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Is oiling your fretboard a bad thing?


shoulderpet

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I have a couple of basses that look like they could do with an oiling of the fretboard, I know oiling the fretboard too often is a very bad idea so its always a once in a blue moon kind of occurrence for me, however a post by Terry Mcinturff of Mcinturff on another forum (not sure if I am allowed to post the link so I will omit it for now) had me thinking that maybe it is a bad idea to oil a fretboard,  specifically the below from his posts ,

 

"When a fretboard is oiled, it is not possible to prevent that oil from seeping-under the fret.
Especially when using a non-drying oil, this can result in an accumulation of oil under the fret which causes true harm to the guitar.
Here's how:
- Can soften the wood in the vital fret slot region (non-microbial "rot")
- Can provide a microbial environment (oil/substance-dependent), encouraging microbial activity that will actually digest the wood under the fret (microbial "rot")
- Can lessen the fret's "grip" on the wood....frets can pop-up causing buzzing/dead spots
- Can complicate refretting; the wood is infiltrated with oil and fret replacement is compromised/more difficult

 

5) How do I know if an oil is safe to use on my fretboard?

Wipe a streak of the oil on a pane of glass. If after 3 days it's not hard...or clearly getting hard....use it for something else, or dispose of it. Do NOT use any oil on your fretboard that "stays wet". Ever. If you've been doing-so, stop now for the health of your guitar.
For reasons explained above, any oil that does not dry, which stays wet, is an enemy of the integrity of your guitar. Repeated use of such constitutes harming your guitar."

 

Interested in hearing what others think about this, the above posts are by someone that builds guitars but I think it would be naïve of me to just assume that because he builds guitars it must therefore be true after all there is a world of BS out there that is perpetuated by "experts" and to me the bit about how its impossible to avoid oil seeping below the frets sounds a bit dubious to me after all most of us use fretboard oils in tiny,tiny amounts

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Been oiling my fretboards for the best part of thirty five years, no problems, only benefits. My luthier oils fretboards if they need it as part of his set up services.

 

***this is my personal experience***

 

I can also heartily recommend reading the thread referred to above for…

 

a) the interesting and thought provoking points of view expressed.

b) the total and utter hilarity of a thread quickly descending into a Hogarthian scene that would wouldn’t look out of place in Apocalypse Now!

c)The horror, the horror.

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2 minutes ago, Frank Blank said:

Been oiling my fretboards for the best part of thirty five years, no problems, only benefits. My luthier oils fretboards if they need it as part of his set up services.

 

***this is my personal experience***

 

I can also heartily recommend reading the thread referred to above for…

 

a) the interesting and thought provoking points of view expressed.

b) the total and utter hilarity of a thread quickly descending into a Hogarthian scene that would wouldn’t look out of place in Apocalypse Now!

c)The horror, the horror.

If you have been doing it for 35 years with no issues then that pretty much says it's ok to me, I'm in my forties so I will probably not be around for longer than 35 years

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4 minutes ago, shoulderpet said:

If you have been doing it for 35 years with no issues then that pretty much says it's ok to me, I'm in my forties so I will probably not be around for longer than 35 years


I keep my basses and guitars in a room that tends to be a bit dry so I probably oil my fretboards a little more regularly than recommended and I’ve not experienced any of the problems on the aforementioned thread.

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30 minutes ago, shoulderpet said:

If you have been doing it for 35 years with no issues then that pretty much says it's ok to me, I'm in my forties so I will probably not be around for longer than 35 years

 

I see you have Squier Jag. The excellent Indian laurel fretboard on those comes up a treat with oiling.

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Nothing wrong with fingerboard oil, as in a product designed for a specific purpose, rather than a generic oil, which may contain undesirable additives). And we’re talking about tiny quantities - 3-4 drops onto a paper towel at most for the whole board. It’s also not required regularly - properly aged and dried instrument wood with a stable and very low moisture content needs oiling no more than 1 or 2 times a year. On some basses I’ve never bothered as the board didn’t need it. I wouldn’t bother on an ebony as it has a very dense grain so doesn’t really absorb the oil (so as in the first post the oil could end up floating on top of the board and running into the glue under the frets), and it’s not recommended on maple boards as it could cause discolouration.

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Lemon oil doesn't have lemons in it. It just has lemon scent and sometimes yellow colour. It's just mineral oil.

 

I suspect it prevents the wood drying out keeps it flexible, by sealing the board. The same way that linseed oil does on a cricket bat.

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1 hour ago, FDC484950 said:

Nothing wrong with fingerboard oil, as in a product designed for a specific purpose, rather than a generic oil, which may contain undesirable additives). And we’re talking about tiny quantities - 3-4 drops onto a paper towel at most for the whole board. It’s also not required regularly - properly aged and dried instrument wood with a stable and very low moisture content needs oiling no more than 1 or 2 times a year. On some basses I’ve never bothered as the board didn’t need it. I wouldn’t bother on an ebony as it has a very dense grain so doesn’t really absorb the oil (so as in the first post the oil could end up floating on top of the board and running into the glue under the frets), and it’s not recommended on maple boards as it could cause discolouration.

