What to use to oil Rosewood Fretboard?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by myke.nytemare, Oct 19, 2006.

  1. I have read through several posts and it seems as if there may be a little debate on what to do.

    I have a brand new SX with a rosewood fretboard, and the fretboard appears to be a little dry and dull and I am in the process of completely setting up anf modding the bass and want to get things in order.

    Should I use naptha, murphys oils soap, fretboard oil (if there is such a thing)?
  2. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Lemon oil.
  3. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    I think the fretboard tends to stay oiled a little longer with boiled linseed oil. I only use a little, let it soak in a couple minutes, and then remove the excess with a dry cloth.

    I used to use lemon oil: this was recommended by the local luthier many years ago. Upon reviewing the posts in Talkbass I switched to boiled linseed oil.

    I have 4 SX's with rosewood and the fretboard was somewhat dry on each one upon receipt. And yes, the forum provides a variety of opinions on oil.
  4. Ben B

    Ben B

    Jul 13, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I have been using lemon oil for years without any problems. From what I've read, linseed or tung oil may last longer but can be messy. Lemon oil is very easy to work with. Good luck.

  5. Foamy


    Jun 26, 2006
    Sac Area
    I use lemon oil on all my bare wood necks.
    Cheap, easy to do, smells nice, consistent finish.
  6. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    I prefer boiled linseed oil. Let it soak in a couple minutes and wipe it dry. It seems to seal the wood against moisture better than the mineral oil products, like lemon oil do. Clean the fingerboard with naptha or paint thinner first. Once a year should be plenty.
  7. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Boiled linseed is my favorite. There are some downsides to it. Boiled linseed oil will bead up on the fingerboard for up to a day later. You will have to wipe it down when that happens. It can take up to a week to polymerize and depending on how much you're playing that bass there will be some transfer of oil to fingers to strings which can lead to shortened string life. I make a blend of boiled linseed oil and naphtha. Thinning it a bit seems to make it bead up on the surface for a shorter period of time which is important when an instrument needs to be back in service in a hurry. I also add a few drops of Japan dryer. It promotes rapid polymerization and virtualy eliminates the transfer problem after 24 hours or so. It has some heavy metals in it and is highly toxic so be careful if you choose to use it. Check for the manufacturers MSDS first.

    Lemon oil has always felt light weight and greasy. When a fingerboard is so treated it only lasts half as long as the linseed blend.

  8. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    Yes, Japan dryer will speed up the cure. Heating the boiled linseed oil in a makeshift double boiler will make it flow easier and soak in better and also speed up drying time. You're quite right about beading. It can be a problem but I just wipe it up with a dry cloth and it's usually done with in a couple hours.
  9. kipsus

    kipsus Physicist

    Sep 18, 2005
    Vilnius, Lithuania
    I used some furniture impregnation oil. Seems to work very well. Got a 1l can for like 10 bucks or so.
  10. dunamis


    Aug 2, 2004
    Whether you prefer lemon or linseed oil, the main thing is to avoid anything that contains a solvent.
  11. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Interesting thought. Normally the oil container is on a bench under a warm light. The down side is that it must be done an hour or so in advance of the procedure. Never thought to use a double boiler. That would be fast. Must try this one. Do you keep a fire extinguisher in the shop "just in case"?
  12. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    Yes. Don't try heating it in the microwave like I did once. It can quickly get out of control and catch fire, and even when warming it gives off a pungent odour. A double boiler is quite safe. It's an old varnisher's trick for heating cold varnish to apply on a cold day.

    Boiled linseed oil, if heated to a fairly high temperature and soaked into wood then wiped off, cures quickly enough to topcoat with varnish in less than 24 hours. I've used this on table tops when I wanted that age darkening you get from linseed oil.

    In fact, just the name boiled linseed oil is a clue. In the old days raw linseed oil (flax oil) used to be heated over a fire and "boiled" to start off the process of polymerization. Then it could be used for furniture finishing where it would finish curing when exposed to oxygen. Later,. because of the cost and danger and inconvenience of this method, metallic driers were added instead and "boiled" linseed oil is no longer boiled.

    You can still buy the real boiled linseed oil made the old way but it's hard to find. Last time I checked, Lee Valley Tools used to sell it.

    There's nothing wrong with adding some solvent to thin boiled linseed oil. I've done it many times. It won't damage a fingerboard, cause an explosion (as long as there's no open flame) , give off radioactive waves, cause dementia or create a poisonous nerve gas that will be given off. Did I miss anything?

    You should wear gloves when using solvents, varnish, wipe on poly and the like as these things can be adsorbed through the skin. Use ventilation so you don't inhale the fumes.
  13. wpkg


    Sep 22, 2006
    bloomfield, nj
    so does the fingerboard stay dark when you use linseed vs lemon. I use lemon and love the way it darkens up, but in a few weeks its back to normal. will it stay darker longer with linseed?
  14. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    I personally use Watco Teak Oil on all my basses. It is more geared toward hard dense woods, such as those that are used for fingerboards.
  15. Diego


    Dec 9, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    Lineseed oil. I prefer Teak oil though (just my persoal choice)
  17. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    Yes. Linseed oil darkens with exposure to light and oxygen. On pine, after about a year, the pine develops a rich, nutty brown colour, if you soak it in well upon application. Pine will do this with any oil based finish with age, but with linseed oil it's more pronounced. Looks great as it ages on ash too. Tung oil doesn't darken nearly as much.

    myke-you wipe it on, let it soak in for a few minutes, adding more if it has any spots that soak it all up and look dry, then wipe it off with a cotton cloth or paper towel before it turns gummy and sticky. You don't want a top coat like varnish. This is an "in the wood finish". It soaks in faster if it's warmed up somewhat, maybe to the temperature of a drinkable cup of coffee, and hardens faster too. Go back a couple times every 10 minutes or so and if there are any areas where it seems to have seeped back out and left little wet spots, and wipe them off.

    paintandsk8-yes, I've used Watco Teak oil. It's actually what is known as a long oil varnish. It seals better than linseed oil or tung oil (pure tung oil) and looks good on finishes where you want more of a wet look. Multiple applications wiped on after the previous coat has dried, then wiped off, build up to a nice sheen with some protective qualities. I make my own version of Watco by mixing equal amounts of linseed oil, alkyd varnish and paint thinner. Some guys thin it out to a 1-2-3 ratio of these ingredients.
  18. moro

    moro Geek

    Sep 5, 2006
    Bay Area, CA
    Lakland says they use orange oil on their rosewood fretboards. Does anyone have any experience with that? (I'm assuming it's similar to lemon oil.)
  19. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    I'm going to catch flak for this one:

    In my experience, the "darkening" spoken of would be due to trapped dirt and moisture. The "transferring of oil to fingers" also means attracting of dirt and crud. Linseed oil is well known for doing exactly this.

    I personally keep the fretboard clean with steel wool and leave it alone, but lemon oil makes it shiny for a while and smells nice. You have to wipe it off really well or it's no better than anything else. PRS recommends "quality furniture polish", but I'm not sure what that means.
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