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What's the best way to freshen up a fretboard?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by dryheatbob, Oct 28, 2003.

  1. Hey all.

    I'm going to be refinishing my Hamer cruise bass soon, and I'm looking for some tips on restoring the fretboard.

    Overall, it's in pretty good shape. The wear that I want to fix looks like it's from pressing the strings down in the middle of the fretboard instead of behind the frets. It looks like a reaaly light scuff running the length of the fretboard, right under the strings.

    When I got the bass, the wear looked pretty bad, but most of it buffed out with a terrycloth towel and elbow grease. After a few coats of lemon oil it looks pretty good, but the scuffs are still lightly visible. There doesn't appear to be any gouging type wear.

    Anyway, anyone have a suggstion on how to remove the rest of the marks?

    I'm thinking I might try a very fine steel wool to buff it out and then reapplying lemon oil.

    Anyone know if this will work or have a better way to fix it?



    I edited the title to make more sense.
  2. You can try furniture polish.

    I would do this before I used steel wool.

    Steel wool will actually put small grooves in the fret board which can cause intonation problems, if they are to deep.

  3. Hey, Treena-

    I'd give the furniture polish a try, but I thought I read somewhere here on the board that polishes like that can do bad things- something about the petoleum products in them damaging the board or the strings or something like that.

    The steel wool I mentioned is the really fine stuff used for knocking down imperfections in finishes. It's got a superfine grit to it, something like 00000. Anyway, back when I painted motorcycles, I'd use it to take down small screwups in the paint, like dust or sand specs. It hardly did any damage to the paint at all, and would do a good job of flattening the imperfection.

    I thought it would have the effect of polishing the fretboard, so that the scuff marks would disappear without harming the wood. Guess not, huh?

    If I'm wrong on either point(the furniture polish or the steel wool) let me know.

  4. warwickbass


    Dec 8, 2001
    Im assuming that your talking about wear from the strings on the fretboard and not the frets. In that case i wouldnt see a problem with using the steel wool, asside from it hurting the wood and making it look worse, but if it barely touches paint i doubt it would be too much of a problem.

    If your talking about using it on frets, which i dont think you are, but if you are, i wouldnt. That probably would screw up your intonation, possibly not very much, maybe alot depending on how much you take off and where. theres just no way you could do it evenly and be precise. If your just doing it to take the wear out of your frets because it looks bad, i wouldnt touch it, if your doing it to repair the frets, i would get it profressionaly done to insure that its done without error.

    As for the polish, use lemon oil, and just make sure it dosnt have any silicons, or petroleum products in it because it will clog up the pours out your bass.
  5. I've been playing and cleaning my basses for 33 years and have never had a problem with furniture polish (pledge) gunking up the wood pores on my necks. The strings, yes!

    Some of the things people come up with just floors me!

    I also use Martin Guitar Polish, it comes in a pump bottle about 6oz. for $6.00 there are no chemicals in this, that will hurt wood!


  6. The members of this forum and regular readers of Setup have become accustomed to the warnings against furniture polish as a real wood conditioner.

    One only has to look in the archives at the list of notable builders (Sadowsky among others) that warn against furniture polishes and one will understand our general reticence towards these products.

    Anecdotal accounts of success with furniture polish don't substitute for empirical evidence. When so many pros have warned against it, one might be wise to play the odds and pass on the polish.

    For real gunk cleaning of fretboards, I use a light touch of Naptha to break down the crud followed by a quick wipe of the cloth. This procedure doesn't discriminate between bad oils (human gunk) and good oils (a natural part of rosewood) so the process leaves the top a little dry. To finish off the cleaning, I've been using just a little natural almond oil to bring the surface back to the rich healthy sheen one expects. The oil will replace what which was lifted during cleaning and the surface will be perfect for playing.

    Hope this helps

  7. Thanks for the advice, Hambone. Seems like your the man with the answers on the setup board! Actually, Warwick bass hit on the problem- it's wear from the strings on the fretboard that I'm trying to remove(or at least reduce their appearance).

    Any suggestions for that?

  8. warwickbass


    Dec 8, 2001
    Not that I have an answer, but i think some questions need to be answered to figure out what would work for ya. First, whats the fretboard made out of, some woods are softer than others, some have raised grain, some flat.. so on and so fourth. I would imagine that that would play a big role in whats gonna work to take those score marks out. Next is do you have an inlay, if so you wouldnt want to go scuffing that up, otherwise your just getting rid of one eye sore for another. I would also imagine that the age and care taken for the fretboard in the first place would play a role also. What I would do is clean it off to get all the gunk and grime out so you have a good idea of what your looking at, that way you can tell how deep the marks are and you will be able to judge how much wood your going to need to take off, and who knows perhaps some of the marks wont look so bad after being cleaned up.

