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Discussion Starter #1
Been looking around online for some better ways to clean/oil frets than buying stuff from the music shop, or awful smelling lemon oil.

Just wondering what old-school and hardware store favs are out there that may be a better option, and not petroleum based like mineral oil. Also seen posted where people use lighter fluid to clean the fretboard, even a few mentions of acetone, which having used acetone, I'd be afraid of melting inlays and ruining the enamel on the edges of the board.

I've seen some posts about linseed oil, though some say boiled, some say raw... was at Home Hardware the other day and saw THIS STUFF which was a wood cleaning soap with linseed oil in it, thought hey, 2-in-1! But... wondered if anyone had used it before or if any of the ingredients are a red flag for cleaning rosewood and the like.

I know some oils build up and dry like a varnish, like Tung Oil... so I guess those are out.

Anyways... what old-school/hardware store/secret solutions are you guys using?
 

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I always clean with the gentlest method first.....a clean rag dampened with water....then I get stronger if needed. You might want to try Simple Green or Murphy's Oil Soap. Naptha (white gas, lighter fluid, coleman/campstove fuel) is about as strong as you will ever need and is finish safe. Do not use anything with ammonia (some glass cleaners) or bleach in it. I also use Dunlop 65 polish and cleaner. It's about the least expensive one at the guitar store.

Sorry about your aversion to mineral oil, that's what I use on finger boards. Some have used Boiled Linseed Oil, but the modern stuff has chemical dryers in it ( you can still find products without the chemical dryers in it). Others use Raw linseed oil....that will dry.....eventually.... Both BLO and Tung oil are "finishes" but not film finishes, so they are not in the same classification as varnishes. IF YOU USE BOILED LINSEED OIL OR TUNG OIL DO NOT THROW YOUR RAGS IN A BALL IN THE GARBAGE, THEY CAN SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST AS HEAT IS PART OF THE DRYING CYCLE. Lay them flat on some cement or gravel until the finish cures or put them in a bucket of water.

Mineral oil is technically a finish too, just ask anyone who makes cutting boards. "Lemon oil" is simply mineral oil with a bit of lemon scent in it. If you think about it, citrus cleaner would be made from lemon (or orange) oil (juice) and would remove oils from the wood and would therefore be a cleaner, not a conditioner. Lemon oil is marketing wank for scented mineral oil.

There are lots of folks who use other commercial cleaners and conditioners with success. The bottom line is, use what you prefer as long as it is safe.
 

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1. damp cloth

2. 0000 steel wool (gets the gunk off the wood and green off the frets; also micro-levels)

3. your preferred plant oil product (I use tung oil; linseed is also good - lemon oil isn't really; it is petroleum jelly just like the triple the price guitar store fretboard oil, but with a lemon scent added)

For all the above, always in the direction of the grain. #1 only if the fretboard is laquered (all maple boards; most Rics regardless of wood type etc)
 

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It's been a while, but I remember discussion on other forums,... mineral oil is cheap and does a good job. The rosewood fretboard on a recent acquisition is very dry. Once I eventually get all the upgrades done, sometime in 2018, I will do the board lastly.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I wondered about steel wool... watching a few videos on levelling and dressing frets, some near the end switch to steel wool before polishing. As well, seen steel wool used to clean the boards. I personally don't like the stuff because of the mess it makes. Have to tape off the pickups to keep the stuff off the magnets.

When I was at the paint store the other day I was looking at their collection of scotch brite pads.. aside from you basic green, they had some there that were steel-wool equivalent of 000 and 0000... anyone use those? All the YouTube vids I've watched on this stuff, I see messy old steel wool used all the time, but never the pads.

Does tung oil not build up over time? I've seen people use it as a guitar finish and after like a dozen or so layers, it's like a lacquer finish.
 

