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a question about cleaning fretboards

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  • #16
    Of course fretboards get dirty. And "not needing feeding" is debatable; if you live in a very dry climate, or a place where the humidity has great swings (I do), many open-grained woods will respond to, or need, "feeding." This is why we have humidifiers.

    And Freeman, I love you, but naphtha is pretty controversial to me. It's a hydrocarbon (bad); in some forms it is considered carcinogenic; and it is very difficult to dispose of in an environmentally sound manner.
    https://soundcloud.com/danhedonia

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Danhedonia View Post
      Of course fretboards get dirty. And "not needing feeding" is debatable; if you live in a very dry climate, or a place where the humidity has great swings (I do), many open-grained woods will respond to, or need, "feeding." This is why we have humidifiers.

      And Freeman, I love you, but naphtha is pretty controversial to me. It's a hydrocarbon (bad); in some forms it is considered carcinogenic; and it is very difficult to dispose of in an environmentally sound manner.
      I don't want to get in a great big pissin' match over this - frankly I don't care what people put on their guitars (unless they bring them to me for a fret job or refin, then I want to know). When asked what I use I'm happy to tell people what (and why). I keep my fretboards clean, they don't get so dirty that I need anything other than a damp cloth. I am also pretty anal about humidity control - my guitars stay in their cases and each one has a little cheapie humidifier and I store my wood in my wine cellar where the temperature and humidity are constant.

      Putting any kind of oil on a piece of wood is not replacing anything that was there naturally - it is done to make is shinny and pretty. Nothing wrong with that. Maintaining proper humidity will keep the wood from drying out and cracking. I have never seen anything by an authority on wood preservation that says wood needs an annual dose of lemon oil, but again, if someone wants to use it or any other product that is their business.

      I also hate every solvent that I have to use in my shop. Naphtha is accepted as something that will clean really dirty guitars and not harm them, but I prefer to clean a fretboard with steel wool. Use naphtha in very small quantities and in good ventilation. In my shop I also use denatured alcohol, acetone, solvent based lacquer and various glues - I try to wear a respirator or at least have my ventilation system running. I've almost completely stopped using nitrocellulose lacquer unless a customer requests (and then I shoot in a full spray booth) but I still have to touch up lacquer when doing repairs. I'm about as environmentally conscious as anyone, but unfortunately we still need hydrocarbons.

      edit to add a question - for everyone here who owns an acoustic or a hollow body - do you feel a need to reach inside and smear a little lemon oil on the wood? Your guitar isn't finished inside - it must be loosing something and you probably need to "feed" it, eh?

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Freeman Keller View Post
        . . . with a really grungy fretboard I will clean it with 0000 steel wool if it is an unfinished board (ebony, rosewood). That also cleans the frets. . . .
        ^ This is what I also do. Rarely anything else.
        Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
        Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
        Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
        Member of the Schecter Society
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        • #19
          I see no reason to buy small expensive bottles of stuff. I start with a soft rag, water, and finish with a little mineral oil. Small amounts of both have worked well for me for many years.
          THE MAZI BEE MILITIA

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          • #20
            Originally posted by JoeBoy View Post
            I see no reason to buy small expensive bottles of stuff. I start with a soft rag, water, and finish with a little mineral oil. Small amounts of both have worked well for me for many years.

            I don't know.....for me it's not worth it your way. A bottle of mineral oil is what....5 bucks? A bottle of gibson fretboard conditioner is at most 10. A bottle of mineral oil will probably be in a size way bigger than I'll ever need and just take up more space cause I never use it for anything else. I'll pay a bit extra for the convenience of a small package and the nice lemon scent. I've had the same bottle for over 5 years now and use it on 5 or 6 different guitars and I still have more than half a bottle left. It's not like they are charging 20 bucks for the stuff.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by soundcreation View Post


              I don't know.....for me it's not worth it your way. A bottle of mineral oil is what....5 bucks? A bottle of gibson fretboard conditioner is at most 10. A bottle of mineral oil will probably be in a size way bigger than I'll ever need and just take up more space cause I never use it for anything else. . . .
              Ordinary baby oil is just mineral oil with some fragrance. Your guitar might smell like a baby's bottom for a while but that's the only drawback. You could probably find a use for it if you tried.
              Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
              Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
              Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
              Member of the Schecter Society
              Person-2-Person on the Web

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              • #22
                I haven't tried all these cleaning techniques, but I have tried a few and right now my favorite is Gorgomyte. It's safe to use on the fretboard and frets and I'm amazed by the amount of grime it cleans off the finger board. To be honest, its kind of scary to look at the cloth after a cleaning.

