
This top coat is usually made up of Nitrocellulose Lacquer. The sealant is also quite important for ensuring great finish, stability and of course a seamless look on your guitar’s fretboard.
If you are looking for a streamlined finish with no wood fragments jutting out and ruining the overall look of your guitar, then finished maple wood is your best bet.
The finished look also offers great durability for your guitar. It give the best possible experience to the guitarist from an aesthetics point of view.
The primary reason for choosing a finished maple wood fretboard is that it is visually appealing. Nobody wants a shabby look anyway. The elegant look can also act as a confidence booster for you as a guitarist.
It will also prevent your fingers from slipping over the material or getting any rough scratches over it.
This look is not the first choice for many. The main reason being that a lot of people do not find it aesthetically appealing. The visual element is quite important when it comes to a musical instrument like a guitar.
A major problem that you might face is that you might feel small wood fragments jutting out of the fretboard. This can hamper your performance a great deal.
Unfinished maple wood fretboards require a great deal of maintenance since they do not have that finished look. Without the sealant applied on top, the overall wood is exposed to all sorts of external elements.
It can also get stained really quickly which again means that it requires frequent cleaning. All these issues can overall cause a lot of inconvenience to the user because they can be quite time consuming.
On certain formal and professional occasions the stained guitar can also give a very bad look and act as a turn off. You might also find it difficult to keep cleaning it repeatedly, especially on those occasions where you are in a time crunch.
This is a major reason why you might find finished maple wood a much better option for your guitar’s fretboard.
The biggest appeal of an unfinished maple wood fretboard for a guitarist is the vintage look that it gives. Like mentioned earlier, it is all about aesthetics.
How Can You Differentiate Between The Two?
The finished maple fretboard would have a sheen to it due to the lacquer that is applied on the top. If you are unsure of the material of your guitar’s fretboard then check for this shiny coating.
If it is there then it means that your guitar has a finished maple wood fretboard. If the material feels rough and coarse to the touch then it means that the fretboard is made up of unfinished maple fretboard.
The Bottom Line
It all comes down to your personal preference as the guitar owner. Many people on online blogs recommend a finished maple wood fretboard because they believe that maple looks good only when it has a proper finishing.
Overall due to this visual appeal, unfinished maple fretboards are very rare. People usually prefer the sleek look that comes with finished wood.
If you own an unfinished maple guitar then you can try oiling it to give it a better look and it will also keep the wood hydrated and healthy looking.
Do not overdo the oiling because it can do more harm than good. In general they do not need oil. But if you are one of those rare unfinished maple fretboard owners then it might be a good tip for you to try.
Unfinished maple fretboards are sometimes preferred by people who think that a glossy fretboard might cause strings of the guitar to become bowed out. It can also end up messing the entire sound output of the guitar.