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Sticky Fingerboards

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by cabooke, Oct 9, 2002.

  1. cabooke


    Jan 26, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    How do you avoid the fingerboard from getting sticky? I wipe it down after it is played, but it just seems dry. I was told tht lemon oil will help with this, but it doesn't seem to work very well. Any insight would be great. Thanks.
  2. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I have used a cloth damped in metho to clean grunge off the fingerboard; I like the smooth dry surface it leaves. I figure its not going to hurt the strings either because it evaporates quickly and gets rid of finger-fat. But what about just using a damp cloth? Will water hurt the strings? Do you really need to treat the wood with something?
  3. I would suggest avoiding fudgesicles whilst playing bass.

    Besides that, I'm not sure what to suggest. I've used lemon oil before, and it worked nicely.

  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Keep it really clean and apply a little walnut oil (from the health food store) with 0000 steel wool. Let it soak for 5 minutes, then wipe off. Repeat as desired. Acetone or xylene will remove the grunge but dry out the ebony--you DO need to keep it oiled. The grunge is generally dead skin (and oil, and bacteria, and perspiration, and...). Keep your hands clean.
  5. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Arnold, does it matter if the oil gets on the strings? Is oiling the fingerboard a string-off procedure?
  6. Skin oils do a good enough job to protect the wood, and usually it is only necessary to clean the mung and salts off occasionally with mineral spirits. Xylene and acetone are too aggressive and strip too deep into the wood.
    I don't agree with using walnut, boiled linseed, or tung oils on fingerboards. They are all drying oils. They take a long time to dry and during the months long process they leach out of the wood and gum things up.
    After cleaning, a quick wipe with light mineral oil is best. Make sure to wipe off as much as possible.
    Walnut oil typically found in health food stores usually has no preservatives or stabilizers and goes rancid and turns gummy quickly.
    These are well accepted practices in guitar lutherie.
  7. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    I totally agree with Pete.
    In the past i used walnut oil but it always went rancid , now im using baby skin oil and i'm happy with it....and even better, i found out that this oil is great to put gut strings back to life.....
    but i guess thats another story in another forum...
    all the best

  8. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Baby oil is just good old mineral oil. Won't dry, gum up, harden or support biological activity.
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    I use walnut oil from Lee Valley. I think it may have a dryer and preservative in it, as I've not had a problem with ransidity after using it on over 100 fingerboards. Mineral oil is also fine--best is the thin variety, often sold as "Butcher Block Oil". Some people finish the fingerboard with wax, which works OK but leaves a funny feel, to my hands. I disagree that acetone or xylene have too much of a "stripping" effect. How can one strip unfinished, or simply oiled wood? No damage whatsoever will occur, as long as the oil is replenished. And you'll have a clean board!
  10. Watco Danish oil also works quite well.
  11. Most nut oils are "drying oils", a somewhat deceptive term. While all oils evaporate at varying rates, drying oils more accurately polymerize in the presence of oxygen. They do this at accelerated yet varying rates as well. Preservatives that are added to foodstuffs are generally antioxidents and dufus this drying and rancidity. For fingerboards and for digestion, this is a good thing.
    Xylene and acetone are more volitile than mineral spirits, that is they have a higher vapor pressure and evporate relatively quickly. Oil is more quickly dissolved in them, especially xylene. They will penetrate deeper into the wood and carry off more protective oil that is deep into the wood. In fact both of these solvents are used to de-oil teak. This is what I meant by "stripping".
    Acetone is especially bad because it is water miscible. It mixes with the moisture in the wood and carries it away, creating a layer of very dry wood. This will embrittle ebony and accelerate powdering. It probably is also not good for its dimensional stability either as it creates a laminar moisture differential.
    Again, I prefer to use plain mineral spirits to clean surface grunge, and a light mineral oil to protect. The f/b stays silky smooth for a long time and you don't have to worry about it varnishing up over a period of time.
  12. I love this on cabinets etc., but on a high traffic surface like a f/b it is like putting a thin, slow-drying varnish on.
  13. Pete,
    I have to disagree. I've been using this product on fingerboards for at least 30 years and used properly, there is no significant buildup. It dries quite fast as drying oils go. I don't don't pour in on the fingerboard. Just wipe it on and wipe if off in an hour or so. It dries over night. Personally, I'll take a drying oil over a non drying oil any day of the week.
  14. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I wonder how many compulsive bass tinkerers have read this thread and couldn't resist going straight out to the shed for some oil and steel wool?

    Well I did and I must say I was pleased with the result. a light rub with fine steel wool damped with methylated spirit cleaned off some shiny spots and brought up some nice figuring in the wood.

    I used just a dab of linseed oil which soaked in nicely when rubbed in well. Did same to back of neck.

    I'm very happy that the E string appears to sound more growly, maybe because its got a better surface to press onto. Playability has improved not least because of the thin coat of oil on the BACK of the neck - my inadvertent "pivots" have become more correct "shifts" as I now slide my thumb as opposed to dragging it against friction. I'll remember that trick for future practice sessions!
  15. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    OLeary isn't gonna dig that linseed oil...
  16. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    I would like to know just how you get a sticky fingerboard in the first place? I played bass since 1962 and the only time the finger board gets sticky is when I eat or drink while playing which I don't do any longer. Now if you are talking about rosin on the fingerboard you are bowing in the wrong place.

  17. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Yeah, Let's talk hygeine, you gotta get some

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