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                • #23
                  I don't think raising awareness is a "pissing match." Perhaps you are uncomfortable with it, but I'm not. Naptha doesn't break down easily, and is one more ugly chemical we don't really need in this world.

                  0000 steel wool works; so do damp rags + elbow grease.

                  I've only seen fretboards ruined by excessive use of oils or a whole bunch of water. Dirt gets there by becoming trapped in oils (or just layered on); moisture lifts, and then while suspended, you wipe clean. You don't need naptha - or any other harsh chemical - to do that.
                  https://soundcloud.com/danhedonia

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                  • #24
                    Dan, I am working on a headstock repair on a little Epi LP right now (I know this has nothing to do with cleaning fretboards) There was some sort of sticker on the back of the headstock that left some sticky residue. Water wouldn't remove it and I needed to apply some epoxy to the broken part. I was pretty sure the finish was poly (there is a good test but it also uses solvents). I keep a small can of lighter fluid and put a small drop on a rag, cleaned the stick crap off and proceeded with the repair. On the same job I had to put some paraffin (canning wax) on the headstock to keep the epoxy from sticking to it - again, when I was done a tiny drop of the lighter fluid removed that. I know that I should have disposed of the rags in a chemical hazard manner, but the did go to the landfill (my bad). Sometimes you do what you gotta do.

                    Going back to the question about "feeding' wood - I have a rather large inventory of wood that I buy and keep for future builds - there are 6 Lutz top sets, a beautiful flamed Spanish cedar drop top, some mahogany and koa, and several ebony fretboards. I may not get around to using these for several years - does the forum think I should go down to my wood storage area (it's climate controlled) and smear some lemon oil on these so they don't dry out? Do you think that's what Gibson does with their stock of ebony?

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Freeman Keller View Post
                      Dan, I am working on a headstock repair on a little Epi LP right now (I know this has nothing to do with cleaning fretboards) There was some sort of sticker on the back of the headstock that left some sticky residue. Water wouldn't remove it and I needed to apply some epoxy to the broken part. I was pretty sure the finish was poly (there is a good test but it also uses solvents). I keep a small can of lighter fluid and put a small drop on a rag, cleaned the stick crap off and proceeded with the repair. On the same job I had to put some paraffin (canning wax) on the headstock to keep the epoxy from sticking to it - again, when I was done a tiny drop of the lighter fluid removed that. I know that I should have disposed of the rags in a chemical hazard manner, but the did go to the landfill (my bad). Sometimes you do what you gotta do.

                      Going back to the question about "feeding' wood - I have a rather large inventory of wood that I buy and keep for future builds - there are 6 Lutz top sets, a beautiful flamed Spanish cedar drop top, some mahogany and koa, and several ebony fretboards. I may not get around to using these for several years - does the forum think I should go down to my wood storage area (it's climate controlled) and smear some lemon oil on these so they don't dry out? Do you think that's what Gibson does with their stock of ebony?
                      Sure, use lemon oil. If you've got no bacon fat!
                      “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching”
                      Gerard Way

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                      • #26
                        I asked in this forum about 3 years ago about cleaning the grime off my used Gretsch. The fingerboard was so nasty, I didn't want to play it until it was cleaned. The people that answered said to use a mild soap and water and a toothbrush to clean the board and the frets. Cleaned it really nice. I then sparingly put some pledge on a cloth and wiped down the finger. I have not seen any trauma to the finger board. Maybe there is and I am just not seeing it.
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                        • #27
                          16 oz bottle mineral oil is $1.29.
                          THE MAZI BEE MILITIA

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