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 Post subject: Fretboard conditioning?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 12:48 pm 
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Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:01 pm
Posts: 12
Hi everyone - I've been lurking for a while and tinkering with a few projects.
I'm currently making a fretboard using a piece of ebony which has some lovely mid-brown figuring among the dark brown nearly black wood. I've radius-sanded and cut the fret slots, but before I install the frets, I'm not sure what to apply finish-wise, if anything, to protect it from fingermarks, etc.

I've tried boiled linseed oil on an offcut and it's darkened the wood considerably - I'd prefer to avoid that if I can.
Is there a different oil I can use?
Would shellac be durable enough on a fretboard?
Or would I be better off just sanding with really fine grit paper and aiming for a high polish that way?


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:54 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 10, 2010 10:50 pm
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Location: Seattle
I just use lemon oil, shellac will wear out quickly, I also suspect that boiled linseed oil would also wear unevenly. I do use refined boiled linseed oil on SS bridges and it gives them a finished but not quite a finished look. I think all of the oils and finishes will bring out the black in the ebony. With lemon oil you can refresh the oil when you change strings.

burnishing the unfinished fretboard to a high gloss going through a series of sandpaper would look good. I am not sure how that would look after a few months of playing. Most people fret in just the cowboy chords so the polished wood might start to look uneven.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 5:38 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 03, 2006 7:09 pm
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Location: Hegins, Pa
duck wax

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:20 pm 
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Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:01 pm
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Thanks for the responses!

johnnparchem wrote:
I just use lemon oil, shellac will wear out quickly


Yes, I figured shellac might not be up to the task.

Quote:
burnishing the unfinished fretboard to a high gloss going through a series of sandpaper would look good. I am not sure how that would look after a few months of playing. Most people fret in just the cowboy chords so the polished wood might start to look uneven.


It's an experimental multiscale build which I'll be keeping for myself, so if I end up having to refinish it at some point it's not a big problem.

tippie53 wrote:
duck wax


Thank you - I'll give that a go. (Googling that turned up three different products - so I'm going to assume you're referring to the leather conditioner, not the stuff used for plucking poultry, or "Dr Duck's Ax Wax"!)


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:35 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 8:03 am
Posts: 1052
Location: Chestertown Maryland
BLO is a polymerizing finish, which basically means it hardens - you don't want that.

Most use some sort of mineral oil - lemon oil is just mineral oil with a scent. Mineral oil is petroleum based and will make the fretboard look a little darker and richer, and over a few months the fretboard will look like it did before. Some do this when they change strings, some less often.

But remember, your wood is dead and does not need any feeding. I owned my Martin ebony fretboard for 41 years before I thought to treat it with basic pharmacy mineral oil a couple of years back. It looks great every time I do it, and in between looks fine and just like it did before I started.

Ed


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:58 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:56 am
Posts: 104
Walnut oil is popular with wooden sax and clarinet mouthpiece manufacturers because (unless you're allergic to it) it's edible and doesn't go rancid. You might want to consider it simply to know that you're not going to inadvertently poison yourself (or worse, someone who doesn't know any better and plays the instrument) if you lick your fingers while playing. It also smells good, but not strong. This is what I'm using on my own guitar, and what I used on the one I borrowed for sampling when I cleaned it and did a setup.

I admit I don't know what color changes it might induce, because I've only used it on already very dark wood. It also has the benefit of being available in grocery stores and at Walmart, since it's "upscale" but not "bespoke" as a food product.

I've also started using it on clarinets because linseed oil makes the case smell bad and there is no way to keep it from transferring to my hands. Walnut oil transfers also, but unless it's enough to make my hands slippery, I really don't care.

If you're thinking "why would I lick my fingers?", the simplest answer is "to turn pages". Also sometimes I'll lick the tips of the fingers that hold the pick to make it easier to get a grip on a brand new pick with a surface that is too slick, but of course those aren't the ones getting oil on them.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:22 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 8:03 am
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Location: Chestertown Maryland
Mal

I bought my mineral oil at a Walgreen's in the "Children's Laxative" section. Very safe to lick you fingers. In addition, if I recall, it was $2.00 for a lifetime supply for 10 guitars. But walnut oil will work too.

Ed


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:18 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2012 4:19 pm
Posts: 17
I've used Howard Feed-N-Wax which is beeswax and orange oil. Worked good on manzanita fingerboards I just finished fretting and some older ebony ones.


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