violin fingerboard scoop

Micro Mesh Abrasive Pads

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The ideal violin neck is subjective.  It changes as you grow, develop, and mature.  Perfect today is old hat tomorrow.  The neck itself moves, as does the fingerboard.  Not as quickly as our tastes but more like a painting of a slow tortoise.

The fingerboard is shaped with a radius across it’s width.  The other direction, parallel with the strings, looks flat.  But it is actually curved.  String height is so low on a violin that without longitudinal concavity – the fingerboard’s scoop – vibrating strings would buzz against the fingerboard.

When a favored fiddler’s favorite fingerboard appeared beyond flat, clearly convex along its length, it was time to learn the art of the scoop.  After chipping up a few natty practice fingerboards, I tried a good one.  It was easier.  Quality wood shaves more cleanly.  “Scraping” of the fingerboard was performed.  Seemingly random, together the strokes produced a concave surface to the fingerboard.  Nearly flat along the high E edge.  Visually pronounced along the low G.  Gradations in between.  Finally, comparison of the newly scooped violin fingerboard with my Products Engineering Corporation straight edge.  Convex no more.  Just the right amount of concavity. 

After the scraping comes the sanding.  Dusty thirsty work with multiple grits of scratch cloth.  220, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1,000.  The glossy finish I want?  The easy way is to dump sealer over it, a thick polymer coating.  But tradition prefers bare wood.  We scraped and sanded the old sealer off the fingerboard during the scooping.  The reshaped wood now prefers special attention.  The musician wants skin-smooth wood under their fingertips.  A natural shine is wanted.

Micro Mesh makes it easy.  With products developed for fine art restoration, our slat of century-old ebony is no challenge.  Working up through the colored grits, the wood begins gleaming at about 6,000 grit.  But do we stop?  No!  All the way to 12,000 grit, buffing like the best Park Avenue manicurist.  The wood shines!

We started using Micro Mesh Buffing Sticks a few years back, touching up a bit of mandolin here and there.  Then discovered an ebony violin nut can be made to shine.  After a few more fingerboard refurbishments, we’re sold on Micro Mesh.  Fingerboard sealers we’ll save for fretted instruments.  All of our fine stringed instrument fingerboards are going out the door bare wood shining.  Sparkling like Eve’s smile ≈≈≈