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Stew-Mac fretboard finishing oil

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by songwriter21, Jan 3, 2017.

  1. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Sponsored by Hipshot
    I have a bass with an ebony board that seemed to need more adjustments than I'd like, so I researched how to maybe "stabilize" the wood. I've noticed that ebony is more climate-reactive, versus woods like rosewood, maple, etc., due to it's dryness and super-hard properties. I found that the fretboard oil I've mentioned, actually seals ebony boards, supposedly preventing any drying out, cracking, splitting, and climate sensitivities. Dan Erlewine recommends it, exactly for these reasons.

    Well, after having applied a good coat to my board (not overkill), in the last almost 2 months in dry Pittsburgh, my relief has yet to change. This is pretty impressive, considering that I used to tweak the truss about once a week, almost like how people have reported adjusting Stingrays and such. Anyway, this is the only thing differently that I've done with the neck/fretboard, and I'm pretty pleased. My neck has yet to change from being perfectly flat. I'm also not skeptical about ebony boards at this point.

    Have any of you had good results from this stuff as well?

  2. I use it on all of my basses. Great stuff.

    Was recommended to me by the Roscoe folks.
    songwriter21 likes this.
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I build basses professionally, almost all with ebony fingerboards, and I've been using the Stew-Mac Fingerboard Oil on all of them for 20+ years. It's a good product. I'm sure that there are some other similar products which will do a similar job. The Stew-Mac oil is a good blend for this application; it's thin enough that it soaks into ebony, and it cures quickly.

    I polish the fingerboard with 800 grit paper, grey Scotchbrite, then white Scotchbrite. I wipe on a coat of the Stew-Mac oil and let it soak in for about 30 minutes, then buff it up with a cotton buffing wheel. It's a one-time application that seals up the pores and prevents moisture from soaking in. No need for any more later, unless the surface has been re-sanded for some reason.
    bholder likes this.
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I haven't used StewMac's, but I use Fret Doctor's fret oil with very good results, likely similar stuff.
  5. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Sponsored by Hipshot
    I think FD is simply a conditioner, and doesn't seal the wood like the SM stuff. If you don't want to seal your board, FD looks legit.
  6. I think the idea of a (one) finishing and sealing coat to unfinished wood makes perfect sense. I'm not a fan of periodic fretboard/fingerboard oiling, but one sealing coat makes sense to me and the OP's description of its effects is what I would expect.
    songwriter21 likes this.
  7. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Well some people like a sealing coat (even epoxy) on fingerboards and fretboards. Personally I don't like that. Yes, the cost is periodic oiling/cleaning maintenance but you eventually need to clean the finger mung off anyway (at least I do). Originally I used the standard lemon oil/bore oil thing. Was OK but didn't last very long. I had one ebony board start to develop some tiny splits down at the end. I switched to Fret Doctor and it worked really well. I've also used some Ernie Ball stuff which seems nearly identical. It lasts much longer than lemon oil and doesn't actually seal the pores of the wood. Ebony tends to be a bit unstable and I'm not sure if I'd want it totally sealed. And most sealers modify the tone as well. I really think I prefer the over all feel of an unsealed (but treated) board especially on fretless.
    FantasticFour likes this.
  8. I think some kind of coating or finish to mitigate the shape-changing effects of humidity (especially) makes sense when it comes to wood products of just about any kind.
    songwriter21 likes this.
  9. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Sponsored by Hipshot
    @Bruce Johnson, I now have another bass with an ebony board, Macassar (Peavey Cirrus in my avatar), and I was thinking of putting this oil on that bass, as well. Is this an ideal time to put it on? It's not jungle-humid around here yet, and the air isn't arctic-dry anymore, so....
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018

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