Do you oil the fingerboards on your basses and if you do; What do you use?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by cnltb, May 14, 2019.

  1. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Title says it all...
    If you oil the boards on your basses; What do you use?

  2. jazzyvee


    Aug 11, 2012
    United Kingdom
    I oil mine at least once per year sometimes twice if a particular bass has done a lot of gigging. My bass fretboards are all ebony and i use pure lemon oil as recommended by the manufacturer.
    jfh2112, MynameisMe and biguglyman like this.
  3. 58kites

    58kites Save a life....adopt a Pitbull

    Oct 21, 2014
    Austin Texas
    Pure lemon oil is bad for a fretboard...dries it out.
    Lemon oil and orange oil are used as a degreaser in cleaning products.

    Are you sure you are not using mineral oil with a little bit of lemon fragrance?
    That is what many companies call their "lemon oil" wood care products.
    If you read the MSDS sheets you will find out that you are buying mineral oil with a fragrance added for marketing.

    Linseed oil is good to maintain a rosewood fingerboard...used in small quantity and not often, wipe the excess off right after applying it and what is left in the pores will dry and seal the pores but leave the wood feeling unfinished.
    Because Linseed oil is a drying oil it serves the purpose well.
    Mineral oil does not ever dry, it comes back out on your fingers as you play which means oily fingers, it also attracts dust/dirt.

    Low humidity conditions make unfinished wood dry.
    High humidity conditions make unfinished wood swell.
    Rosewood is a hard wood so does not react as much as a softer wood like a pine door casing.
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
    walterw and Goatrope like this.
  4. ProfFrink


    Jan 16, 2015
    I use "Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes Fretboard Conditioners", but:
    • Only on rosewood fingerboards (and never on lacquered boards like all maple ones)
    • Only once in 1-2 years, depending on how much the bass is in use
    • Don't overdo it because you'll end up with a soaked fingerboard which is both unpleasant and may cause frets to slip out (I've been told) - I give it a full "massage" with the wipes, twice, and then wipe it all off, twice, giving it some time to "dry" (which is actually the wood soaking it up) between each wipe. So: 1. give two thorough wipes with the "wonder wipes". 2. wipe all off with a paper towel. 3. wait a few minutes until visibly more dry. 4. wipe again with another paper towel
  5. claudel

    claudel Supporting Member

    I use a couple of drops of woodwind bore oil on my fretless ebony board every couple of years or so.

    Not too much. I've had the same bottle for years...

    Seems to be a good thing to do.
  6. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Lemon oil basically does the same thing as mineral oil. Both are non-drying oils. I am happy to be wrong, but do you have a source on lemon oil drying out wood besides internet forums?

    Linseed oil is a drying oil. I don't think it should need applied repeatedly. My understanding of a finishing oil like linseed oil is you would put it on once to seal the wood. The process can take a couple of weeks to dry and harden especially if you aren't using boiled linseed oil, so consider that.

    If your wood is not dry and sealed, really you should probably be using paste wax like carnauba or beeswax as far as furniture goes. I'm pretty sure most people don't do that, but it's what you treat oil finished instrument bodies with. Unlike oil, it won't build up, and actually creates a protective layer.

    Honestly so many things work well enough and have different disadvantages and advantages that any of them will probably work. I mean some people just like using sebum and swear by that stuff--gross.
  7. wesonbass


    Nov 26, 2012
    Graniteville SC
    I also use pure lemon oil. I get tiny bottles from the drug store. I wipe it on with my index finger until it's coated, let it set for a few minutes. Then wipe with a clean cloth.
    However, if you play everyday, the oil from your fingers should be enough.
  8. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Anyone here ever used virgin olive oil?
    Sounds od to me but I have read it somewhere...
  9. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    You can use olive oil the same as linseed oil. It has to dry out to harden which takes awhile. During that time it can go rancid. Linseed oil doesn't go rancid. If you want a good kitchen oil you can use, flaxseed oil is a different name for linseed oil.
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  10. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Oh, I don't 'want' a kitchen oil. :)
    I just read about olive oil and I too thought, it might go rancid and have not done anything with it.
    I had heard about linseed/flaxseed oil forthis purpose but forgotten.