 

Pure light mineral oil (e.g. sewing machine oil) has evenfewer additives than 'fretboard oil' and I have been known to use it, but like housewives with delicate hands I've fallen for the lemon-fragrance schtick...

 

"Now hands that play basses can be soft as your head!"

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16 minutes ago, Downunderwonder said:

Linseed oil is potentially very dangerous stuff. Even after washing, a rag used for linseed oil application can spontaneously catch fire. Evaporation of linseed is exothermic, wicking off cloth fibres turns them into little candles. NZ Fire Service goes to 60 spontaneous rag fires a year.

 

The Tung oil I am using at the moment says 'store used cloths spread flat to prevent combustion'.

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2 hours ago, TimR said:

Lemon oil doesn't have lemons in it. It just has lemon scent and sometimes yellow colour. It's just mineral oil.

 

I suspect it prevents the wood drying out keeps it flexible, by sealing the board. The same way that linseed oil does on a cricket bat.

Some do contain lemon and some don’t . Doesn’t seem to be much info kicking around regarding the exact content though, and the term ‘lemon oil’ is a very ambiguous one. Mrs CP is a clinical aromatherapist and uses pure lemon oils in her line of work, but I wouldn’t want to try using them on my basses. I think any of the reputable brands that are made for fretboards (Dunlop, D’Addario etc) will be fine. Like Frank Blank says above, I’ve been using mine for eons, in fact the small bottle I have must be at least 20 years old! Once a year applied sparingly does the trick.

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6 hours ago, ezbass said:

Entertaining in much the same way as folk slow down to look at car crashes. :D 

 

Good grief, he even says that mineral oil has a pH of 7 in the same thread as he's saying that it excludes water. Has the man no shame (or scientific understanding)?

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3 hours ago, Mickyk said:

My tenpeneth worth is that surely Microbes don't like lemons, therefore they couldn't grow or multiply where the Lemmon oil is present assuming he means Lemmon Oil. Olive oil or any other organic substance may be a different matter though.

 

Could be lemming oil. "Twist of lemming?"

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8 hours ago, shoulderpet said:

I have a couple of basses that look like they could do with an oiling of the fretboard, I know oiling the fretboard too often is a very bad idea so its always a once in a blue moon kind of occurrence for me, however a post by Terry Mcinturff of Mcinturff on another forum (not sure if I am allowed to post the link so I will omit it for now) had me thinking that maybe it is a bad idea to oil a fretboard,  specifically the below from his posts ,

 

"When a fretboard is oiled, it is not possible to prevent that oil from seeping-under the fret.
Especially when using a non-drying oil, this can result in an accumulation of oil under the fret which causes true harm to the guitar.
Here's how:
- Can soften the wood in the vital fret slot region (non-microbial "rot")
- Can provide a microbial environment (oil/substance-dependent), encouraging microbial activity that will actually digest the wood under the fret (microbial "rot")
- Can lessen the fret's "grip" on the wood....frets can pop-up causing buzzing/dead spots
- Can complicate refretting; the wood is infiltrated with oil and fret replacement is compromised/more difficult

 

5) How do I know if an oil is safe to use on my fretboard?

Wipe a streak of the oil on a pane of glass. If after 3 days it's not hard...or clearly getting hard....use it for something else, or dispose of it. Do NOT use any oil on your fretboard that "stays wet". Ever. If you've been doing-so, stop now for the health of your guitar.
For reasons explained above, any oil that does not dry, which stays wet, is an enemy of the integrity of your guitar. Repeated use of such constitutes harming your guitar."

 

Interested in hearing what others think about this, the above posts are by someone that builds guitars but I think it would be naïve of me to just assume that because he builds guitars it must therefore be true after all there is a world of BS out there that is perpetuated by "experts" and to me the bit about how its impossible to avoid oil seeping below the frets sounds a bit dubious to me after all most of us use fretboard oils in tiny,tiny amounts

Ok I have just seen that someone has already posted the link to the forum post referenced above so I assume it is ok to post the link

 

https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/fretboard-oiling-your-one-stop-guide.2154768/

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Been oiling fretboards in very sparing moderation for 40 years and never suffered an issue.

 

If its being slathered on regularly then perhaps it might happen as described, but ive seen some badly abused instruments over the years and nothing like that. Spunds a bitmof a non story to me.

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9 hours ago, Hellzero said:

Mineral oil mixed with cement, then your fingerboard becomes as hard as concrete. 🤔

Cement is expensive these days. You may find viagra is a cheaper and equally effective substitute to give a hard fretboard.

 

It gives a nice twang to any tonewood, and particularly suits guitars with a purple paint finish.  However, be warned - too much will make the frets swell like veins, and cause the end of the neck peel back fron the truss rod.

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