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Need help, how to clean wenge fretboards?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by tortoise.sg, Apr 12, 2004.

  1. I have a bass with a wenge fretboard that has alot of dirt stuck between the grains. I've tried the warwick beeswax but it didn't help an I was told never to use lemon oil on wenge. What do you guys use to keep yours clean?
  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    The beewax shouldn't be applied to the neck only the body.

    I clean mine with a lightly damp rag and then dry after cleaning. No problems at all.

    Will anything happen if the body isn't waxed. I am going on about 8 months of ownership and I have never waxed it and I know the store I bought it from had for at least a year and they never waxed it either. Nobody carries that stuff around here, any alternatives to the Warwick brand?

    I haven't noticed any negative effects yet, and I clean the body with a damp rag as well.
  3. Okay, I'll try the damp rag. I too ran out of beeswax about 6 months ago. There isn't a guitar store in Singapore that sells it and it cost more to ship one here than the price of the beeswax itself! What else can we use?
  4. rusty


    Mar 29, 2004
    This is kinda out of topic but heck, I'll post it anyway :D

    Hahaha... you don't say :) Shipping stuff here usually costs more than the item itself.
    The selection/variety/quality of basses and related stuff we get here is really very limited... and when you go to places like Sinamex, they give you the eye if you don't look as though you can afford stuff there... talk about service. We need Beaver and Dave to set up a SE Asia Bass Central branch in Singapore!! :bassist:
    I've been looking to get an incase slimbag as well, but shipping (US$170) costs more than the bag (US$149) :( What to do.

    Oh yah, and a damp cloth seems to work fine for me as well :D
  5. hyperlitem

    hyperlitem Guest

    Jul 25, 2001
    Indianapolis, IN
    if you dont wax your bass your bass will eventually become so dry it cracks i beleive? I think its one of those things like changing the oil on your car. If you dont do it for a year you wont notice a huge difference (trust me ive done it) but itll severly shorten the life on your car. Id get some as soon as possible, i wax mine twice a month.
  6. Knavery

    Knavery Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2004
    Westminster, CO
    It laregely depends on the finish of the wood. If you have a gloss or stain finish, there's no need to wax it. However it would be a good idea to at least get the wenge fingerboard and if it's a ovangkol neck, wax the back of that as well.

  7. Finger Blister

    Finger Blister

    Jul 8, 2003
    Boiled Linseed Oil Method

    (Recommended by Warwick)

    Rene Martinez, guitar tech for Stevie Ray Vaughn (among other credits),
    advises just plain boiled linseed oil saying,---
    "If it was good enough for Stradivarius, it's good enough for you."

    First, throughly clean the fretboard.
    Linseed Oil will seal in any dirt left on the surface.

    First use Naptha with a tooth brush to remove contaminates
    caught in the Wenge grain.

    Naptha, which is just a more refined paint thinner with the added benefit of leaving no residue.
    Naptha can be found at any hardware store, or as a 'lighter fluid' product.

    (Naptha safely removes all kinds of stuff from finishes...)

    Polish frets with a Green 3M scrubber AKA Scotch Brite Pad.
    Only buff lengthwise, with the grain of the wood.

    Again use Naptha as a final cleaning to remove oil based contaminates and residues.

    Use Boiled Linseed Oil.

    Once the fretboard is ABSOLUTELY, and COMPLETELY CLEAN...

    Apply Boiled Linseed Oil to fretboard, allow to set for a few minutes.

    Then wipe off excess Oil with a clean LINT-FREE cloth.

    Be a Pro: Any dirt, dust, or particles will be locked into the Oil finish.
    The surface must be clean and the clothes must be lint free.

    Allow to dry over night before re-stringing.

    Maintenance fretboard conditioners:

    Yamaha fretboard oil

    Dunlop Fretboard 65

    Beware of Spontaneous Combustion!

    You know, like in the Sci-Fi movies when people suddenly burst into flames?
    When linseed oil dries, it releases heat.
    The more linseed oil, the greater the heat.
    A pile of rags or paper towels soaked with linseed oil can actually start burning without warning,
    leading to the manufacturer's warning
    that all oil-soaked rags should be stored under water in a covered, metal container.
  8. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    You can also use 0000 steel wool, with the grain only, of course.
  9. Finger Blister

    Finger Blister

    Jul 8, 2003

    I've found that Steel Wool is too much hassle.