    At the moment there does not seem to be a consensus on what#s best. Right?
  11. s_wood

    s_wood Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2003
    Delaware (USA)
    Alembic recommends pure lemon oil for their ebony fingerboards, but they do caution that it must be 100% pure lemon oil, in part because the typical lemon oil furniture polish contains driers which will dry out a fingerboard. I’ve oiled my Alembics as recommended for years with no problems.

    I also use and like a proprietary oil called Fret Doctor. The maker originally became known for making woodwind bore oil. Most high-end clarinets, oboes and bassoons are made of a type of rosewood called grenadilla, which needs to be periodically oiled. Their web site is interesting:
    Bore Oil for the Fife and Fret Doctor
    claudel and FC Bass like this.
  12. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    linseed or flaxseed every 1-2 years (lately) when i think about it: i start thinking about it if i think/see the fingerboard seems dry...even then i wait until the strings need changing.

    i used to oil the board(s) on a yearly schedule --- whether they needed it or not. now i go by appearance and 'best guess'. i've never treated the ebonol board, only the rosewood and ebony fingerboards.
  13. BargeOn

    BargeOn Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    Another vote here for clarinet bore oil. Made to penetrate ebony. I do it about once a year. Two at most. A little dab will do your board.

    I can't find the article on line any more but a site for woodwinds pointed out that the oils were made from highly refined nut oils, almond I think. The point being "highly refined", it's not like furniture oil.
    claudel likes this.
  14. BoogieZK


    Sep 28, 2008
    Toulouse, France
    I oil fingerboards when i do a deep cleaning of my basses and I use Avocado Oil which is super hydrating.
    Just a couple of drops for the entire fingerboard and wood PU covers.

    Super efficient, you see a happy wood with this oil.
    1 or 2 time by year depending on how much I play my basses.
  15. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    Used to use pure orange oil but now use cutting board oil. Which is just high grade mineral oil (my understanding). You've got to really let it soak for a bit. Seems to have more staying power than other products I've used.

    I'm sure someone will be along to tell me I'm all wrong and my basses are now ruined.
    petrus61 likes this.
  16. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    It varies by wood, I guess?
    My main basses have rosewood boards...
  17. 58kites

    58kites Save a life....adopt a Pitbull

    Oct 21, 2014
    Austin Texas
    Orange oil is used in products.
    Mineral oil will not hurt a rosewood fretboard, but letting oil "really soak for a bit" is probably not a great idea, the oil gets in the pores as soon as you wipe the oil on so no real need to let it sit.
    Rosewood is a pretty hard wood so it's not a big deal depending on how long you let it soak and how much oil you applied.
    But linseed oil is a better product for an an unfinished fretboard (rosewood, pau ferro, ebony).
  18. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    See I knew it. :D
    wraub, petrus61 and James Collins like this.
  19. It's no use oiling the board if you're not going to change the filter.
  20. 58kites

    58kites Save a life....adopt a Pitbull

    Oct 21, 2014
    Austin Texas
    Sorry, had to take the bait.
    This subject comes up over and over again..and various videos by Taylor Guitars and Dave's World of Fun Stuff and a number of other reliable sources get posted and a few people get the word on what to use....soon another thread pops up asking the same question.
    TB should definitely make a sticky of the best threads on the subject.
    I just don't want to see you leaving mineral oil sit on your fretboard for a long time.
    Very specifically, mineral oil has no staying power, it just comes back out on your fingers while you play for the next month or two, meanwhile it attracts dirt/dust.
    Orange oil and lemon oil are not going to do anything to protect unfinished wood from humidity changes or the salts and acids on some folks hands....unless they are a small part of a cleaning product before applying linseed oil.
    walterw likes this.
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