Dressing/Oiling a Fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Keith Rawlings, Feb 19, 2020.


  1. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    I’m doing a bit of amateur repair this weekend to get my old Kay to make it through a show next month. I’m going to sand down some buzzing areas on my fingerboard in first and fourth positions and move the soundpost around as I’m not getting a decent sound right now with the bass. This will be the last time I’ll be doing such a repair on this fingerboard as the bass is going to the luthier sometime this summer for a new setup, neck reset with a nice ebony fingerboard, nut, Aubert bridge and a new tailpiece and endpin.

    Before when I’ve completed the sanding, I’ve simply just put the strings back on and that was that; but I’ve read some of the forum threads here on Talkbass that discuss how rubbing the completed fingerboard with either boiled linseed oil or tung oil will effectively seal the wood after such a repair. Which would be better to use? It seems like there’s about a 50/50 split in the responses on those threads as to which works best. Thanks.
     
  2. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    You probably already know but I'll say it anyway.. go slow on the board! A little is a lot. I've used tung, linseed, and walnut oils on fingerboards. The linseed that you get at the hardware store has drying agents in it, and it stinks pretty bad for a while. Tung takes a while to really dry, and it can be gooey/sticky if you don't polish it mostly off. I'm into the walnut personally, wipe a thin coat then buff tough with a dry rag, seems to work fine. Have you replaced the coat hanger tailgut with a cable yet? Seems to help Kays open up
     
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  3. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    No. I bought a nice replacement tailpiece cable online and I was planning on putting it on now that I’ll have the strings off. It doesn’t look that hard to do. So walnut oil? I bet that has a better scent to it than linseed or tung oil. Tung oil smells horrible from what I remember from my carpentry job 20 years ago but I know it works pretty well to seal and penetrate.
     
  4. I would use boiled linseed oil and very fine wet/dry sandpaper. Apply a coat of the oil and sand it into the wood using small circular motions. This fills the pores of the wood with the wet wood dust and blackens (if the board is ebony?). Rub the board and neck well with a soft rag and dispose of any oily rags with care to avoid spontaneous combustion. Take the same disposal care with tung oil, and probably walnut too.
     
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  5. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    It’s a rosewood fingerboard that’s on the Kay now. This will be the third and final time I sand this one as it’s been planed three times previously due to slapping and really needs replacing. It sounds a lot like applying these types of oils is very much like applying finishing coats of sealer or varnish to wood furniture or cabinets: with fine sanding in between coats.
     
  6. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    This is wrong.

    Walnut oil is a completely inert food grade plant oil that has zero concerns and also hardens over time. You can eat the oil soaked rags if you really wanted. You'll likely have no issues with the oil, but you may have an anaphylactic reaction to the fingerboard dust! It presents no combustion issues and is thrown away in the standard kitchen trash can in 1,000,000s of restaurants, bakeries, and home kitchens around the world every day.

    On the other hand, tung & linseed oils are a completley different beast, loaded with volatile solvents that smell like @$$ and do present a hazard of combustion with oil soaked rags.

    Sand out your fingerboard to 800, polish with 0000 steel wool, and then a light coat of walnut oil and you can string it up in ten minutes. Try the Spectrum brand, WITHOUT the vitamin E preservative, available at your local grocery store in the baking aisle. I also use it on plain gut strings...
     
  7. Thanks for setting me straight about walnut oil, James. I would probably just use 400 and linseed oil on my own ebony boards, taught to me by my luthier. Rubbed down well afterwards it ends up with an intense matt black finish.
     
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  8. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard Commercial User

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Black Dog Bass Works
    After the boards are planed to the correct shape, I go to sanding blocks progressing to 220 grit. Then, I’ll start with 300 with a light mineral oil and go up from there. Generally, boiled linseed oil sanded in with 600 is where I stop but I have gone to 1200. Linseed oil is a traditional finish and I like the smell. Different strokes.
     
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  9. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    This one? 2D3B1451-622D-4F37-98B9-AAA2C8FF8B09.png
     
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  10. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    You'll never use up 16 oz; the smaller ones are fine.
     
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  11. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Come to think of it I believe I got clued into the walnut oil watching Condino use it. Aside from the lack of smell, there's something nice about using food-grade products on something that I have a lot of bodily contact with.
    I bet that will make much more difference than moving the soundpost! It's not hard at all, just make sure the crush clamp/securing mechanism is tight.
     
    Keith Rawlings likes this.
  12. Any of you guys ever try TruOil?
    Not that I have, but I wonder if it’s a viable treatment as evidently it’s main use is on rifle stocks.

    I also have an old rosewood Kay fingerboard that won’t take another planing- just hoping to make it last a bit longer after a life of slappin.
     
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  13. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    I was thinking I could cook with the rest of it. I had no idea it was such a healthy oil to incorporate into one’s diet.
     
  14. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    There is a thread over on the slab side about using patchouli oil on a fingerboard with some folks talking about using CBD oil!
     
  15. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2010
    Far out, man!

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  16. Philonius

    Philonius Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2009
    2k W of the Duwamsh
    It's also very good in salad dressings.
     
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  17. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    While I’m at it with the Walnut Oil — the fingerboard is dressed! I’m going to get the last out of the old rosewood board before it goes under the knife with the luthier. Thanks to everyone for all of the advice. Talkbass is the best resource for anything when it comes to DIY work on an instrument.
    A6D2F275-8733-42E3-AA5D-E3CF7246BFB7.jpeg
     
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  18. Rub off the excess with the grain after waiting for a little while, and clean any off the neck too, to remove any patches of hold-out.

    Your bass looks lovely but I would like to see my colleagues' faces if if I took it to my orchestra rehearsal !!!

    Best wishes and keep safe,

    DP
     
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  19. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    I wonder if anyone has ever tried to bring a custom painted hot rod style bass to an orchestra rehearsal just for laughs? I would love to see that too! The Kay actually doesn’t sound too bad with a bow; painted plywood and all. It’s not anywhere near carved top glory but it works for what I do — for now at least. Ultimately I want a carved bass as I continue to go down the arco rabbit hole with private lessons. The Kay will of course hang around for bar gigs though.
     
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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