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JacquetEsm Luthier47 mavedon imc2111 jpipper17

How do you clean your fingerboard?

My guitar has some accumulated gunk on the fingerboard (particularly near the frets), and some oxidation on the frets themselves. How do I take care of this without damaging the ebony fingerboard?

Thanks!
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Comments

  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,378
    I only do it once a year and I just use a damp cloth and elbow grease
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,820
    A wet cloth is fine, but make sure you use some fretboard conditioner otherwise it can dry out and crack.
  • periclimenespericlimenes Santa Ana, CANew
    Posts: 140
    I have read it's okay to use white scotch-brite or 0000 steel wool to polish the frets. Any thoughts on that?
  • ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
    Posts: 551
    I always finish off ebony fretboards with a small chunk of bleached wax. Scribble a little between each fret and the natural heat of your finger rubbing it into the spaces evens it out just right, and then once buffed with a chamois makes it the ultimate playing surface plus If you do get the fretboard dirty it rubs right off.

    A tip of the hat to Mr Rizzoli, my classical teacher.
  • periclimenespericlimenes Santa Ana, CANew
    Posts: 140
    Where does one get bleached wax?
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,378
    A wet cloth is fine, but make sure you use some fretboard conditioner otherwise it can dry out and crack.
    Yeah that's right, I use a little lemon oil (the tree not the fruit) after cleaning.
    Elliot, you're method's interesting where can I get that wax?
  • PhilPhil Portland, ORModerator Gallato 452 & Anastasio
    Posts: 626
    where can I get elbow grease? :roll:
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,249
    Naptha works well. (real Naptha... in other words it should say: "VM&P" or "Varnish Makers & Painters" Natha on the can or it might be some kind of chemical equivalent or contain some portion of Stoddard Solvent or Butane that can be harmful to finish) Anyway - test it on your finish on a small out of the way place to be safe - suffice it to say that Naptha is the de-gunker of choice for most guitar shops.

    Water works well but it can swell the wood if you use any more than a 'damp' cloth.... so don't "soak" gunk off if you use water... that can swell the wood around the frets which then recedes as it drys and can cause popped frets (if that doesn't make sense, think about what's happening... the wood expands but the steel doesn't compress ... so the wood compresses a little and then recedes as it drys) it's basically the same thing that happens to people whose hands sweat a lot or who live in places where the humidity goes all over the place.

    I don't know what bleached wax is, but I've used Microcrystaline synthetic wax a few times and it seemed like a good solution. Renaissance Wax is a good Microcrystalline wax developed for the British Museum. It is very white - perhaps that's the "bleached" part.

    Lately I've been using a traditional coating recommended to me by an old-school classical builder - boiled linseed oil. I'd never heard of using it on fingerboards but darned if it doesn't seem to work great... feels like wax but with a little more of a satin feel... like an oiled neck... which I guess is pretty much what it is. Conceptually I like a wax or a curing oil such as Boiled Linseed more than lemon oil which is basically mineral oil with scent. (it probably actually once was at least partially lemon oil, but that's not what it is anymore) They'll all work, but wax and boiled linseed harden and so they stop soaking in. Mineral oil doesn't really harden so it can creep under frets and cause pops if you use a lot of it... not usually a problem unless you're always oiling the fretboard or overdo it... but it does happen. Also I'm guessing everyone knows this already but it bears repeating anyway... never ever use silicone oil on any part of a guitar in any amount at all... that crap creeps through wood and destroys glue joints no matter how little you use - it is the mortal enemy of guitars and once it is in wood - it's damned near impossible to get out. Oh, and if you use Boiled Linseed oil - lay your rags flat till they're dry... that stuff generates heat as it dries and so if you toss a bunch of crumpled up BLO rags in your garbage can with newspapers etc... it can combust if the conditions are just right.

    In general - whatever you use for cleaning and preservation - go light on it because fretboard wood is oily by nature and needs very little help to stay that way. On the other hand, the mechanical bond between the fret & fretboard is so important to tone... rock solid frets are your friends.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • I find frequent light rubbing with clean lint free cloth for cleaning, frequent hand washing and keeping the beer away form the guitar works for me in the prevention department. However I don't suffer from finger seat/oil or whatever it is that corrodes strings.... unlike the other half of our duet. One evening play and the strings are starting to dissolve. :lol:

    Thanks Bob for the excellent advice on cleaning
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
    Posts: 551
    A wet cloth is fine, but make sure you use some fretboard conditioner otherwise it can dry out and crack.
    Yeah that's right, I use a little lemon oil (the tree not the fruit) after cleaning.
    Elliot, you're method's interesting where can I get that wax?


    Hi, how's it goin:

    I think most local hobby shops have it; if not, art supply stores carry it, very inexpensive.

    Right, the white stuff is called 'bleached'.
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