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Black dots/stains on newly plained fingerboard

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Edvin, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Edvin

    Edvin

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    I got my bass a setup and a fingerboard plaining last week, and afterwards the fingerboard was full of really dark black dots that was sooo disturbing. First i thought it needed oil so i tried a really really thin oil that really helped what on the picture might look like a dried out fingerboard. But the stains and dot's remained. Do anyone have any idea how to rid of these? ImageUploadedByTalkBass1392209957.458543.jpg
  2. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

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    Long story short: There is a good chance your fingerboard was dyed black. After dressing it, some of that wood would have been removed and you are seeing where the dye penetrated deeper into the wood. Whether or not it has been dyed, often there are deposits in the wood that look like these little bubbles. They can also be covered up by making the fingerboard darker.

    I could be wrong, and encourage our luthier friends to chime in, but here's my two cents on what I think is happening, from what I've seen with ebony frogs.

    Most ebony isn't as black as players want it to be. Especially with a piece long/thick enough to make a bass fingerboard, there are going to be some imperfections in it. Lighter streaks of greys and browns are very common and unless they're the result of knots in the wood or some other structural problem, the colour differences are normal and do not change how the wood performs. I personally think it looks great "raw" and that the colours add "character" but most players don't feel that way, and think it indicates inferior wood. Since there is nothing wrong with the wood but a lot of players are skeptical, a lot of shops/makers use dyes to darken the wood and keep players happy.

    This is not "Ebonized" wood, or pulling the wool over the customers' eyes. Yes the wood is being dyed darker. It is still ebony, not someone trying to pass off Maple or something cheaper as Ebony (which you see on cheaper basses that have painted fingerboards) but it's the same as putting a darker finish on an instrument. Poplar is popular for backs and sides now, but the wood can occasionally have some nasty looking greens and greys in it. With a dark finish, it looks fantastic, but "in the white" it might not.

    What can you do about it? You can live with it, as there is nothing "wrong" with it other than aesthetics. Or, you can talk to a shop/maker about it, and see if they would re-dye your board. Some makers/shops don't dye their boards and will not be willing/able to do this for you. If they do, depending on the process they use, (this is already more trade secrets than the Illuminati would like disclosed) it could be more expensive than you want it to be. It takes time and bench space, has to dry, and sometimes they have to repeat the process more than once to achieve the colour/look they are going for.

    If you are otherwise happy with the setup/work of that shop, talk to them and see if they'll do it for you.
  3. Mark Carlsen

    Mark Carlsen

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    Yes, this is Freckled ebony....
  4. robobass

    robobass

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    It does look a little funky. Even though it's not a functional problem, I think it would bother me enough to look into dying the board darker. I don't know what the options are, but I knew a guitar maker who dyed wood in a vacuum bag to maximize penetration. This would naturally require popping the board. I'd call around and see if you can find a luthier - who needn't be a bass or even bowed string specialist - and ask if they have any suggestions.
  5. Edvin

    Edvin

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    Thank's for all your answers! Reallyhelpful to hear your experience with it.

    Right now my temporary solution is the euogen fodor instrument polish, it glosses away. It's especially critical now when i've got auditions coming up soon so every change disturbes me. If it's still an issue in two months i'll dye it at the guy who did the plaining, i'll talked to him and he was sorry for the problems and would gladly help me.
  6. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

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    Although I am not familiar with the Euogen (Eugene?) Fodor instrument polish you speak of and a google search doesn't tell me much, I'm guessing it's a wax based polish? I would be concerned about whatever is in the polish saturating the fingerboard. It might add a gloss to the fingerboard that temporarily makes the dots blend in, but if you do plan on getting it re-dyed in the future, I could see that being problematic.

    There are a few different schools of thought around here when it comes to treating fingerboards and if one should/should not use oils at any point, but I feel like "polishes" of just about any variety aren't very popular. While I understand that it could be distracting and not very pleasing to the eye when you are looking at the bass, I wouldn't think it would be overly noticeable when playing it. If you could live with it until after your auditions or until your luthier can dye it again, I think that would be the safest option.

    I don't want your temporary solution to become a permanent problem.
  7. Edvin

    Edvin

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    Thanks for your thoughts, but i'd like to hear how the polish could damage my fingerboard permanently! It's made to polish the finish/varnish on the body of violin instruments. I know people who have used it on the top and back of old italian and french violins so i really can't see how it could damage a solid piece of ebony?

    Best regards

    Edvin
  8. bssist

    bssist

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    If it is a wax based product, the wax will get into the wood and inhibit the wood from taking any stain. It won't "damage" it per se, just make it more difficult and more costly to stain it.
  9. vejesse

    vejesse

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    I don't think that there's anything you can do about the appearance of the board . That looks like a fingerboard from India and if the the ebony comes from India it often has small circular mineral deposits in the wood that are harder than the surrounding wood. They polish up a little differently than the surrounding wood and you always have that look. When the oil and grunge from your fingers gets into the board it will be less noticeable - like what you were used to before the board was resurfaced.
  10. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

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    And you may not like the feel of the waxed board under your fingers.
  11. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

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    Both of the above: the polish could saturate the board making it much more difficult for it to be dyed in the future. Think of the fingerboard like a white T-shirt. Before you put anything on it, you can get it to take just about any colour without a problem. If you dye it purple (in this metaphor "purple" is the polish you are using) then it is going to be considerably more difficult to dye it yellow ("yellow" being whatever your luthier wants to use to make the board black again) Unlike a T-shirt which you can bleach in order to get the purple out, once you have saturated the wood of a fingerboard with something, there aren't a lot of successful ways to get it out.

    Likewise the wax in the polish especially if you are frequently applying it, will eventually result in the feel of the fingerboard changing. This isn't a big problem on instrument bodies because you don't typically play on the tops and backs of your instrument for example. Depending on what is in the polish your luthier might not like it or it could be doing damage to the varnish of the instrument, but that's another topic all together. If your fingerboard feels "waxy" then that could be something you really don't want to experience.

    That is why I'm in the "live with it or get a luthier to dye it for you" camp.
  12. Edvin

    Edvin

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    I like it, actually! A little sticky is great for me.
    As for an update i'm still having it polished and will stick with it for a few weeks and then decide to dye it or not.
    I totally respect every one of your opinions but right now i can't focus on those things, and if there's a way to make me comfortable/not thinking about it, i will do that thing.
    Worst case scenario, it will have to be plained again or replaced! Haha, like it's no biggie ;)
  13. robobass

    robobass

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    You know, you could use some of those spots as markers:hyper:
  14. NicholasF

    NicholasF Guest

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    I think you hit the nail on the head. Especially in newer instruments, if the fingerboard was cleaned (some players actually don't wash their hands before they play, that sweat and a combo of other things can make your fingerboard nasty, make sure to clean it regularly) usually with alcohol, it will take off some of the "finish" from the fingerboard

    if you wipe it or rub it off, does it come out a nasty brownish grey or straight black. The black would most likely be a finish or dye in the board. The grey brown is a combo of a die and of cruddy funky dirt.
  15. Edvin

    Edvin

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    Before plaining, nothing came out when i cleaned with alcohol and it stayed totally black. Afterwards, the cloth is always kind of brownish
  16. NicholasF

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    It sounds like a dye or dirt. Do you know if your luthier dressed the fingerboard? Some of these luthiers do some jacked up stuff, he might have dyed it or used some kind of wood polish/scratch cover/ whatever else you can imagine. I'd say to ask calmly what happened. It could be as simple as rub it off

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