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Lemon Oil Is BAD!

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by ebozzz, Jun 10, 2003.

  1. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    I've been taking sonme 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. Ben Mishler

    Ben Mishler

    Jan 22, 2003
    San Jose
    That is the first I have heard about it being bad for fingerboards. Weird.
  3. Maybe if you post this in the Luthier's forum, we could get some other experienced opinions....I'd be interested in what they might have to say.
  4. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001

    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.
  5. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    I'll do it right now because I'd like to hear some different opinions also. I can say this, we were shown a neck where it was possible to gouge out pieces of wood using your thumb fingernail. Creepy! :eek: It was supposedly caused by the long term use of oils.
  6. geezer316


    Jan 26, 2003
    i was told by my tech was that it is OK. for frequent use only, not everyday or weekly use is recommended.the reason being it could saturate the frett-board and cause the fretts to start to lift out,but only if over-used. i was then showed a guitar(i know i'm sorry)that has been treated with lemon oil.and the frett-board turned all gooey like and the ends of the fretts were starting to lift out. the person who did this claimed to use one little bottle of the oil every month or so for about 9 months. so i can take awhile to damage the bass but if used correctely it can nicely lubricate(;))the frett-board.:D
  7. well...off to plan B....

    hrmm,what am I gonna do with all this...

    GUYS! FREE Lemonade!:p

  8. Part of the problem with Lemon Oil is that there is very little of anything "lemon" in it. It's mostly petroleum distillates that don't dry and can accumulate with overuse.

    The luthiers reasoning is sound in that he wants to "lock-in" the moisture of a fretboard so that it doesn't dry out. The only question for him would be what would you use on a fretboard initially?

    I think that a lot of overuse comes about by guys that want to feel a slick zzzing along their strings and they wind up treating the fretboard instead of keeping the strings clean. The light oil on the strings speeds up movement but eventually builds up and kills strings. It would be better to use oils occasionally and keep your strings clean all the time.
  9. Mickey Shane

    Mickey Shane what goes here?

    Feb 23, 2003
    Denton, Texas
    I beg to differ. Lemon oil is good for wood. It should be applied lightly 2 or 3 times a year. Overuse can oil-log (like waterlog) any wood and ruin it. You can get a better protection from keeping your instrument in it's case when it's not being played than using minwax. Especially during dry winter months. Setting your axe in the corner of the bathroom while taking a steamy shower, then returning it to it's case afterwards can also be helpful.

    I have a Martin Dreadnought acoustic. I don't steam it in the bathroom, but lemon oil twice a year and keeping it in the case works wonders. My model only has a shiny finish on the face of the body. The rest is bare wood. It still has the wonderful wood aroma that it had when it was new.
  10. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    I was waiting on you to reply. ;) I'll ask him. That's something that we didn't cover during the last session as we focused on things just from the maintenance side.

    I actually saw several instruments that he had used Minwax on exclusively and they looked in great condition. He method of using it is to apply a light coating of it allowing it stay on there for approximately 15 minutes before wiping off the excess. Once it dries, it forms a barrier that helps to protect the wood.

    I agree with you on the over usee of oils. This person's specialty is building acoustics guitars of the classical variety and he seems to be very knowledgeable regarding the maintenance of stringed instruments. As with anything, I like to hear opinions from a variety of sources.
  11. Spector recommends lemon oil, but only real lemon oil (Formby's was mentioned specifically in an email from them). It is also to be used sparingly and not very often, and then mainly for cleaning purposes.

    Rickenbacker says to just wipe it off with a clean cloth (or their cleaning cloth), but the RIC fretboards are nicely sealed anyway.

    The local luthier who has earned my trust says to use nothing, just wipe the fretboard down when done with a session. If you trust the luthier you are using, go with their advice. If you don't trust the luthier you are using, why are you going to them?
  12. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    I never said that I didn't trust him. I just posted this to get some thoughts on what other people felt about the issue.
  13. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    I have learned the hard way on this one:

    I won't say oil is bad, but it should be used
    Very sparingly. Even the citings of 2 - 3 times a year are, in my opinion, too much.

    Unless you have a compelling reason, just say no.
    If you must, don't do it more than once a year.
    If you must, use a ridiculously tiny amount of oil and wipe off the excess thoroughly.

    It can and will cause fret lift.

    Some will argue, and I agree -- if you are Playing that instrument on a regular basis, the fretboard will take care of itself. It's only the neglected, totally unloved instrument that needs any of this stuff.
  14. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001

    I shot an email to my man about your question. he just got back to me. Here's what I asked......

    And the reply was.....

    I kind of felt that he was going to say that in in his reply. He does pay a lot of attention to the moisture content of the woods that he uses as well as the instruments that he services. From listening to him, that's probably the thing that he feels causes most people to resort to using oils. Poor humidification.
  15. jani_bjorklund


    May 22, 2002
    Well, several different guitarmakers recomend using lemon oil on their fretboards. I don't see why a local luthier's opinion would make any difference all of a sudden. Musicians have been using oils on their fretboards for several hundread years by now so I don't see any reason why we suddenly should stop now. There's no need for soaking the fretbord with oil, only use the amount needed to clean it.