NASHVILLE -- Gibson Guitar, still smarting from its alleged violations of the Lacey Act, is experimenting with the use of torrefied maple for fret fingerboards.

Torrefied maple, which Gibson describes on its website as "a super sturdy and clear-sounding heat-treated hardwood," is being used for the 22-fret fingerboards of the newest versions of Nighthawk Studio being made at the company's plant in Nashville. The Nighthawk Studio guitars feature a solid mahogany body and a glued-in neck made from solid quarter-sawn mahogany.

Gibson CEO Henry Juskiewicz told WLPN-FM that he is anxious to see customers' reaction to the new composite wood. It is being used as a substitute following the raid of Gibson factories in August in which federal agents confiscated more than 10,000 fingerboards made from allegedly illegal Indian rosewood.

Two comments posted this week on Gibson's website provide some insight to what is on the mind of Gibson customers about the use of torrefied maple.

  • "Gibson, is the funky fingerboard wood and opaque finish your way of telling us that get used to cheaper wood or what?"
  • "As long as its smooth doesn't crack and looks the part, does it really matter what type of material they use for the fingerboard?"

 

How Wood Is Torrefied
Torrefaction Plus of Brandon, QC, explains that torrefaction is an alternative to treating woods with chemicals. The the process involves heating wood at a temperature of 190 to 240C in a torrefaction kiln at controlled atmosphere and low in oxygen. The length of the process, as well as the temperature degree sustained during a determined period, depends on the torrefied specie and the desired color.

In addition, the company said this technology requires a pre-drying process using conventional kiln driers, to lower the moisture level between 6% and 10%. After that, the torrefaction kiln lowers the moisture level to 0%.

Gibson Auditions Torrefied Maple for FretboardsFinally, Torrefaction says the wood is placed in a conditioning chamber where the temperature is gradually lowered by controlled steam injection. The moisture level of the product is increased between 3% and 6%, in order to give back to the wood its natural flexibility. This conditioning stabilizes the wood and allows better quality manufacturing, the company says.

Potential interior and exterior uses of torrefied wood noted by Torrefaction include floors, stairs, mouldings and patio furniture. 

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