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Finishing a fingerboard

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by ubassman, Feb 12, 2013.


  1. ubassman

    ubassman

    Jul 23, 2012
    Derbyshire
    I am nearing completion of a refurb of a 25 / 30 year old B + H ply bass. The fingerboard was in need of quite some extensive work to put some relief into it and stop string buzzing - all working beautifully and I am on the homestretch . Just wondering about re-finishing options. Couple of photos below. I haven't stripped the original laquer under the Romberg just to show what was originally on. It scuffs up white and I think its mostly likely a Nitrocellulose laquer. Interesting where the strings were in contact it has retained a reasonable amount of sheen.
    Options are,

    1/. Do I dye the wood with leather dye and then apply a similar nitrocellulose finish.

    2/. Do I add a powdered black dye to a danish oil product.

    3/. Apply something else?

    ...and of course the question of grain filling with all the above options ! Many thanks in advance ! (I hasten to add that I will be stripping the Romberg back )
    e. f.
     
  2. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I would most likely just finish it with boiled linseed oil - the wood looks nice enough to me! ;)
     
  3. +1 on boiled linseed oil.

    And you get a very unique instrument if you can leave the Romberg bevel black as it is. Looks interesting!
     
  4. ubassman

    ubassman

    Jul 23, 2012
    Derbyshire
    I have considered 'au Naturel' but I am in two minds, I like the honesty of materials - its not ebony (and Jake you are right, its a real quality piece of wood with no knots shakes and a tight even grain - it would be attractive ) ...but then theres the old chestnut of tradition where black is the colour of double basses fingerboards. Is there a growing trend to see non 'ebonised' wood?
     
  5. ubassman

    ubassman

    Jul 23, 2012
    Derbyshire
    I may do a tester to see how boiler linseed oil sits on black nitrocellulose .... wouldn't want a bit of craquelage on the fingerboard!!

    It might just look a bit too way out there to do a black Romberg with a natural fingerboard? !!
     
  6. No linseed oil on the black part, only on the naked wood, of course. Put some tape on the black part during the linseed oil impregnation of the naked wood and remove it when it's finished. (You need to do the impregnation several times with days in between, so let the tape on there until it's finished.)

    You can always remove the blackness from the Romberg bevel later if you still find it annoying over time or you get problems with crackling. (Your bass would be rather easy to identify in case it would get stolen with the black Romberg bevel part ...)
     
  7. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    The oil won't do anything bad to the lacquer; don't worry about it. I plane a lot of modern lower-priced non-black fingerboards both here and at the store and I just finish them with oil. A good looking piece of wood beats a fake black board every time! ;)
     
  8. ubassman

    ubassman

    Jul 23, 2012
    Derbyshire
    Thanks for that Jake - completely trust your judgement on that ! ...and DoubleMidi will have a think about the Romberg 'go-faster stripe' !

    Playing the instrument with a black Romberg is a weird thing because mentally it seems to make the E string stand alone as in 'ok now I going to play that string on the black part of the fingerboard' rather than it just being 'one of the family' . I suspect that I will shy away and just keep the FB uniform ! Thanks for the advice.
     
  9. ubassman

    ubassman

    Jul 23, 2012
    Derbyshire
    ....maybe when the naked wood is oiled it will be less of a contrast. Will give it a go - its only elbow grease and time at the end of the day !
     
  10. Lo-E

    Lo-E

    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    +1! I recently had my old Kay in for a new fingerboard and told the luthier (Arnold Schnitzer) that if he had any ebony boards with figure in them, it wouldn't bother me a bit. I have no problem with wood looking like wood. That's a nice looking board. With some oil, I bet it will look beautiful.

    I'd strip the Romberg and oil that, too.
     
  11. uprightben

    uprightben

    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    +1 on using linseed oil only. If you decide to dye it, use water based dye before the oil. You can sand the oil in with 400 grit wet/dry paper, that will create a slurry of oil and dust that will mostly fill the grain. What is that fingerboard made out of, anyways? Did it have ruts in it before you started?
     
  12. ubassman

    ubassman

    Jul 23, 2012
    Derbyshire
    Inferring...? !!! ( haha ..well thanks very much !! ) ...its actually just a trick of the light the 'ruts' I think are just where the wood has discoloured a little and they will come out when oiled - thanks for the tips about water based dye - presumably it won't run when wetted with oil?
     
  13. I wouldn't dye it. If your fingerboard will need planing later, the dye will be removed at these locations which doesn't look nice. Keep the wood as it is.
    I don't think you will need any fingerboard planing below the E string, so that was one reason thinking about keeping a black Romberg bevel. It wouldn't make problems.
     
  14. uprightben

    uprightben

    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    Sorry, I didn't mean the ruts question as a comment on your work, your work look fine from what I can see on the pic. I'm curious about what your fingerboard is made of and if it is tough enough to be a viable alternative to ebony.
     
  15. ubassman

    ubassman

    Jul 23, 2012
    Derbyshire
    I wasn't offended ...for long, anyway!! :crying:

    I think its rosewood and looks to be a very dense material so should stand the test of time.
     
  16. symcbass

    symcbass

    Nov 8, 2007
    Scotland
    I have one of these old basses too. I oiled my fingerboard after stripping the horrible black laquer stuff off and it looks great, shows off the wood. Once it was oiled it felt nicer under hand too.
     
  17. ubassman

    ubassman

    Jul 23, 2012
    Derbyshire
    What are people views on Tru Oil?

    "Most oils available as wood finishes are either linseed oil or tung oil in some form, with or without any additives. Among all of the oil varnishes available for use as a simple wipe-on finish for musical instruments we offer and support the use of the Tru-Oil® product line. Tru-Oil® is a polymerized linseed oil with other natural oils added. This formulation will actually build-up as a finish unlike the raw or boiled linseed oils. "

    It seems that this may have the advantage of taking out any minor undulations as a 'build up" finish and is used on gun stock so its got to be bullet proof - right?!

    http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/TruOil.htm
     
  18. rgarcia26

    rgarcia26

    Jun 9, 2008
    Miami Florida
    +1 I like better a board that I can see the grain pattens tham a 100% fake ebony board
     
  19. rgarcia26

    rgarcia26

    Jun 9, 2008
    Miami Florida
    I recently use this:

    http://www.amazon.com/Behlen-Finger...-3-fkmr0&keywords=betlahen+fingerboard+finish

    It smells and feel like Linseed oil I not sure is the same.
    I carefully scrape it and then sanded with 400 grid, then I applied the oil, apply it let it sit for few min, then remove the excess oil, it takes a couple days after the wood is saturated evenly with oil after that I buffer with Wool and its feels amazing, its so soft and fast now... so now and forever every week I will give my FB and oil bath to keep it fresh
     
  20. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    That Behlen product is simply boiled linseed oil. Good for fingerboards. ;)
     

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