Is Lemon Oil BAD?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by ebozzz, Jun 10, 2003.

  1. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    Denver, Colorado
    I've been taking some classes through the local luthier that I use and during the session this past Saturday, he stated that oils of any kind (lemon oil included) deteriorates woods. He also added that if it is used on the fretboard, that it can create fret problems. The only product that he feels is great for use on any fretboards other than maple is Minwax paste wax. Thoughts?
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    A lot of people use boiled linseed oil on their fingerboards. I don't understand the "oil deteriorates wood" comment, since lots of people also use various oil finishes (linseed, tung, teak) on wood and it helps to preserve and protect it.

    Now, some polishes/cleaning products/lemon-oil based stuff can actually dry out a fingerboard, and that is bad.
  3. mikgag

    mikgag Guest

    Mar 25, 2002

    What he said......:D
  4. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    From what I hear, there are different kinds of lemon oil. One kind that is lubricating, and one that is degreasing fluid!
    The latter will obviously not be good for wood. It will dry it out and cause cracks. Though used carefully, it may be useful as cleaning fluid.
    The former, however, is good for wood, as most other oils. That is, as conservating fluid.
  5. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    Denver, Colorado
    First, thanks for the opinions. [​IMG]

    His theory is that you want to use a product that creates a seal to keep out moisture and dirt on the fingerboard. From his opinion, Minwax does just that while oils seep into the wood and eventually do damage long term by shortening the life of the wood. I'm probably not doing as good of a job of explaining as he did though.
  6. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    Denver, Colorado
    Oh yeah, I forgot to add that he feels that if an oil finished instrument is done the right way that there should not be much of a need for using any type of products (paste, oil, etc.) on it.
  7. mikgag

    mikgag Guest

    Mar 25, 2002
  8. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    This came up on another thread, but I feel that paste wax over the last coat of oil can add a little depth to the finish.

    I've only used paste wax on a fingerboard once, but it looked pretty good and shiny.
  9. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    100% agree with Matt.

    A thin coat of wax, well buffed is nice and also can smell (maybe taste?) good (any bass lickers out there??? :D).

    I also use it on all fingerboards with great results.

    Peace, JP
  10. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    I've heard arguments that it's best to use a similar level of finish on the fingerboard as on the back of the neck, in order to achieve a balanced response to humidity change and prevent bowing. Such as if the back is sealed, seal the front (as on a maple/maple neck); if back oiled, then fingerboard oiled or waxed; or bare/bare, as on an all-wenge neck.
  11. You mentioned the taste/smell of the bass... Granted i'm not a bass licker, but I was playing tonight and noticed that my neck smells like some sort of dead animal.... it's wenge/PH... any ideas???
  12. VS


    Jun 6, 2002
    Mountain City, Tennessee
    Discounted Gear: Peavey
    Gun stock oil anyone?
  13. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    You guys that have used the wax on the fingerboard, does it seem to stay any cleaner? One thing about oils that don't set well for me is that they're a bit of a dust magnet. You get that toejam buildup on the fingerboard (yeh, yeh, I wash my hands and wipe it down after playing). Since you can only clean the board when the strings come off (I play TI flats and they only come off for bass mods), wouldn't mind trying something different if I should live so long.
  14. Shri


    Feb 25, 2003
    France, Paris
    Hello JP !

    just some questions about cleaning the fingerboard. Can i use the warwick wax to do that? When i put wax on the fingerboard, i guess i have to remove all the strings, so, do i have to check the trussrod after that? I think so because i've heard that when one removes all the strings from the fingerboard, the neck can move.
  15. lemon oil has been used for centuries on the fingerboards of stringed instruments. I use instrument lemon oil from Rockley Music and have never had a problem with those fretboards.
    I wax my Warwick Thumb Bass 5 with beeswax once every few weeks. Colorado is dry, and you want the wood to be protected from drying out. Warwick also advises this in their owner's manuals.
    I oil the fretboards of my Zons with WD-40. That is what Joe Zon told me to use and who am I to argue. hey, they are graphite necks with phenolic resin / birch fretboards.
  16. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    The "Dr. Stringfellow's Lem-Oil" that I have (and *used* to use...) actually contains naptha, which is a cleaning solvent (used in dry-cleaning, and, among other things, is the primary ingredient in Ronsonol lighter fluid).

    It's supposed to clean the gunk off of the fingerboard, and evaporate quickly. I feel that it dried out my rosewood board, though, so I don't use it anymore...
  17. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
  18. "Gunstock Oil" referred to above is often Tru Oil....which is actually a kind of varnish (albiet with oils in the ingredient list). It will actually build in thickness, and is too soft to be used on fretboards IMO.

    I use Homer Formby's lemon oil, works great, smells nice and does not dry out the fretboard (quite the opposite).
  19. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I used regular old lemon oil on my rosewood for years without any problems.
  20. Most of my basses have had some sort of finish on the neck with a bare fingerboard (maybe lightly oiled) and I've never noticed anything to suggest that the neck is any better off with the same finish on the front and back. But perhaps with more flexible specimens, this could offer some advantage?
    +1 on what's been said about pure lemon oil. I have been using it for many years without issue. So long as you don't over-do it, it doesn't become a dust magnet and just keeps the wood supple and crack-free. When I lived in KS a local luthier named Leo Posh had his own concoction called "Leo's Special Sauce". The base was pure lemon oil but he added turpentine to help speed evaporation. I tried it for a while but just didn't like the idea of having turpentine in there so now I just use pure lemon oil now.

    To those of you considering using WD-40 on your composite fingerboard basses: be careful! WD-40 can and will eat many types of plastics.