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I don't let steel wool get anywhere near the guitar (and I used to use it years ago). The fine steel gets caught in pickups and crevices and rusts and causes all sorts of mayhem. With newer abrasives like Scotch Brite (I have the Norton brand, again from NAPA) there really is no need for steel wool any more. I don't use that very often either. If I am doing any kind of fret work I always tape the pickups, saves from any kind of metal getting stuck to them and masking tape is really really cheap (dollar store painting tape), so there is no reason not to.

If you are getting tung oil build up over time, you are over oiling your finger board, which is just as bad as letting it dry out. As a wood finish on a body, sure, it's fine, but not durable. If you want that kind of look go with Birchwood Casey Tru Oil gun stock oil, that will build a really durable film finish (I used it on my maple neck on my strat build).

My fret polishing routine uses sandpaper, shaping with 400 grit (a fine fret crowning file is about a 320 grit) then moving up through the grits....600, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000, then I buff them with a rubbing compound and a dremel tool + buffing wheel, then an application of Nev-R-Dull. They look like mirrors and feel great after this (new guitars often still have file marks in the frets and that just blows my mind that someone would let it leave the factory like that, but that is the world of scale production these days). It takes a long time, you will get sore fingers and hang nails, and it is tedious to some, but the outcome is worth the effort (It is probably in one or more of my videos, some are posted in this thread .... https://guitarscanada.com/index.php?threads/whats-on-the-bench.81011/ ...lots of photobucket dead links in the thread). Don't start out on a good (or expensive) guitar to learn how to do it. You are actually taking more off the sides of the fret to get the crown shape nice. You can level the odd high fret or 2 with this method but it takes some time to learn how to do it by hand. Levelling and polishing are 2 different things though.

A marker to ink the frets can be your friend when you first start out. It will indicate that you are taking material off in the right place, the ink should stay centred on the fret and get narrower and narrower as you go, until you have a very very thin line, right in the middle of the fret. Fret crowning files make it easier and make the fret a round shape, I have found, over time that most people prefer a slight cathedral arch shape on the fret, it is a very subtle difference.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
@Jim DaddyO - Ya, I see steel wool mentioned all the time and keep thinking, those scotch pads are supposed to be just as good, but way less messy, why do I never see those getting used?

I haven't played in years, like 22yrs... but in the past year thought I'd get back into it, and I always enjoyed the building and tinkering part more than playing... now have a few guitars (cheap) that need some work.

- Washburn Nuno N2 - I got for $10, trem was missing and a few cosmetic issues, ready for painting now but frets are quite worn and grooved
- Squier SE that's in mint, $80 with a case and cables. Upgrading electronics, pickups, nut and trem block... only been played a month, but as you mentioned, factory produced so frets aren't as even as they should be, neck needs adjusted, etc...
- Also the found the body for a Yamaha RGX-220, had electronics and pickups, no neck or trem... probably get a cheap factory clearance neck from Guitar Fetish for it so just assuming right away it'll need work.

I still have 1 guitar left from when I played, early '90s BC Rich Warlock, which was a gift so will never get sold. That said, after I have had some practice I plan to tackle it next. Great playing guitar, but always buzzed in various spots. But, I won't touch that until I've tried the rest.

Photobucket wise... yup, same here with forum posts. Switched to IMGUR last week because of it.
 

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Does tung oil not build up over time? I've seen people use it as a guitar finish and after like a dozen or so layers, it's like a lacquer finish.
Even with 20 coats it does not build up like laquer (it builds up a bit, but nothing like that). 1 to 2 coats every other string change or so (in Canadian climate, especially mid-winter when the board is going to be it's driest) will get sucked up into the pores and not stay on the surface at all. It also helps to rub it in ( heat+friction make the oil less viscous and allow it to penetrate the wood further). Some say that it's best to use pure (non polimerised) tung oil for this purpose, but I use the regular stuff (as does, or did anyway, 12th fret). Usually only 1 coat is needed, but if the board is really dry (wide on pores; sometimes the odd hairline crack) I have done 2.

