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So,does ebony need conditioning?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by ppanousos, May 17, 2005.

  1. ppanousos


    Apr 10, 2005
    I just bought a Ibanez Gary Willis signature bass with a ebony fingerboard?Does it need conditioning and if so what material do you recomend?Maybe lemon oil? :bassist:
  2. Ebony usually doesn't need anything beyond the oil coming from your skin from playing. An occasional wipe with a drop or two of clear pharmaceutical grade mineral oil will keep it shiny but only a drop or two.

    Please read the label of anything labeled "Lemon Oil". Note the first ingredients listed - usually something like "petroleum distillates" These could be any one of a number of aromatic solvents that come from the different distillation steps done to crude oil. Gasoline is one of these products but it's waaay up the chain in steps. Naptha is also one but so is mineral spirits. Most of what you are buying in products marked "Lemon Oil" is these compounds with a little bit of lemon scent mixed in. It makes stuff shine but it doesn't do a thing for the natural fibers of the wood.
  3. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    Well, one positive thing that petroleum distillates/lemon oil will do is disolve the dirt and grease from your fingers and help clean the board. I generally use it on ebony and rosewood fingerboards if I have the strings off. People with oilier or more acidic skin may need to use it (or another cleaning product) more often.

    Non-curing oils like mineral oil, raw linseed oil, valve oil will penetrate the wood and leave it darker for a longer time, but the effect is essentially cosmetic. They don't protect the wood from penetration of moisture or chemicals. (They probably also clean a bit when you apply them.)

    Some people recommend an actual finish that cures and forms a film (e.g. tru-oil) but this can change the look and feel of the board. It's not something I'd do unless there were extreme conditions.
  4. Bob, I use some of the distillates as cleaners too but not as treatments for the wood. It's more of a "get it on then get it off" kind of an action. I also like to use water based degreasers in conjunction with the oil based stuff. Not a lot and not enough to actually "wet" anything but there are some gunks I've seen that respond better to the degreasers than to the solvents. In fact, solvents can carry some gunks into the wood further and then leave them there. Surfactant degreasers tend to avoid this problem.

    The suggestion of a couple of drops of mineral oil is only for cosmetics and maybe a little preventive care if the ebony might get too dry but that's all it's going to do. The mineral oil is really clear and colorless so it won't tint the wood.

    I certainly agree with not going with a film forming finish on ebony. So little sticks successfully to ebony that whatever you get on there will be coming off with just a little play after awhile. That's the beauty of ebony - it can be sanded and polished to the nicest sheen without anything but it's own natural oils doing the hard work.
  5. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I use Gibson Fretboard Conditioner on my ebony boards - a little every 3-4 months or so, a bit more frequently during the cold, dry winter months. Whether or not my boards truly need it, I couldn't say - I use it primarily as an ounce of prevention (literally) - just to prevent any possible cracking or splitting. But I must say, the wood does seem to appreciate it...


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