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Just as with string longevity, much depends upon an individuals body chemistry, degree of playing and can be influenced by how one stores instruments. Especially if crud build up tends to be an issue, as some shed more dead skin than others - as well as varying fingerboard quality. It's basically an either, or situation.
Natural body oils are great, but if your body chemistry falls into the alkaline or acidic camp (Body chemistry is seldom neutral) you'll tend to find some degree of deterioration or effect on the fingerboard and even frets in some instances - hence the oxydization and need for fret cleaning. This is where the use of mineral and some plant derived oils can help, as they can minimise such effects and float grime/body funk from exposed grain during cleanup, as body oils alone are seldom in sufficient quantity or clean enough to do so.
Fretboard conditioners (they're usually mineral oil based) are nice to have, I use them to help get rid of gunk build-up on the fretboard every few years. I think they definitely improve the feel of guitars with fretboards that are drying out (sometimes new guitars need the stuff after being blasted with air conditioning on the shelves too long). You hardly ever need to reapply, though; like I said, if you use it when cleaning, that's enough. The fretboard's condition probably wouldn't get any better if you used it every month than if you only used it every few years.
Edit: Actually, maybe more than every few years would be good. The post above me makes a good point about body pH and how acidity/alkalinity can damage and tarnish wood and frets. Just keep an eye on it. If there's gunk build-up, clean it off just to be on the safe side. And clean your frets now and then. They probably need it if you never have. Super fine 0000 (four-0) guage steel wool gives it a nice polish, then just oil up the fretboard and you're golden.
I would like to eventually be able to play 16 instruments like a medieval court jester.
Courtesy of trill:
The culture that surrounds our instrument is possibly the most materialistic, solipsistic, masturbatory, insular, and willfully ignorant one in all the arts.
Ok, I gotta fess up. I use olive oil. But not on the fretboard. I just put the smallest amount on my fingertips, just a slight grazing after washing my hands. My (uncoated) strings last forever because of it.
I used to use Human Oil, but it seems my chemistry has changed over the years and my fingers just don't produce what they used to.
I.K.F.C.- O.T.A.- W.T.F.?.C.- E.S.C.
Member of the T. D. & H. faculty
Use Naptha to get the Canola oil off followed by good fretboard oil. Such as the lemon and Fender stuff.
I use Dr. Duck's Axe Wax myself.
Only oil the fret board once or twice a year (not less than 6 month intervals)
2011 Mitchell MD100sce Acoustic
1979 Takamine F-349 (Martin Lawsuit
2011 Fender American Special Jazz Bass (Olympic white)
2008 SX SJM-62 electric with 3 P-90's
pure canola oil doesnt go rancid. i put some on a small piece of wenge about 2 years ago as a test and its fine in that regard. the real issue would be that it never dries, so it will be sticky and attract dust and other things.
1959 is dead