How to permanently darken your rosewood (UPDATED: or Pau Ferro) fingerboard without dyes

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by wox, May 24, 2020.

  1. wox

    wox Supporting Member

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    This question comes up a lot and we talk about dyes, india ink, shoe polish, mineral oil, bore oil, boiled linseed oil, etc.

    Dyes can rub off, india ink is very dark black, and oils need re-applying to look dark and rich.

    Here's a simple way to do it using a chemical compound that actually oxidizes the wood, causing it to change color.

    Potassium permanganate is a simple chemical compound of potassium and manganese.

    Editing to say some folks have brought up potential safety issues with the use of this substance. My use is highly diluted and removes any standing substance from the wood, so I don't believe there is any issue, but of course work safely and take the precautions you would with any potentially flammable substance.

    It's $19 on Amazon

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    This is a garden-variety new cheap rosewood fingerboard. It's kind of light, kind of purple-ish. Not terrible, but not a great looking board.

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    Take a little potassium permanganate (this is about 1 tsp), it looks like a grey dust...

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    Mix it with water and it turns purple (because of the potassium) - this is about a 7:1 water to powder ratio, though you can alter it to taste.

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    Mix it up and wipe it on to your fingerboard.

    One note of caution - this stuff is messy and it will oxidize or stain anything porous it comes in contact with. Do this outside and wear gloves if you don't want your fingertips stained.

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    You can do a single application, apply a couple of light coats, adjust the ratio of your mix, etc.

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    Let it dry, rub it out a bit, and boom...

    It'll look even nicer after oiling.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
  2. stonem

    stonem Supporting Member

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    Very cool. Noting this product. Thanks.
     
  3. willyboy

    willyboy Member

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    Nice suggestion OP. Just a note though, with the wood properly cleaned and prepared, and using the correct type of penetrating stain or dye, they will not rub off because they penetrate below the surface not sit on top of it. I think most instances where those products rub off it's not an issue with the product but user error.
     
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  4. VJF

    VJF Member

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    OP this questions seems to come up more often regarding Pau Ferro...it would cool if you showed what it does to Pau Ferro. Does it discolor or oxidize the frets?
     
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  5. PatriotBadger

    PatriotBadger Member

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    Keep it away from frets. This stuff reacts with all kinds a metallic elements with potentially incendiary results. I don't know what it would do with fret alloys specifically, but this seems like a very bad idea. I wouldn't even trust it to be oiled, this stuff combined with a drop brake fluid creates a nice purple flame burst and tons of exothermic heat. Well, the glycol ether based ones do anyway (not sure about mineral oil based). To each their own, but I wouldn't use the stuff.
     
  6. GreatGreen

    GreatGreen Member

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    Sounds like something that would be really cool if applied at the manufacturing level.

    I'd love a Mexican Fender Strat but I'm not about to buy anything with a Pau Ferro board no matter how many marketing videos tell me they're not hideous. They are. Sorry but I can't look at a Pau Ferro board on a guitar and see anything other than Ghetto Rosewood. I've never seen a Pau Ferro fretboard without thinking "oh wow that Rosewood looks like complete trash, they must really be getting low on their wood supply. Did they pull that off an old barn? It's so washed out and streaky. Oh wait it's just Pau Ferro. Gross."

    If they can use this stuff to properly and permanently darken Pao Ferro, the floodgates would open for it.
     
  7. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Silver Supporting Member

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    You better free your mind instead. ;) JL
     
  8. Tim Plains

    Tim Plains Member

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    Fret Doctor works well.
     
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  9. Buduranus2

    Buduranus2 Supporting Member

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    Mineral oil. Wipe off the excess.

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  10. Jabby92

    Jabby92 Member

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    An interesting idea.. I've never really used oils on rosewood. What has worked best for me is maintaining the humidity. My rosewood darkened up nicely on my LP once I got a case humdifier for it. The natural humidity from distilled water worked very well for me:

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  11. wox

    wox Supporting Member

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    Let's find out.

    Left is Stew-Mac 18% NS.
    Right is Jescar SS

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    Soaked them in the above 1:7 mixture for 5 minutes and both pieces of fretwire look the same to me.

    5 minutes is more than enough time to darken your fingerboard, so I wouldn't worry about damaging frets when doing this on a fretted fingerboard.

    If it does oxidize the fret material at all, it's so minor that you can easily polish it off.

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. wox

    wox Supporting Member

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    This does seem to be the million dollar question.

    I don't have a PF fingerboard on hand, but I'll try to get ahold of one in the next week to test on.

    (sucks because I *just* ordered from Stew-Mac a week ago and would had added a PF board onto my order to experiment with, but I'm not about to pay another $18 in shipping)
     
  13. wox

    wox Supporting Member

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    OK, I ordered a cheap PF fingerboard from eBay.

    I'll keep you guys updated.
     
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  14. Vic Interceptor

    Vic Interceptor Member

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    Oiling to darken is a bad idea. Oil will eventually dry and or cause all sorts of problems... changing the wood on a chemical basis is the only sensible way.

    Pau Ferro is a short term solution and Fender knows it. Pau Ferro has been a 2nd choice wood for pistol grips for decades... when rosewood became expensive and or ugly, you got pau ferro. Now they use plastic or other materials because pau ferro went down the same road as rosewood.

    You can not sustain the mass manufacturing of zillions of guitars with a slow growth product. I hope someday soon all but the very highest end guitars are switched to man made materials, because most people only care about cosmetics anyway these days, richlite and MDF are fine for 99% of the new guitar buyers.

    This chemistry lesson is genius! I hope it has permanent results without future detriments.
     
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  15. stratzrus

    stratzrus Philadelphia Jazz, Funk, and R&B Silver Supporting Member

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  16. skullfunkerry

    skullfunkerry Member

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    Not to take anything away from the OP, or indeed anyone else commenting on this thread; but I don't think I've ever even considered the colour of the fretboard when I've bought a guitar...
     
  17. wox

    wox Supporting Member

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    OK, I got this (rather nice looking) piece of Pau Ferro.

    I requested a lighter piece of wood from the seller. This is a nice medium brown with some reddish tones and very nice grain (honestly I prefer it to the rosewood I used above).

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    Let's try a light mix first.

    This is about 10 parts water to 1 part potassium permanganate.

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    The result?

    A few shades darker, but still lets the streaked grain show through clearly.

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    Let's do a heavier mix.

    This is more like 5 parts water to 1 part potassium permanganate. (whoops still needed to stir it more, wiped a bunch of sediment on, but ndb)

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    And the result....

    Not bad, eh?

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. PartoftheDark

    PartoftheDark Member

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    I still like my way, but this is a really neat idea and it'll hypothetically clear up your eczema.
     
  19. Hudman_1

    Hudman_1 Member

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    Pau Ferro has been used on Fender SRV signature Strats for years. I don’t understand why people have a problem with it. I think it looks great when it has streaks of light and dark brown. I have a Strat with Pau Ferro. I like it.
    [​IMG]
     
  20. frankenstone

    frankenstone Silver Supporting Member

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    What does this do to inlays?
     
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