It really rankles me that PRS
refuses to offer Ebony fingerboards. I mean what's the deal? I thought PRS was
supposed to be a Premium High End Guitar!
Well Excuuuse Meeee!!!
Ok there is a reason and here it is:
Since most people don't
know, I must first state the fact that PRS is an entirely machine made guitar.
PRS Guitars Are Entirely
Got that... are you sure?
Ed Roman's Theory of Ebontivity...
Ok, because the next time you
are in a Sam Ash Store or a Guitar Center, the 17 year
old commissioned sales boy automaton will more
than likely tell you it is entirely hand made with
violins playing in the background.
That's BS to the
tenth power!!! He's probably not intentionally lying, he's just ignorant. Ok, enough bashing of ignorant
salespeople and on with the show.
If you use an automated fret installation system that rams the
frets down into the fingerboard there is a very good chance you will split the
ebony. In fact I have seen it done at the old PBC Guitar shop in Pennsylvania
when they were Making (Ghost building) all of the Ibanez USA
guitars back in the mid 90's.
Consequently, I don't think that PRS will be doing
any Ebony fretboards now or in the future. They are concentrating more on
automation than on hand building.
When I took the tour of the Jackson factory, I saw
a custom made machine for pressing the frets in. However while I was there I
witnessed them hand installing each one. They have semi automated the process and therefore they have
achieved an intelligent balance between hand made and robotic made.
All of the small builders are installing and hand
fitting frets one at a time. This process makes it very easy to do Ebony
fingerboards. This gives the hand builder the definite edge.
Ebony is a great wood for fingerboard. It
costs about 11 times as much as Rosewood but on many guitars I like it
better. There are exceptions however.
Quicksilver with Ebony
Fretboard and Dragon Inlay
Ebony on a Les Paul style guitar is not the
preferred fingerboard. The guitar just does not sound like a Les Paul when there
is an Ebony fingerboard. Zack Wylde, Peter Frampton, & Ace Frehley to name a few
use Ebony fretboards on Les Paul's but their sound is not the true Les Paul
Ebony sounds great on a guitar with a long neck,
it's more percussive, as long as you don't have a real hard wood body like
solid Maple or solid Bubinga it makes for a great tonal combination.
Good tone is derived from combining different
woods. We hang our fingerboards & body woods up and then tap them for resonance and
pitch. Most small hand builders will at least attempt to marry the different
woods together sometimes in thirds, fifths or in unison pitch. I am sure Paul
Reed Smith was doing that in the first 2 to 3 years they were building their
guitars. I am positive they are not doing it today.