How to get that really glossy / polished rosewood fingerboard look?

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3,274
I've owned and played a few vintage Fenders where the rosewood finger board looks like it's been polished to a shine. Since I wasn't the original owner or know the exact history of these old Fenders, I never knew if this was a natural result of extensive playing or if someone along the line had applied some type of hard finish to the fingerboard. Recently, I've noticed that a boutique bass builder (Alleva-Coppolo) has achieved the same deep shiny polished look on the fingerboards of his new instruments. I was wondering if anyone here has any idea how to make a new rosewood fingerboard get that shiny look. FWIW, my rosewood fingerboards are made of Brazilian. I know that Alleva-Coppolo uses a buffing machine but I heard there's some secrets/tricks to the process. Thanks.
 
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thewestwon

Member
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553
Definitely would like to hear more on this topic. I started a thread about this a long time ago in regards a a newer Les Paul I was hoping to get to feel like some of my vintage pieces.
 

shallbe

Deputy Plankspanker
Platinum Supporting Member
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12,013
I have a technique that involves a lot of elbow grease to simulate playing friction.

I remove all the strings from the neck and apply Lizard Spit fretboard conditioner and let it dry for 10 minutes. Then I get a smooth cloth (old cotton t-shirt or sock) and polish each fret area, back and forth, while watching TV for an hour or so.

It does not happen overnight, but it does make a difference over successive string changes. I love that worn-in/polished rosewood look, and all my guitars have it now. Keep in mind, some of them are 20 years old at this point.

One of the things I have always thought looked ridiculous is a relic guitar with a dry and rough looking rosewood board. Totally fake looking.
 
Messages
3,274
I have a technique that involves a lot of elbow grease to simulate playing friction.

I remove all the strings from the neck and apply Lizard Spit fretboard conditioner and let it dry for 10 minutes. Then I get a smooth cloth (old cotton t-shirt or sock) and polish each fret area, back and forth, while watching TV for an hour or so.

It does not happen overnight, but it does make a difference over successive string changes. I love that worn-in/polished rosewood look, and all my guitars have it now. Keep in mind, some of them are 20 years old at this point.

One of the things I have always thought looked ridiculous is a relic guitar with a dry and rough looking rosewood board. Totally fake looking.
Any pictures you can share? I have a very specific look in mind. The best I've seen was on my '64 P-Bass and the other day I got to play a real '61 stack knob Jazz Bass that had the same look. Of course those Alleva-Coppolo's have the same look, which is why I now think it's possible to achieve on a new instrument. it's almost like there's a finish over the rosewood, not just smooth. I'd like my new Fenders to have that look and feel on the fingerboards. Does the orange oil make/leave a hard shiny finish?
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
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38,959
my last step with fretwork on a rosewood or ebony board is to take it to the buffing wheel, wood and all, with the fine white compound; the frets get to frictionless mirror-shine and the wood gets glossy smooth and polished too.

afterwards, a couple passes with a naphtha-soaked rag followed by dry paper towels, to clean out the compound and suck the naphtha back out of the wood.
 
Messages
3,274
my last step with fretwork on a rosewood or ebony board is to take it to the buffing wheel, wood and all, with the fine white compound; the frets get to frictionless mirror-shine and the wood gets glossy smooth and polished too.

afterwards, a couple passes with a naphtha-soaked rag followed by dry paper towels, to clean out the compound and suck the naphtha back out of the wood.
Thanks for your input. Any pictures you can share? What do you mean by the fine white compound? Is the fine white compound the key to getting that glossy finish? Does it leave a finish on top or just makes the rosewood smooth/shiny?
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
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38,959
i'm talking about the fine abrasive buffing compound you'd use on a buffing wheel; it's the last step in buffing stuff to a shiny gloss, but isn't actually leaving a layer of anything on there.

found one that sort of shows the result:

 

michael razor

Member
Messages
2,119
i'm talking about the fine abrasive buffing compound you'd use on a buffing wheel; it's the last step in buffing stuff to a shiny gloss, but isn't actually leaving a layer of anything on there.

found one that sort of shows the result:

Nice Work, Walter!!
 

kiwicanuck

Member
Messages
1,532
I use micro abrasive sandpaper and a tiny bit of bore oil as a lubricant. Work gently through the different grits up to 8000, then buff and it gives a nice shine and feel.

I avoid polishing compound because it gets in the wood pores.
 

DustyRhodesJr

Member
Messages
11,947
You can actually put tru-oil or tung oil on a rosewood fretboard and buff
it up to luster.

I have done it a few times and really like the look. Just for kicks I put
Homer Formbys tung oil on a Harmony acoustic in the 70's and it is
still on it today.
 

K-Line

Vendor
Messages
8,382
Walter has the right idea. You can also carefully burnish the wood. Sometimes I use a plastic putty spreader to burnish the wood. It brings the natural oils to the surface.
 

Fusionshred

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,120
As many experts here (not me) will verify, be careful what you put on a rosewood board because you don't want to clog or seal the wood (?) to where you can't get the appropriate moisturizers in there.
 

jb4674

Member
Messages
6,774
I use bore oil, let it dry and then buff it with a rag. It doesn't look as good as Walter's picture but it works.
 

mudster

High Prairie Wrangler
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,501
Just another point of view - this may not be what you are after, but I had once ordered a guitar and when it arrived I wished the board was glossier and darker. Well, I loved the guitar. After playing it 3 or 4 years, the board was dark and glossy! I think a lot of that look comes from steady play! The oils in your hands can do a great job!
 

BluesForDan

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,592
i'm talking about the fine abrasive buffing compound you'd use on a buffing wheel; it's the last step in buffing stuff to a shiny gloss, but isn't actually leaving a layer of anything on there.

found one that sort of shows the result:

that looks nice and shiny. Is this a bench mounted buffing wheel? I can see how to do a fender neck since it can be removed from the body, but what about the set neck gibsons? How do you do the frets past the neck body joint without hitting anything else?
 

Tom60

Senior Member
Messages
719
Just another point of view - this may not be what you are after, but I had once ordered a guitar and when it arrived I wished the board was glossier and darker. Well, I loved the guitar. After playing it 3 or 4 years, the board was dark and glossy! I think a lot of that look comes from steady play! The oils in your hands can do a great job!
That's it - just play her a lot and the look you're after will come by itself ..
 

thewestwon

Member
Messages
553
That's it - just play her a lot and the look you're after will come by itself ..
For me, at least, that doesn't really work. My old fretless wonders and vintage fenders have certainly obtained more of that look with a lot of play, but my newer LP (and other guitars) that I would like that look on doesn't see a lot of finger/fretboard contact since it has a modern fret height.
 






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