What Are Pau Ferro Fretboards? Are They Good?

As you may already know, the choice of materials used in the construction of the instrument is something many people consider because it can greatly impact its sound and playability. 

One such material that has gained popularity in recent years among guitar players is Pau Ferro, and in this article, we will explore what Pau Ferro fretboards are, their qualities, and whether they are a good choice for guitar players.

What is Pau Ferro Wood?

Pau Ferro, or Libidibia ferrea, is a type of tree native to Central and South America commonly used for furniture, cabinets, and floors, but within the last decade, it’s been notable for its use for guitar fretboards.

It is a dense and heavy wood known for its rich and warm tone with a hint of brightness, making it a popular choice among guitarists. 

The wood also has a straight grain pattern and a smooth texture, contributing to its excellent playability. Because of this, they are sometimes compared to ebony fretboards in addition to rosewood.

Pau Ferro vs. Rosewood: A Comparison

One of the most common comparisons made with Pau Ferro is with rosewood fretboards. 

Naturally, this is because of their appearance and the reason why Pau Ferro started becoming more prominent because of it being a rosewood substitute.

While they look quite similar due to their brown color, you can often identify Pau Ferro because it has a lighter shade than rosewood, and the grains are typically more apparent. They sometimes come with cool-looking streaks!

Pau Ferro also tends to be denser and heavier than rosewood, which can affect the guitar’s overall weight. It’s not by a significant amount, but it might be noticeable to you. 

Both kinds of wood also have their unique tonal qualities and characteristics – rosewood is known for its warm and balanced tone, while Pau Ferro offers a slightly brighter and more focused sound in the midrange (it’s not as bright and snappy as a maple fretboard, though). 

Ultimately, the choice between Pau Ferro and Rosewood comes down to personal preference and what fits your budget.

The Benefits Of Pau Ferro Fretboards

Pau Ferro fretboards offer several perks, making them an appealing choice for guitar players.

Firstly, the dense nature of Pau Ferro wood contributes to its durability and longevity. It is less prone to wear and tear, making it a reliable option for frequent playing. 

Additionally, Pau Ferro has excellent tonal properties, providing a balanced and articulate sound, good sustain, and note clarity, making it suitable for a wide range of playing styles and genres.

It also has a smooth surface, allowing for comfortable and effortless playing!

Another advantage of Pau Ferro fretboards is their aesthetic appeal. The wood often features beautiful grain patterns, adding an element of visual interest to the guitar. These grains and streaks are one of the reasons why people love pale moon ebony fretboards, too.

Overall, many guitarists appreciate the reliability, clear and defined sound, and smooth texture that Pau Ferro brings to their playing experience.

Check out the streaks on this one!

Pau Ferro Fingerboards In Guitar Manufacturing

Pau Ferro fretboards have become increasingly popular in the guitar manufacturing industry because of their not only because of their benefits to the instrument but for the environment, too. 

Nowadays, a lot of different guitar companies currently offer models with Pau Ferro fretboards as an alternative to rosewood—one of the most notable manufacturers being Fender.

Fender started incorporating Pau Ferro on their guitars and basses in 2017 due to a CITES law protecting rosewood, an endangered species, and restricting it from being distributed internationally. Therefore, Fender needed an alternative to rosewood on many of their best-selling instruments.

As of 2019, however, these restrictions have been removed, and rosewood fretboards were reintroduced; however, Fender continues to use Pau Ferro on many of their popular instruments not only because it is a much more sustainable tonewood but because millions of players love them.

That includes me! I have a Pau Ferro fretboard on my Fender Player Series Jazz bass, and I absolutely enjoy how it looks, feels, and sounds. You can also find them on Player Series Strats and Teles, and they’re great!

Fender Player Stratocaster HSH Electric Guitar, with 2-Year Warranty, Silver, Pau Ferro Fingerboard
  • Alder Body with gloss finish
  • Two player Series humbucking neck and Bridge pickups; one player Series single-coil Stratocaster middle pickup
  • “Modern C”-Shaped neck profile
  • 9. 5″-Radius Fingerboard
  • 2-Point tremolo Bridge with bent-steel saddles

Caring For Pau Ferro Fretboards

Like any fretboard, proper care and maintenance are essential to ensure the longevity and optimal performance of Pau Ferro. It is recommended to regularly clean the fingerboard with a soft, dry microfiber cloth to remove any dirt or grime. 

Avoid using harsh and abrasive chemicals or other materials that could damage the wood, and instead, use a product that’s meant for fretboards, like Music Nomad’s F-One Oil. Not only will it clean it, but it will keep it moisturized and prevent drying or cracking by conditioning the wood. 

It’s also safe to clean a maple fretboard with this if you have one of those on your guitars, too!

MusicNomad F-ONE Fretboard Oil Cleaner & Conditioner 2 oz (MN105)
  • 100% natural oils ultra-refined to clean, condition, and protect
  • Completely free of lemon extracts, so it is safe on all unfinished fretboards: rosewood, ebony and Maple
  • Premium quality Cleaner and conditioner used by high-end repair shops
  • Contains no petroleum, wax, detergents, or water
  • Dries fast but maintains conditioning for months

You should also regularly polish your frets to get the best tone and playability from your fingerboard.

By following these simple care practices, guitarists can enjoy the beauty and performance of Pau Ferro fretboards for years to come.

Conclusion: Pau Ferro Fretboards Are A Great Choice!

Whether you’re a professional guitarist or an aspiring musician, Pau Ferro fretboards can enhance your playing and bring out the best in your music by being a versatile, reliable, and high-quality tonewood.

It’s certainly not the same as rosewood, but it doesn’t have to be! Many people have a misconception that because Pau Ferro is a readily available rosewood substitute, it must mean that it’s “cheap.”

However, this isn’t the case at all.

Pau Ferro can be found on affordable instruments, but has its own distinct qualities. Plus, it is a more sustainable solution to using the endangered rosewood, so consider trying out a guitar with a Pau Ferro fretboard and discover everything this tonewood has to offer for yourself!