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Fretboard oil

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Fretboard oil

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Sep 25, 2017 6:38 pm

My first guitar teacher recommended Howard's Feed & Wax to use on my rosewood FB, and I've done so for many years. It's nothing fancy, just carnauba and beeswax dissolved in something described as "orange oil" and has always seemed very similar to the beeswax/mineral oil mixture I make for finishing cutting boards.

Ran across something the other day about lemon oil being bad for lacquer finishes.

I'm not sure that anything sold for a use other than as a cosmetic or nutritional supplement is really a citrus extract, probably just a scented mineral oil, but thought I'd ask if anyone has had experience with any fretboard treatment harming a nitro finish? My Chili Strat I'm sure is a urethane finish....

Thanks!
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Re: FB oil

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:17 pm

I believe orange oil is made from the peels of citrus fruits. In some ways similar to turpentine. It is the cleaning component of the feed n wax.
I just use mineral oil on fretboards. You can buy it in small handy bottles sold as bore oil for woodwinds.
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Re: Fretboard oil

Postby David King » Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:07 pm

I'm not sure why the rosewood fingerboard needs anything applied to it unless your finger oil (sebum) is caustic enough to cause it to bleach.
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Re: Fretboard oil

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:52 pm

David King wrote:I'm not sure why the rosewood fingerboard needs anything applied to it unless your finger oil (sebum) is caustic enough to cause it to bleach.

Even oily woods if left unfinished collect soil. I finish all my shop-made wood tools, jigs and the like with whatever I have lying around (usually BLO or Watco) for just this reason.

Oily woods like rosewood don't need much, but at minimum I believe a wax of some kind is good. Some kind of oil or other solvent just makes it easy to apply. My cutting board finish would probably do, but the stuff I've been using also has some harder carnauba which buffs a little better.

And, I don't know about you, but some of the gunk I've cleaned off of MY fretboard would gag a maggot!

My OP was prompted by a guitar nearing completion with a lacquer finish. I've never owned or had to maintain one.
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Re: Fretboard oil

Postby Arnt Rian » Wed Sep 27, 2017 7:29 am

My experience is that many people use too much oil and whatnot on the fretboard, and this seems to attract more dirt, sort of like too much oil on your bike chain. I don't think fingerboards needs treatment, they will function just fine without it. A bit of cleaning with a damp rag from time to time is OK if there is much dirt. I do usually use a bit of Howard's Feed-N-Wax on new instruments and on refrets, because it looks good.
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Re: Fretboard oil

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:03 pm

Mineral oil is what keeps African blackwood (a rosewood ) black. It will also darken some other rosewoods. I think lightly oiling and cleaning fretboards can help maintain their looks and reduce the tendency of some woods to dry out and crack.
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Re: Fretboard oil

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:18 pm

I use RAW Linseed oil on my unfinished fret boards.
I find that it helps preserve the wood, protect it, and it also brings out the grain.
I apply it sparingly with a soft rag, let it soak for 15 minutes, and then wipe it off.

This seems to work well, and doesn't leave the wood oily and prone to collecting dust and dirt.

I have also tried BOILED linseed oil, but it doesn't absorb well, and it leaves a surface sheen that could flake off while playing.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Fretboard oil

Postby Steve Sawyer » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:51 pm

Interesting finding, Gordon!
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Re: Fretboard oil

Postby Steve Sawyer » Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:22 pm

Just to expand on my comment, linseed oil is a drying oil - similar to a varnish. The difference is that "boiled" linseed oil is partially oxidized, so it dries and cures really fast. Raw takes several days, sometimes more than a week to dry, and longer than that to fully cure. My guess is that the raw stuff doesn't begin to dry as soon as it's applied, thus can be wiped off almost entirely, leaving only the barest film.

As the OP, thanks to everyone for their comments. Thus far, no-one has indicated that I need to be concerned about causing any harm to my nitro finish with the fretboard treatment I've been using, and a lot of interesting observations/opinions expressed.
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