Rosewood Fretboards??? Need Help!

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by FunkSlapRumblefish, Nov 5, 2001.

  1. FunkSlapRumblefish

    FunkSlapRumblefish Guest

    May 23, 2000
    Charlotte, NC
    When cleaning an unfinished rosewood fretboard (MM Stingray), what type of oil would be best. I've heard that lemon oil is good, but could I use the furniture polish kind? Also, what should I do after applying the lemon oil? Any info will be appreciated. Thanks :)

  2. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    acetone works really well!!! :D
  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Funk - Don't use any of that gunk from the grocery store. It usually has silicones that are by-products from chemical companies. Or worse, it has alcohol.

    Luthiers say the stuff guitar companies sell isn't much better. It has tiny abrasives in it that just remove a minute fraction of the surface instead of actually cleaning.

    Real lemon oil is excellent. Hardware stores are a good source for either. So are the health food/vitamin store places but the health places usually charge way too much for it. You can find it online, too.

    Linseed oil is supposed to be good to but it has to be some certain kind I can't recall.
  4. FunkSlapRumblefish

    FunkSlapRumblefish Guest

    May 23, 2000
    Charlotte, NC
    Thanks rickbass, I'll check and see what my local hardware store has.

  5. rsautrey

    rsautrey Banned

    Jul 27, 2000
    Boiled Linseed Oil is excellent IMO. The boiled variety dries faster (about 24hrs.). Apply a very thin coat and use 0000 steel wool to clean the frets while the oil is on the board. Remember to cover the pickups with masking tape before using steel wool. After this, wipe the fretboard down with a clean cloth and allow to dry for at least 24hrs before restringing. I do this once a year for oiling purposes only. For general cleaning, I just wipe the fretboard down with a cloth to remove dead skin cells and other gunk.
  6. Sorry rsautrey but I can't back up the BLO suggestion. Boiled linseed oil is more of a finish than a good cleaner. It is a thick coating that soaks into the wood and can make for a mess if it ever gets too warm. It then leeches from the wood and can become very greasy. Rosewood is an oily wood to begin with and the addition of the heavy linseed oil is not the proper way to CLEAN it.

    Lemon oil is a good choice, first because it's a very light fluid that will help break down the harder crud and it wipes clean from the board. What residue it does leave compliments the natural oils and merely makes board "fast" for a few days. Eventually you'll have to wipe it down again.

    Acetone can be used as a powerful cleaner but it is very harsh to the rosewood since it breaks down the rosewood's natural oil acetone can leave it with a hazy, white look. Eventually it will return to it's natural color but only after the natural oils leech back to the surface and your own skin oils mix with it. An interesting process is to use the acetone first to really get the grunge out and then use the lemon oil for getting a nice sheen and keeping the color.
  7. lo-end


    Jun 15, 2001
    Yes!!! Its very important to put tape over the pickups!!! If any of the steel wool breaks off and gets onto the pole pieces, it will be impossible to get off and itll screw up your pickups for sure. Just dont use tape that'll leave a sticky residue on your pups, unless you have goo gone or something like that to take it off.
  8. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Ham - I'm not speaking from experience but I've seen this boiled linseed oil thing get batted around before. Those who espouse it say to wipe on a thin film of it and wipe it away a.s.a.p. or else, as you say, it soaks in and then leeches out in due time.

    Sadowsky recommended it in June's Bass Player and that got the debate heated again. Stradavarius used it, so that's where it also gets a lot of its legitimacy.

    I just don't see any reason to mess with it when it takes some kind of special handling and lemon oil works so well.
  9. I use some stuff called Dr. Kyser's (??) fretboard cleaner and conditioner. It comes in a white plastic bottle and smells like lemon oil but there may be more to it than that. I think it works pretty well. I clean my board whenever I do a string change.
  10. FunkSlapRumblefish

    FunkSlapRumblefish Guest

    May 23, 2000
    Charlotte, NC
    thanks for all the help! i guess i'll stay away from the lindseed oil and pick up some lemon oil. thanks again:)

  11. Sadowsky

    Sadowsky Commercial User

    Nov 1, 2000
    Owner: Sadowsky Guitars Ltd.
    I have to strongly disagree with Hambone's post. First of all, never get near an instrument with acetone. It is the strongest solvent for nitro and all finishes except polyester and if you get it anywhere it is not supposed to be, it will damage the finish. If you need to use a solvent to clean crud off a fingerboard, naptha (lighter fluid), ispopropyl alcohol (from the drug store) or Bestine rubber cement solvent (from art supply shops) are much safer solvents.

    Regarding lemon oil. Lemon oil is mineral oil with extra drying solvents and a lemon scent added. Although it initially seems to work very well, when the drying solvents kick in, it actually dries out the board more than if you used nothing at all. Better to just use mineral oil.

    I still recommend boiled linseed oil (available at any hardware or art supply shop). Wipe on just enough to coat the board and then wipe off all the excess. Wait a few minutes and wipe it dry again. No additional "leeching" should occur.

    Roger Sadowsky
  12. TonyS


    Dec 13, 1999
    The man has spoken.

    Just happen to be changing strings this afternoon and I have a bottle of boiled linseed oil.

    Thanks for the reply.
  13. rsautrey

    rsautrey Banned

    Jul 27, 2000
    >boiled linseed oil is more of a finish than a good cleaner.

    Hambone, if you read my post again, I never said anything about using this stuff to clean, just to keep the wood from drying out. The original question was about what oil to use for cleaning. Maybe, I shouldn't have answered because as far as cleaning goes, wiping down with a clean cloth is enough. The only reason I brought up boiled linseed oil was because rickbass1 mentioned "linseed oil" instead of "boiled linseed oil" which takes less time to dry. Sorry for the confusion.
  14. Well, I do agree with Mr. Sadowsky on the Naptha suggestion, it's my preferred solvent for those "things" that stick and grow on fingerboards. There's a funny thing about Naptha and most folks don't know - that it's 1 distillation step from gasoline! And like all aromatic solvents is very, very flammable - even to the point that ignition can take place from a static electricity spark. The problem I have with Isopropyl alcohol is that most of the alcohol you get in the drug stores is only 70% alcohol with the rest being water. This can raise the grain of woods in certain instances and can create a problem in that respect.

    I've got the clarify what I do when I clean a fingerboard or any part of an instrument. I DON'T soak, or pour any solvent directly on the instrument. What I do is use a soft rag with my finger wrapped in it and wet only that small portion for application to whatever I want to clean. There's enough to do the job and it gets wiped clear almost immediately. If you do this, you can use solvents that would normally be dangerous if left on a surface very long. And, as Mr. Sadowsky stated, using it on nitrocellulose finishes is definitely asking for trouble. But like any process I choose to employ, I take responsiblity for what I use and how I use it. If you aren't comfortable with any of this type of stuff, you should not attempt it.

    By the way, It's always great to have reknown craftsmen contribute to our little corner of chaos here in "Setup" We certainly appreciate your expertise and look forward to your views on many more subjects.
  15. FunkSlapRumblefish

    FunkSlapRumblefish Guest

    May 23, 2000
    Charlotte, NC
    Wow! :eek: Thanks Mr. Sadowksy for the response, it's a pleasure to have you give me your expert advice! I guess I'll be staying away from the Lemon oil, seems that many people think it's a bad choice. I've also heard from other sources that the boiled linseed oil is a good choice, so I'll try that. Thanks everyone, for your help!

    -FSR :)