    Wenge would allow tiny pieces to become
    wedged in it's wide open grain.

    The 'metal crumbs' steel wool produces is a mess.

    They are especially attracted to Magnetic Pickups and
    therefore the Pickups must be throughly masked off.

    I would recommend masking the entire instrument,
    (including the Bridge and Headstock) leaving only the
    neck exposed.

    If using steel wool, set up in a shop that is alway from all studio gear.

    Believe it or Not:

    -Metal Dust created by Steel Wool can float through the air
    and is most attracted to Electronic's and Speakers due to
    their magnetic fields.

    -Microscopic bits of steel wood will 'flash rust' and break down even smaller.

    Metal crumbs in nooks and crannies sucks.

    If your super finicky try a 0000 synthetic steel wool pad.

    Mr. Fix It sez:

    Use stripper pads, not steel wool

    For aggressive removal of tough paints or buffing between coat of a clear finish, throw out your steel wool and use synthetic pads instead. I recommend a stripping pad made by 3M. This pad, about 4" x 11" and made of woven synthetic material, is designed to be used with chemical strippers. It doesn't fall apart like steel wool and will not poke through your gloves or stick in the wood grain. You can find this pad at most hardware and paint stores. It looks very much like the Scotch-Brite scouring pads used to clean your pots and pans.
    3M also makes a synthetic steel wool in grades to match regular steel wool. You can remove rust, buff between coats, strip paint, or buff a final coat effectively with a synthetic pad.
  10. rusty


    Mar 29, 2004
    Finger, you sure know a lot about this stuff! Thanks for the tips!! I"ll go try them out now :D
  11. Why do you want to clean the dirt out? The dirt is what keeps the funk in, or at least that is what James Jamerson said. :D

    I use lemon oil on my wenge fretboard from time to time, but I dont know if it gets all the crud out though. Maybe if I quit cleaning it, all the little pits will fill in and make it smoother :p
  12. Wow! Thanks for all the information... I'll try the Boiled Linseed Oil Method :D

    I'll get back to you guys when it's done...
  13. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I agree masking off the pickups is a good idea, but much beyond that is overkill. If his fingerboard is as dirty as he says, a single use of 0000 steel wool is fine.

    Furthermore, the problems you mention regarding microscopic particles of steel dust floating through the air and damaging studio equipment is a load of crap! Steel dust is too heavy to just float through the air, since the makeup of steel is way heavier than oxygen! :meh: If you're concerned about magnetic equipment within a very short radius (meaning about 2 feet), then go ahead and be extra cautious if you need to. I don't think it's worth it.

    In addition, I don't agree with your statement about steel wool dust getting caught in the wenge grain. If he takes care and wipes the fretboard down afterwards with lemon oil or other recommended mild cleaning agent, he'll get all the steel wool out of the grain.

    The way you make it sound, I'd be terrified! It's a good thing I don't believe you (nor do MANY professional luthiers!)
  14. Finger Blister

    Finger Blister

    Jul 8, 2003

    Just a FYI: Here's a Link to the Luthier's Steel Wool Method

    Luthiers and those with experience are not the Target Audience.

    The manner which this question was posted
    (i.e. "tried wax on the fretboard") told me that full instructions
    were necessary in this particular case.

    I was just making it easy and as safe as possible for the guy
    who has never done this before;
    who will most likely do the job inside their house, condo, or apartment,
    and is a "non-experienced" and "woodworking impaired" person.

    Being aware of the possibility of traveling dust is real enough
    to be careful of. Some may not think to turn off the fan,
    close the window, or allow dust to settle into carpet or furniture...
    ...any number of variables.

    Wenge is VERY open grained and Steel Wool does
    tend to get torn into the grain wedges; more so then
    any other wood I've experienced.
    If you need more proof and could post a dozen links
    pointing out the fact that steel wool fibers do get caught in wood (not the dust).

