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Finishing Fret Boards. How To Keep Fret Board Oiled?


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So just a quick question.

I have an ebony fret board that I want to very lightly add some gloss too. I'm talking just enough to get it to shine but not so much as to bunch up against the fret or suffocate the wood. (Frets are already installed.) I thought about doing a full small coat of gloss but I still want to be able to keep the fret board oiled and all that so it doesn't get dry.

Question is, if you put some clear finish on a fret board.. How do you keep it oiled? If that's even possible? Does it NEED to be oiled and all that?

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In order to protect fingerboards that you normally would only hit with lemon oil I use Behlen Fingerboard Oil. I used to not oil my boards at all other than lemon oil.

Most lemon oil products have very little actual lemon oil in them. I liken them to mineral spirits with enough lemon oil to smell fresh. Great for cleaning and stop looking shiny when they evaporate.

Behlen Fingerboard Oil is serious. It takes a while to dry so don't plan on using the guitar for 24 - 48 hours. It is like a very light tung-oil/varnish blend that looks really good for a long time but doesn't feel like it is there. I have also sued it on the back of necks with great results. It is permanent and it darkens the board. It can be cleaned with lemon oil.

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Oh I must of not explained well. I use lemon oil that I bought at the guitar shop.

Question is, will i still need to oil the fret board if I put some finish over it? Or will I even be able to with the finish? Should I not worry cause I see people finish over fret board all the time. :D

As dpm said. With ebony it shouldn't matter if I finish over the fret board or "suffocate" the wood with finish right? Ebony should have enough oil of its own to stay good over the years right?

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I despise "lemon oil" with a passion on the basis that it is just a name. Most commonly "lemon oil" is a petroleum distillate with a citrus aroma added. These products serve well if you are cleaning a fingerboard, but leave it dryer than it was previously after it has volatilised. I bought a bottle of raw organic linseed oil ("pellavan-siemenöljy") from a Prisma supermarket for about €4.50 which is more than enough for the next few years. I apply it *very* liberally using scraps of old poly cloths. Just enough to moisten the surface - not to flood it like I was "oiling" a guitar body. After 20-30 minutes, just buff the fingerboard off and you're good to go.

I wouldn't p*ss on lemon oil if it were on fire. :D

Oh, I just noticed that RAD pretty much said everything I just did. Bleh. Cheers dude.

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Just a bit of info to add to this (since my last post didn't add anything that RAD hadn't already). I refretted the neck of my LTD EXP this weekend as the old nickel-silver fretwork has gotten to the point of not-worth-recrowning. After pulling the frets I did the usual sanding work on the fretboard to get it as level as possible and hence needed to reoil it after bringing it through the grits. Break out the raw Linseed oil! Before anybody points it out, yes I need to drop fill the ends of the fret slots and dress the fret ends. I needed to resaw the slots after sanding to check depth and clean them through. The lacquered ends are prone to chipping out despite me trying my best to file them through before reslotting.

If anybody is willing to help out and remail a fret dressing file from Stewmac for me, ping me a PM. :D

This is the board after sanding through to 1200 grit, polishing using Scotchbrite (or the equivalent of) and lightly moisturising for 15 mins using a cotton tip and Linseed oil. I didn't lay it on thick, just enough so that it is damp and doesn't sit "slick". I then buffed it off using a piece of artificial J-cloth/Wettex which brought it down to a nice smooth satin-y shine.

"Wet" after oil application:


"Satin-y" after buffing off:


Edited by Prostheta
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Oil will not penetrate lacquer to condition a fretboard. It is useful for bare woods whose natural oils dry out over time or are displaced by the nasty chemically human juice we call sweat and other environmental contaminants. Rosewoods appreciate a nice yearly conditioning, and is cannot hurt to care for Ebony either :-)

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