Two Tales of Titanium (fretless guitars)

Two Titanium fretless guitars

New fingerboard material – Titanium

Just when you thought the types of fingerboard for a fretless guitar had just about been exhausted, all types of wood, glass, copper, aluminium, steel, brass, phenolic – along comes the most expensive so far – aircraft grade titanium, well how does it sound?

Ned Evett on Titanium:

 

Well how did it all come about? We’ll let luthier and fretless guitarist Jack Mazzenga explain.

In Jack Mazzenga’s own words…

“Two Tales of Titanium”

In early 2012 I was talking with my friend Dave Bell about fretless guitar fingerboards. Dave and I go back 25 years to when we both worked at KMD Music (Kaman/Ovation/Takamine/Hamer) and I had been using wood, glass (from Ned Evett) and #304 stainless steel. Dave mentioned his lifelong friend Rich Michonski who is a master tool & die maker as well as an accomplished musician, playing woodwinds and guitar.

Rich had seen Ned online using glass fingerboards and told Dave, who told Rich that Ned and I were friends.

Fast forward to mid-November of 2012, my doorbell rang and there was Dave with two sheets of Grade 2 aircraft titanium, .050” (1.27mm) thick. Rich wanted Ned and me each to have a fingerboard from this stock, and although it took a while to get to it, the wheels were in motion.

I used mine for a Tele style guitar; Ned chose his Republic Highway 61 resonator to get the titanium.

The neck I made for my “Tele” was unslotted rosewood over maple which ended up being very fat, my preference – 1 1/8” (28.57mm) deep at the nut getting slightly deeper going up the neck with a soft V shape and laid out to a 25” (636mm) scale length. It’s a bit fatter than any production guitars, but I like the feel and especially the sound of these. This neck also has one piece indexed binding. The sound is bright with very good lows, mids and sustain. You can really hear the wood.

Ned’s guitar is a 24 3/4” (628.5mm) scale length resonator and as the neck had been previously planed, I didn’t want to make it thinner by countersinking the fingerboard level to the binding. Instead I sized the titanium to exactly reveal the binding, which I also indexed. The result was also a warm sounding guitar with great sustain and plenty of brightness.

Titanium is very interesting material to work with, extremely hard, yet you can cut, sand and grind it. When cutting or grinding I noticed it seemed to melt, instead of filings there was flashing. Thanks to my friends Monte and Tim Lankford, masters of all things metal, for cutting this material close enough so I could get it down to exact size.

For those interested in the tech details, they are added below along with pictures and video. That’s 40,000psi minimum yield strength. As Ned and I often say in conversation, “Science!”

Jack’s Tele Style Titanium Fretless

Some more pictures

Ned Evett's Titanium fingerboard resonator

Ned Evett’s Resonator

Titanium Tele Large

Jack Mazzenga’s Tele Style Titanium fingerboard 

Jack's Titanium fingerboard

Jack’s Titanium Fingerboard

Aircraft titanium grade 2 full specifications:

AMS 4902
Revision: “K” issued 08/2013
Grade: Commercially Pure Grade 2 (40 ksi min yield)
Product Forms: Titanium Sheet, Strip, and Plate
Condition: Annealed

Composition Analysis
Carbon (Maximum): 0.08%
Hydrogen (Maximum): 0.015%
Nitrogen (Maximum): 0.05%
Other Elements (Each): 0.10%
Iron (Maximum): 0.30%
Other Elements (Total): 0.30%
Oxygen (Maximum): 0.20%
Titanium: Balance

Tensile Properties (Minimums)*
Tensile: 50 ksi Min Elongation: 20% Min
Yield: 40 – 65 ksi

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