Applying oil to fretboard - rant! ;)

Taller

Gold Supporting Member
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4,066
So...I just stuck my nose inside the sound hole of my new Martin OM-21, as we all do ;).
"Mmmm...I wonder how this rosewood smells in comparison to my D-18 with mahogany?"

Then it hit me: My OM-21 has solid rosewood back and sides. And NOBODY would dream of applying rosewood oil to the inside of their prized acoustic! So how did we all fall for this idea that we need to apply rosewood oil (or similar) to our rosewood fretboards, or else what...it'll dry out?

"It looked really dry, so I oiled it as soon as I got home!" - You read this here all the time!

"For sale - never played it, but I kept the fretboard oiled!" - Ahhh...no thanks!

I'd never heard of this idea until the i'net came along.
NOBODY back in the 70's ever considered doing this to their fretboards!
 

Telfer

Member
Messages
235
People use lemon oil primary for cleaning fretboards.

I dont know if its useful for preventing cracking in dry air conditions.
 

Guitarworks

Member
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12,508
Well, of course you wouldn't want to moisten the inside of an acoustic - that's absurd. The sides need to retain their shape and the wood needs to maintain its integrity. A fretboard is a different story. You're not asking a fretboard to contort, work with bracing and fight tension the same way the back and sides of an acoustic guitar need to.

I've been using lemon oil to condition rosewood fretboards since the early 80s, on an irregular basis. I haven't had any problems one way or the other - no fretboards have dried out & cracked due to nothing being applied, no fretboards have unseated frets or separated from the neck, or suffered any ill effects due to having been somehow "over-hydrated" by one occasional application of lemon oil. I see it as no different than applying lemon oil to your woodwork or furniture once in a while or wax to your car. It looks nice. If I lived in a desert climate, I suppose it's possible that it might help prevent cracking, like applying lotion to your hands on a dry winter day.
 

Taller

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,066
Well, of course you wouldn't want to moisten the inside of an acoustic - that's absurd. The sides need to retain their shape and the wood needs to maintain its integrity. A fretboard is a different story. You're not asking a fretboard to contort, work with bracing and fight tension the same way the back and sides of an acoustic guitar need to.

Actually, (and I agree with most all of your post, BTW) the rosewood back and sides aren't under any tension, per se. The top is taking all of the string tension, right? All the sides and back have to do is maintain their shape, which obviously would be an absurd idea if one oiled it! :)

I don't see a parallel between 'maintaining the integrity of the wood' in an oil vs. no-oil fretboard discussion. What do you mean? The wood is the same - Indian Rosewood (for the most part). It's "integrity" is intact in either situation, no?
 

Blix

Wannabe Shredder
Silver Supporting Member
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30,001
Oil does not hydrate wood in any way, wood is hygroscopic and draw or lose moisture from it's surroundings.
 

fuzz_factor

Silver Supporting Member
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4,425
I've never oiled the fretboards on my '91 Les Paul Standard or my '93 AVRI Strat (both purchased new). Neither seems in danger of cracking, drying, contorting or otherwise being damaged.

Lots of people seem to like the look of really dark, almost ebony-like rosewood. I don't mind the look of lighter "dry" rosewood. I think streaks in lighter rosewood are kind of nice.

Oiling a fretboard seems like a PITA, but I recently bought a Miracle Cloth (Gorgomyte) and cleaned the frets on that Les Paul. I hit the pickup covers and stopbar while I was at it. That guitar hasn't shined this much since it was new! Maybe I should take better care of my guitars!
 

Jason_77

Member
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7,198
I oil my boards with a drying oil to give them an even, finished look. I don't subscribe to the idea that wood needs to be hydrated.
 

jcs

Member
Messages
8,093
I use mineral oil on fretboards....I've always looked at it as a way to help protect from dirt,grime, sweat etc from fingers sinking into the wood and the fret edges.
 
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330
I hit it with a slight misting of Guiness, EXTRA Stout via spray bottle, then Iapply a thin coating of Jergens with a q-tip. I got all the tonez.

But seriously, I use a Gorgamyte cloth on my rosewood boards about once a year. Gets that sucker clean, the frets nice and smooth, and darkens/evens out the look of my board. It's freakin great! Steel wool and ax wax, lemon oil does just fine too. I like my Geet feeling silky smooth and so fresh and clean. To each their own though.
 

Bluesful

Silver Supporting Member
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45,743
I suppose the oiling thing is purely aesthetic.

I've done it once on a few of my guitars, but probably won't again.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
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40,972
Then it hit me: My OM-21 has solid rosewood back and sides. And NOBODY would dream of applying rosewood oil to the inside of their prized acoustic! So how did we all fall for this idea that we need to apply rosewood oil (or similar) to our rosewood fretboards, or else what...it'll dry out?
excellent point!

the internally exposed body wood of an acoustic is no different than the exposed wood of any fretboard.

leave it alone, people
 

jcs

Member
Messages
8,093
excellent point!

the internally exposed body wood of an acoustic is no different than the exposed wood of any fretboard.

leave it alone, people
Okay....but finger oil is going to wind up on the board and dirt and filth of all kinds....different than the inside of an acoustic....though, yes varying amounts of dust to be seen inside of my 15 or so acoustics that are all between 15 to 60 years old.

I am going to continue to clean my fingerboards with lighter fluid and follow with a dab of mineral oil......but actually I only do it ONCE when I buy a used guitar.

Many pros insist on never cleaning fingerboards, especially maple boards...to each their own.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
40,972
Okay....but finger oil is going to wind up on the board and dirt and filth of all kinds....different than the inside of an acoustic...
valid point
I am going to continue to clean my fingerboards with lighter fluid
also fine, naphtha is the go-to stuff for dissolving 'finger cheese". the argument is just over whether adding some kind of oil afterwards accomplishes anything.
Many pros insist on never cleaning fingerboards, especially maple boards...
unless you're eddie VH, that maple board is fully finished like the rest of the neck (and the body) and thus oil is pointless anyway.
 
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VaughnC

Silver Supporting Member
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19,040
Yup, I don't know how the fretboard oiling thing got started. The only thing I can figure is a darker, oiled fretboard looks better to most people. But you have to be careful with any oil as it tends to soften wood...which isn't the best thing for frets, inlays & bindings. I've refretted a few guitars with fretboards that were over oiled and it was a nightmare, and some of the old frets would come out with just my fingernails :eek:. I had to resort to epoxy to hold the new frets in place.
 




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