High Polymerized Tung Oil maple fretoard?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by comatosedragon, Aug 29, 2016.

  1. Firstly, I apologize if this has been answered before, I searched for 5-10 minutes and didn't find anything so here goes.

    I got my first bass with a maple fretboard the other day, so I did some searching on how to clean it. I came across this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSjLmkGr8qk official Carvin video, in which Jeff Kiesel shows how to clean maple. After cleaning with steel wool, he applies Tung Oil to the fretboard, with amazing results. My question is, can I use High Polymerized Tung Oil for this? Not because I think it would be 'better' or anything, just because that's what I have on hand.

    This http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=20050&cat=1,190,42942 is the exact kind I have, if it matters.


    (Other methods or suggestions are welcome, but I am just trying to do this with what I already have, if possible!)
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician - Retired
    OK, I totally disagree with the method shown in the Carvin/Keisel video. The use off steel wool will abrade what finish there is on the fingerboard (maple boards are always finished, even if they look bare). Sure the steel wool gets rid of the dirt, but it takes finish with it. Then when you coat the fingerboard with tung oil, you are adding a different finish on top of what's left of the old one. Perhaps the old finish was tung oil, but likely it wasn't. Adding an oil finish on top of a harder finish, like poly or nitro, will only leave a poorly adhered coat of relatively soft gunk on top. The adhesion will not be very good and over time will have a tendency to build up to a gummy mass. Polymerized tung oil is better then the non-polymerized stuff because it dries a bit harder, but it's still not a good choice in my books.

    The gunk you are trying to remove when you clean a fingerboard is skin oils with accumulated dirt. To clean that you want something that breaks down the skin oil and lets it be wiped away. There are many choices, from varsol to dish detergent to mineral oil, all of which I would consider to be a better choice than scrubbing with steel wool. My personal favourite, and something I use for this purpose in my shop, is a diluted orange oil cleaner. A bit of this cleaner on a rag (not steel wool) removes the gunk nicely. If you choose to go this route just be sure to use an orange oil that does not contain silicon. Many do because the silicon adds a sheen that looks nice, but it's bad to have it around fine finishes. You really won't need the added effect of the silicon anyway, the orange oil does a fine job - just buff it up with a dry cloth and all is well.
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I completely agree with Turnaround. Your maple fingerboard already has some kind of a hard finish on it, probably polyester. Don't scrub it with abrasive and apply any kind of "oil" finish on top of it. That's going to make a mess. Just clean the gunk off of the existing finish. Even a bit of Windex squirted on a cloth will do a good job.
    Hopkins, comatosedragon and lz4005 like this.
  4. Wow, thanks guys. I for sure will use Turnarounds method! I guess the Kiesel/Carvin video is specifically for their necks - I see that almost all the fretboards there come with a tung oil finish. That's especially good advice about the steel wool too, thanks!

    Thanks again for the advice! (My new bass is an MTD by the way, who knows what it is fished with!)
  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    If the fingerboard is finished with Tung oil, and it's damaged and scratched, then I would agree with carefully scrubbing it with steel wool and recoating it with Tung oil. But your MTD is most likely finished with polyester. If it's just dirty, then clean it.
    comatosedragon likes this.
  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I completely agree with the opinions stated in this thread. Using steel wool and coating a finished maple board with an oil finish is not a good idea. I am guessing that the Kiesel guitar comes factory finished with an oil finish, and they should have added a disclaimer saying so.
    comatosedragon likes this.