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Hardening Rosewood Fingerboard

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by BrenBass, May 11, 2011.

  1. BrenBass


    Apr 4, 2011
    I have a MIA Fender Jazz Bass American Deluxe Fretless, with a rosewood lined fingerboard.

    Unfortunately I like using Roundwound Steel strings (allergic to nickel) which I've been told are not good for rosewood as they wear the fingerboard.

    Does anyone know of a suitable oil that will harden the rosewood and provide some resistance to the wear created by the strings? I've heard that some oils will harden the wood but I'm not sure which...

  2. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    While rounds will cause wear, the "problem" is greatly exaggerated in my experience. My Fender Jazz Bass Special fretless went many years with stailness rounds before it was worn out. And I'm sure most of that wear was caused by me Refacing the board too frequently.

    Most of the wear attributed to rounds is really due to technique. Don't press the string any harder than needed to get a clear note (this also helps get the singing "mwha"). Keep the strings, fingerboard, and fingers clean. Don't bend strings but use a rolling motion along the string's length for vibrato.

    A rosewood board will need to be dressed occasionally, but don't obsess over discoloration nor the very small wear.

    Epoxy and cyanoacrylate (Super Glue) are popular hardeners for fretless boards. Tung oil might help too.

  3. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Here's an article on super glue. superhard durable finish. Super or krazy glue is an acryilic and it soaks into the wood, filling pores and effectively plasticizes the wood. Superglue Savior, Dan Erlewine
  4. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona
    You have several choices here but I would agree that the issue is over stated by some folks trying to sell new guitars, etc. I have had a fretless for 30yrs+ and the level of wear is still acceptable on the board.....HOWEVER, I don't always keep round-wounds on it. But for several years I did and played it at least 3x a week.

    But one issue I'd like to point out is that the density of the wood will also help and oil is great for increasing wood density. I had used tung oil, single pass a few minutes to soak and wipe the excess. I know another guy who swears by raw linseed oil as it penetrate very well and wipes into a very solid finish. The super-glue (cryan-type glues) sealants make for a very hard surfacing and seal very, very well. but you should be cautious with it a it actually seals and hardens the wood to such an extent that the tonality can be altered. It gets really a hard surfacing and although you can remove it; it's not easy. It soaks into the wood very well. Read as much as possible about the different methods before doing anything. You may find that light indentations are normal and don't continue to groove deeper as those areas compress as much as they are going to.
    The gentleman who mentioned your string touch / style and pressure said what I was going to. Often when folks play fretless at first they press down similar to a fretted instrument and over time press down with less force.
  5. UncleMattGuy


    Jan 26, 2011
    I made this discovery while refinishing a sailboat of all things- at westmarine or any other boating supply store you will find penetrating epoxy. Brand name gitrot or getrot can't remember the spelling. Ask for penetrating epoxy. It has the consistency of water and penetrates the wood grain and hardens to a completely sealed HARD smooth polyester/ wood hybrid.
  6. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Have heard of gitrot too while researching wood repair epoxies for my church. I ended up using a similar product called Abatron epoxy and epoxy wood filler. The liquid was like honey, not water. I had thought of it for my project. Wanted a thinner consistency though. Gitrot is really thin as water? Interesting! If it has results like Abatron, it seems like the perfect solution!
  7. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    All I would add here is that the sound of wood is different from the sound of epoxy or any other hard sealant. My personal preference is the sound of wood. I generally use flats on my FL's, so major wear is not a problem.

    Just consider how your tone might change with a protectant coating on the fingerboard. If you really like woodiness, then it's worth replacing a fingerboard every 5-10 years than having a permanent board that sounds "artificial."

    Just an opinion - YRMV.

    BTW - I had rounds on my CIJ Fender Jazz FL w/ rosewood board for over a year and played it very regularly. Every four months or so I would 0000 steel wool the board with raw dark Chinese tung oil. Worked like a charm.
  8. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Yes there is the danger of achieving a JACO tone by doing this; be forewarned!

    But seriously, does tung oil harden the wood to any extent that you know of? What advantage do you perceive in using it beyond prevention of drying out and cracking?
  9. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona
    Tung oil (or linseed) is a fairly safe move. My comment and those similar were in reference to a "hard surface" finish such as epoxy or super glue. Oils may increase density a minor amount but you still have a wood surface. All in all, after a while of playing those areas of the fret-board will compress with contact - and perhaps NOTHING should be done till this takes place after several months or years. Very light compression should not be mistaken for wear. The contact area of a compressed wood may be a few thousandths but that is not only natural but leaves a more solid contact point(s).
  10. UncleMattGuy


    Jan 26, 2011
    Hmmmmmm in "danger" of sounding like Jaco? I know plenty of guys who would be happy to DRINK epoxy if it would make them sound like Jaco!!!
  11. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    You failed to notice my tongue was firmly in my cheek!
    And drinking epoxy doesn't work AMHIK:help::D

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