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How to properly clean/maintain an ebony fretboard?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Jacob M, Jan 21, 2005.

  1. Jacob M

    Jacob M

    Aug 28, 2004
    New York
    Hey, I just started playing bass in November, and my fretboard is in need of a good cleaning. The fretboard is ebony, and isn't sealed or finished in any way. So, being that I'm a relatively new bassist, I don't know what I should do/what products to use to properly clean it.

    Any suggestions about simple inexpensive things? I'm not looking to buy a $60 dollar can of something or other, just some solution or cloth or something like that to keep the freboard clean. I've got plenty of cotton cloths and rags at home, and some lemon oil, would rubbing lemon oil on the fretboard be a good idea? If I did that, would I have to avoid getting it on the frets, or could I just wipe it off the frets afterwards with a clean cloth?

    Thanks alot,
  2. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    All you need is a good little $3 bottle of lemon oil from D'Andrea or a bottle of Gibson "Luthier's Choice" Fretboard Conditioner (I'm pretty sure basically the same stuff). If you can't find either of those, just make sure you get good quality stuff. It should be very clear/refined of impurities. DO NOT use something heavy like Tung oil.

    I'd say if the board is especially dry, then clean it and the frets real well with 0000 steel wool, blow off the steel wool fibers, and then let a nice wet layer soak in for a bit. Wipe that off any excess after about 5 minutes. If it's the very first time, I'd say even repeat that at least once. Dry well, and install some new strings. In fact, IMHO, you should do that every time you change strings.

    Hope this helps.
  3. spiritbass

    spiritbass Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2004
    Ashland, MO
    I use orange oil on mine. Smells nice and is non-combustible. :cool:
  4. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Both are great. Keep in mind, though, if you use steel wool, cover the rest of your bass, ESPECIALLY the pickups as tiny steel wool particles have a nasty way of getting in small cracks and on your pickups. When you're done with the steel wool, wiping all exposed parts off with a slightly damp cotton cloth is a good idea.
  5. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Oh yeah, kinda' imporant point I left out. Thanks!

    In fact, I have a trick I use to help avoid those problems. I stand the bass up on the headstock on an old towel. That way any steel fibers fall away from the pickups.

    BTW, anyone found a better thing for polishing frets without taking metal or fingerboard wood off? It'd be nice to avoid the whole thing, but I haven't found a better material for removing only dirt and fine surface rust w/out taking fresh fret nickel and/or fingerboard wood off.
  6. alembicbones


    Nov 10, 2000
    Seattle, WA

    As Alembic recommends for their ebony boards, a little lemon oil works great. Every time I change strings, I slap a little lemon oil on the board and let it absorb in for 20 - 30 min. Then wipe off the excess.

    Best Wishes,
  7. bassface969


    Dec 9, 2008
    I have a Reach firm bristled toothbrush that I use just for this. I still use steel wool but to protect the fretboard take an index card and with a razor blade cut a slit about the size of a fret and hold over the wood where cleaning. That way only the fret is exposed and you don't scour the wood. As for cleaning the fretboard, Lemon oil and a toothbrush work great! Just don't keep the toothbrush in the bathroom.
  8. themarshall


    Jun 26, 2008
    cochrane wi
    Scotchbrite pads work similar to fine steel wool w/out the steel lint. I use the normal green ones, but they are available in different colors/grades. Use it to wash dishes with for a while first to make it less aggressive. (be sure to let it dry out for a few days before using it on your bass)
  9. dunlop also has some products, including one that is now lemon oil based. any of them should work fine on ebony, as well as rosewood. Keep in mind that ebony needs to be oiled fairly often to avoid shrinking.
  10. X Wolf

    X Wolf Guest

    I've been using Dr. Ducks on my Ebony boards for years now and it has worked very well. A little goes a long way, then wipe off the excess. Just my 2 cents.

  11. I've had very good results with the Lizard Spit products. I use the fretboard cleaner/oil and the regular polish on the rest of the instrument. Keeps the "schmutz" down fer sure.
    Check here, and scroll down to "music products":

  12. LP75


    Aug 29, 2006
    My ebony fretboard sits on a 5-string manogany neck, was built in early 1996, and is absolutely gorgeous.

    I use a bottle of Old English Lemon furniture oil, and about every 12-18 months, with strings off (duh), apply a moderate amount with a soft cloth, massaging it gently into the wood, let it stand for a few minutes, and wipe with a clean soft cloth. Repeat if any parts look like they still need it. Wipe the whole thing thoroughly and carefully, and get all the oil off the frets.
  13. bassjigga


    Aug 6, 2003
    I wouldn't do too much. Pure lemon oil (you can find in health food stores usually) once or twice a year on the board. Let it soak in for 30 mins. Wipe off any excess with a cloth.

    Don't use lemon oil intended for furniture as it contains waxes and other junk you don't want in your fingerboard.
  14. Mazatleco17


    Mar 27, 2008
    Probably a stupid question here, but if I want to apply lizard's spit on my schecter fretboard, if I do it over the string will it kill them? (make them sound dead)
  15. kobass

    kobass Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Outside Boston
  16. bassman10096

    bassman10096 Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2004
    It's worth avoiding steel wool altogether. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to get filings on the pickups (speaking from personal experience) when you are in the heat of battle cleaning things. Once filings get on the pu's, you really never get them off. In some cases (where the pickup is not molded in wax or epoxy, the filings can get into the pickup windings. With enough of them, your pickup's operation can be impaired.
  17. Hmm... I've been using Old English for years on my basses. I use it to clean my fretboard and the upper horns on my basses (when sitting and playing, I tend to rest my chin there for fast styles). If it does have wax in it, it works great for me. Especially on the back of my necks. Just make sure you wipe them dry really well so that gunk doesn't build up there; after a treatment of Old English, you have never felt a smoother, faster neck! :bassist:
  18. Mutato


    Oct 15, 2008

    Good call! Use some Windex to clean the gunk of the board then condition it with the Luthier's Choice.

    Flitz. It's the best and it's non-abrasive. Please don't use steel wool on your frets. I'm not sure why anyone would recommend that.
  19. Atshen


    Mar 13, 2003
    Grim Cold Québec
    Stupid question indeed! :)

    Remove the strings first!
  20. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon. Supporting Member

    I havew tried everything and now swear by Ernie Ball Fretboard Conditioning Wonder Wipes. They work great.