    Two Examples of this phenomenia:

    Steel wool can be used for this step as well, but the brass brush is superior. The bristles don't break down and get caught in the grain like steel wool.

    From Minwax: do not use steel wool to smooth wood before or between coats. Strands of steel fiber caught in the wood can cause rust spots when coated with any water cleanup finishes.

    Luthiers would agree that 0000 steel wool is the Ultimate
    surface buffer for the best satin finish...

    however, with this case, in these circumstances, and in this application--
    For the Newbie: 0000 Steel Wool is more hassle then it is worth.
  15. rusty


    Mar 29, 2004
    Ok - before you read on, I don't mean to offend/chastise anyone with this post... but I think it's neccessary to bring a little objectivity here.

    I know you all mean well, but lets not get personal over this. TB is meant to be an avenue of resource - and I think that Finger Blister is contributing to that.
    I'm an absolute n00b here, and I really appreciate the detailed instructions that FB's posted - although that doesn't mean I'll follow it to the T.
    I'm sure people who read this thread will just pick up the points which they find relavent to themselves and adapt to whatever works best for them.
    Another thing - I think it's really unfair to speak out for others and use the "and-many-others-think-the-same-way-as-I" statement to strengthen your opinion. It serves more as a threat to the poster than anything else...

    Ok, so I've said it. Pls don't crucify me for this :(
  16. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I did NOT say "and many others thing the same way as I", rather said "and many LUTHIERS...there is a MAJOR difference! Luthiers, in this case, happen to be "professionals", particularly in areas we happen to be discussing. If you feel the need to minimize my statement as to simply "others" as opposed to "professional experts", then obviously you've something on your mind.

    I could care less that you're a nooby or an oldie. It's still not an excuse to minimize my statement.

    Furthermore, if you're trying to bring a little "objectivity" here, why did you ONLY refer to FB's post and not any others? How's that "objective"?

    Sounds pretty "subjective" to me...
  17. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    For the nooby who doesn't care to read these links, the first one says, "First you will need some 0000 steel wool".

    The other links are useful if you're planning on removing and refinishing pieces of furniture and recommend using "old dental tools" which are "ideal".

    Last time I checked, though, my basses had fretboards that were SIGNIFICANTLY smaller than most pieces of furniture, creating FAR LESS dust than any larger piece of furniture. Also, even though I've got a dentist in my family, I still don't have access to old dental tools.

    Perhaps you're of the variety that feels 0000 steel wool is more trouble than it's worth. I still think rubbing it with the grain of the fretboard, including masking off the electronics, takes under 5 minutes.

    Too much trouble? Only if you've got extra dental tools lyin' around...
  18. rusty


    Mar 29, 2004
    Hi Ram - we obviously got off on the wrong foot here. Let me try and clarify myself.

    1) I'm only responding to the posts in this thread
    2) All I'm saying is that FB's contribution - albeit dental tools, flying dust and all, is a contribution. It's up to people what they want to take from it (or believe it for that matter)
    3) It doesn't matter if you have many luthiers agreeing with you - it still doesn't justify the blanket statement speaking out for a whole group of others as long as they don't speak out themselves here. It then defeats the purpose of the forum where everyone gets a more or less equal say in things (I know this doesn't happen, but ideally that's what counts)
    4) I guess the word objectivity is the worst word to use in a forum (or in any refutement for that matter...) my apologies.
    - but I think it's more polite to address the method than the speaker, i.e. I don't believe in your METHODS vs I don't believe YOU. One's a personal attack, the other's refuting a statement.

    Ok. Hope that helps things a little. My bad for starting this public-waste-of-space argument. I won't be replying to anymore posts up here then. I was not trying to be malicious - pls feel free to PM me if you still feel as though I'm vindicating you.

  19. Jontom


    Mar 11, 2002
    New York
    Whats wrong with lemon oil on wenge boards? Been doin' it for years... Oooops!
  20. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Lemon oil is great for cleaning fingerboards. I've used both #0000 steel wool and Scotch-Brite pads for treating wenge necks and fingerboards. No beeswax; I use Minwax finishing wax. I also rub in a coat of Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil Gun Stock Finish (available at Bass Pro Shops in the ammo dept).


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