    As for what to actualy take the marks out with... your guess is as good as mine, probably better :rolleyes:
  9. I would try this: Get some 0000 steel wool and some of the almond oil I've talked about. Dip the wool in the oil and try polishing the wear mark. With a little work, it should work well. The oil will initially hide any scuff and the steel wool will very lightly sand the mark but leave a lot of oil in the wood. I think that would be the best way to remove and hide any leftover shadows. Then rub the oil into the rest of the fretboard, let it sit for an hour and come back and rub the fretboard vigorously until the sheen comes up. Restring and you should be on your way
  10. Hambone, If you prefer I suggest the Martin Polish that's fine with me.

  11. Hambones suggestion to use steel wool/almond oil to buff out the marks looks like the best way to go. After cleaning and wiping it down with lemon oil, what's left are scuffs that look like a slight discoloration. There isn't any noticeable gouging in the fretboard at all. The fret markers look like abalone dots; since they're small and not under the strings, buffing around them doesn't look to be a problem.

    I'll post after I try buffing out the marks to let ya know if it worked- prolly a few people around with the same thing happening to their fretboard and it doesn't hurt to share what works.

  12. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    I have used many different polishes over the years and the one that works best for me is Ken Smith's. It smells funky, but it works wonders.
  13. I don't "prefer" anything for a suggestion. You should do as you think best. Your wit has wounded me. :(

    Here's the problem here in "Setup". Unlike topics discussing whether one prefers 4 strings over 5, or Jamerson over Jaco, setup topics are a little more technical and easy to get wrong. You know - less subjective. When I took the reins of Setup as Moderator (3 years ago), I quickly understood that there was far too much poor advice offered in response to questions. And like a lot of things concerning basses, much of it was wive's tales and legends. Merlin and Pkr2 are quick to help sort fact from fiction especially in the electronics arena. I'm not that good there so to help with the clutter, redundancy, and to make things better for seekers of good solid info, I have always made it a mission to point out where the opinions of the amateurs are markedly different from the positions of the pros. And in this case, that would mean pro builder or technician. This sort of helps newbies and the generally clueless to sort through the dreck and get to some info that is accurate and useful. I don't really know if this is truly the duty of a moderator or just being a good online citizen. But no one was a mod before me and I wasn't ever a moderator until I was one here so that's how I approach this forum. Besides, really bad info from here, in the wrong hands, on a full moon could spell some real grief to an instrument.

    I don't want you, Treena, or any other member to get the idea that you've got to be "right-thinkin'" to participate in the discussion around here. When I make a post as I did above, you should assume that I'm full of beans and do the research yourself - if only to prove that my sorry behind really doesn't know it all!:p I'm simply a participant in the discussion with no more of an important opinion than anyone else who is on-topic. I understand that sometimes my writing style comes across as a little too dry and authoritative. Unfortunately, that's not just an online personality - that's the real me. I'm not a bad guy, just "grumpy" as my family would say. The bright side of that is that what you see is what you get. I tend to be a real straight shooter.

    I apologize if I've made anyone feel uncomfortable.
  14. Hambone,

    Please know I respect your views and your kindness to offer your services to all TB.

    I mod on another board and I know it can be trying to say the least.

    I've read many of your posts and you seem to be a straight forward , honest, kind of guy...in my opinion.

    I like these qualities in a person!

    I do have a question though, I was reading and also was told about Mr. Sheen in a post by Merlin.............what is Mr. Sheen and will it work as well, if not better than the Martin cleaner?

    Thank you in advance!

  15. Looks like alittle 0000 steel wool and almond oil did the trick. The scuffs buffed out with hardly any elbow grease and zero damage to the fretboard.

    If anyone reads this keep in mind that the steel wool might damage the fret markers, so be careful not to buff them. Basically, I polished around them, trying to buff in the same direction as the wood grain. The marks on my fretboard weren't deep- they almost looked like discoloration rather than scratched in marks. If you have trenches dug into your fretboard, I'm not sure this will work.

    Thanks to everyone for tossing in their .02.

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    Primary TB Assistant

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