Is a pau ferro fretboard any good?
You may start seeing more of these.
Above is a Fender Duo-Sonic HS in surf green with pau ferro fingerboard. Is it one of several guitars Fender just released with that specific wood species for the fretboard material.
Personally, I don't like pau ferro unless it's matched up with a body color that complements it.
The Duo-Sonic in surf green works with pau ferro. That's a guitar where the brown works nicely with the body color.
An example of where it does not work is when the body is black. What that does is make the brown of the fretboard stick out like a sore thumb and just look stupid.
Another example of where pau ferro doesn't work is on bright finish colors like Olympic White. Doesn't work there either.
As you have probably guessed, pau ferro works best with "middle hue" finishes. Sunburst? Yes. Candy Apple Red? Yes. Ghost Silver? Also a yes.
It's when you go extreme-dark or extreme-light that pau ferro looks real ugly real quick.
Is pau ferro ever used for a guitar body?
Yes. Some guitar makers produce acoustic guitars where the body (back and sides, specifically) is made from pau ferro. And in that instance, you really understand why it's called "leopard tree" as you see some very pronounced grain lines.
What makes pau ferro desirable as a fingerboard wood?
Other than the visual look of it, nothing. I presume Fender is using it because it's rosewood-like.
From a corporate point of view, it should be easier for Fender to transport these guitars. You'll notice that the instruments linked above are made in Mexico. Because of CITES regulations, it is probably altogether more convenient for Fender to have any guitar built in their Ensenada factory to have no rosewood, making for easier shipping from MX into the US.
Now to be clear, it's not that I don't like pau ferro wood. It's just that it doesn't work with every body color out there. I really don't care if MIM Fender electrics use rosewood or pau ferro fretboards because it doesn't affect the tonal character of the guitar at all.
However, I do care how it looks. If Fender sticks to middle hue body colors, then sure, pau ferro works just fine. But they really need to ditch putting a pau ferro fretboard against a Black or Olympic White body because that just doesn't work.