Dried out ebony board HELP?!

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by brett7276, Mar 21, 2014.

  1. brett7276

    brett7276 Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2009
    Knoxville, TN

    OK this winter has ravaged the ebony boards on a few of my basses... I usually oil them when I change my strings and basses lived in their cases- this year however was a bit different, much of my gear was out on stands and the heat ran constantly and was very dry- tried to run humidifier daily but seemed not help much...

    Now spring is (hopefully around the corner, and I have some pretty hefty fret tang and dried up boards... so my question is

    What are my best steps to get my stuff fixed up? I don't have cracks luckly but shrinking... Are there any other things I should do other than massive amount of lemon oil on my boards? Advice please... If I could avoid a ton of tang filing that would be ideal..
  2. Razman


    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    I use teak oil on all my instruments. If you prefer lemon oil, make sure it is real stuff and not these faux detergents that are labeled "lemon oil".

  3. alembicbones


    Nov 10, 2000
    Seattle, WA
    Three of my basses have ebony boards on them, thus I keep a bottle of lemon oil on hand. I think the best idea here is to oil the boards as normal (not the dousing that you tongue and cheek mention). Then maybe do it again in let's say one to two months, and repeat. Basically, give the wood a chance to absorb the extra oil over a period of a few months.

    Best of Luck.
  4. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    The wood shrank because it lost moisture - water specifically, the water that is bound up in the cell walls. Oil won't replace that- it cannot be absorbed into the cell structure. So if you are looking to "rehydrate" the wood, don't use oil.

    Get the instruments into an environment of 35% to 45% relative humidity for a few weeks. The moisture in the air will replenish what has been lost in the wood. Then you can oil the fingerboards. The oil will make the wood look better and have a retardant effect on moisture loss. DO NOT soak the fingerboard in oil - that can actually cause damage.
  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013

    Oil and water are two different things.
  6. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    ^^^^^^^^Another vote for YES!!

    It's NOT OIL. It's loss of humidity from the wood. Add a humidifier and over time (weeks or months) the fretboard should re-hydrate and expand.

    As stated above, all oil will do is make it look pretty and perhaps slow the loss of moisture by imposing a slight barrier.

    The answer is to keep wooden instruments stored in an environment with controlled humidity.
  7. Mktrat

    Mktrat Seriously, are we not doing phrasing anymore?

    Apr 9, 2013
    The Mitten
    Keep them in the bathroom for a couple weeks and the humidity from a hot shower will fix them slowly and naturally.
  8. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Also gives you something fun to do while you are waiting for things to pass.
  9. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Gonna haveta abandon that "bass hung low" thing, though.
  10. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    I would get the frets smoothed over whilst the tangs r hanging and then get them into a humidified environment.

    As said above, it's water leaving the tubular wood cells that causes shrinking. It takes a short period of time for all the cells to equalize humidity so the entire board, top to bottom, left to right it has shrunken in three dimensions. Oil can't penetrate that deep. RH is the answer.
  11. Mktrat

    Mktrat Seriously, are we not doing phrasing anymore?

    Apr 9, 2013
    The Mitten
    Seriously though, i just successfully rehydrated a classical guitar this way. Was great for when the kids took a bath!
  12. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am

    Nov 15, 2005
    Wake Forest, NC
    DR Strings Dealer (local only)
    A friend had a similar issue, he put his instrument in the bathroom for a week strings on and under tension. The steam moisture produced by the shower re-hydrated the Ebony. He keeps a wet sponge in a baggie with a few holes punched in the baggie to keep moisture inside his case.
  13. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars


    Just have the fret tangs filed now so next time the humidity drops you wont have the same problem. Wood expanding and contracting with climate is natural and is not really a problem except for fret sprout, but once you fix that problem it will rarely happen again.
  14. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Either humidify the room or get a humidifier for your guitar case and keep the instrument in a closed hard case. A sponge will wet the inside of the case and mold it. There are proper humidifier units in plastic enclosures; you soak them in water and put them in the case, but they won't damage your case.
  15. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    Also, look for a higher capacity humidifier for next winter. It's a lot of work, but keep after it and keep it filled.
  16. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1 Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    This is very common for ebony & other hardwoods.
    I had fret ends exposed due to shrinkage.
    I brought them to my guitar tech and had the fret ends taken down.
    He recommended to have them done in Jan, Feb. because
    that is the time you get max shrinkage.