This is the funny thing about the internet - a lot of folks diss tung oil, but the arguments change from not enough surface protection when the topic is finishing, to too much surface buildup when talking about fretboards. It litterally can't be both, and it depends on how much you apply (in a given period of time) as you surmised.

I have instruments that have had their boards tung oiled regularly for a decade and they still dry out occasionally and there's nothing on the surface except for what I put there with my fretting hand.

As for the Scotch Brite - no idea, but you have piqued my interest. The metal dust from wool is annoying, but for the results plenty worth it (taping up the pups is not that much work).
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Ya, I was looking at the pads, and for fret polishing, and never seen this mentioned, micro mesh pads.

I (briefly) restored vintage smoking pipes, did about 40 of them, and the stems are mostly vulcanite. When new and polished, it's a beautiful black glossy surface, but has a sulphur in it that over time goes to the surface and makes it a really disgusting brown rough mess. I used those pads and when I was done, they were so polished. Pads come in 1500-120000 but, not the same as sandpaper grit... I think it's the equivalent of 120-1500 grit. Still, cheap, some come on a rubbery pad so can skim over the frets nice and easy, take it up to the 1500 and then use a metal polish. They even come in pads shaped like finger nail files.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Got busy so guitar work was on hold a bit... few tools came in finally so one more tool and I can start leveling some frets.

Naptha seems mentioned a lot for cleaning. Lemon Oil, which is just mineral oil... used by a lot, but, again, I'd like to stay away from a petroleum based product and from what I've read it just sits on the wood, doesn't really soak in at all. Just like when used for skin care (baby oil).

I did read a thread on another site, someone used Sweet Almond Oil, which I use because soaks into the skin, safe, doesn't go rancid or smell bad etc... wondering, anyone have any experience with that on a rosewood fretboard?
 

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0000 steel wool and Gorgomyte works great for cleaning the fretboard. Unless you're really sweating and not wiping your guitar down after use, IMO a fretboard doesn't get so dirty that 0000 steel wool doesn't remove the bit of grime that builds up.

I do the same as others posted in regards to frets although I'll also use the two smooth sides of a 4-sided nail file for buffing them. Fret protectors from Stew-Mac work great while doing this.

Smooth, well crowned frets make playing a guitar sooooo much easier.
 

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Been looking around online for some better ways to clean/oil frets than buying stuff from the music shop, or awful smelling lemon oil.

Just wondering what old-school and hardware store favs are out there that may be a better option, and not petroleum based like mineral oil. Also seen posted where people use lighter fluid to clean the fretboard, even a few mentions of acetone, which having used acetone, I'd be afraid of melting inlays and ruining the enamel on the edges of the board.

I've seen some posts about linseed oil, though some say boiled, some say raw... was at Home Hardware the other day and saw THIS STUFF which was a wood cleaning soap with linseed oil in it, thought hey, 2-in-1! But... wondered if anyone had used it before or if any of the ingredients are a red flag for cleaning rosewood and the like.

I know some oils build up and dry like a varnish, like Tung Oil... so I guess those are out.

Anyways... what old-school/hardware store/secret solutions are you guys using?
Coleman fuel (Naptha) on the fretboard? I would suggest that would be a very bad idea...maybe a Luthier, wood worker or builder can chime in here. My understanding is it will dry that board out in no time. I recently cleaned my 1979 LP with Naptha, which was recommended to me years ago but I never did it. There are a couple of things though. Not fretboard. Not on Poly or any other finish except for Nitro finish. It's used on Nitro to clear the oxidation buildup (cloudiness) over time due to your sweat (that's just my simple version, there's more to it than that). Oxidation happens when the finish is applied at the factory and there are air bubbles trapped in there. I also understand you are to avoid any areas where Nitro has worn out and wood is exposed on the guitar. It'll dry it out.

If someone can clear up any possible mis information I may have put down here, I would appreciate it. I'm just going by a number of hours of research and my own understanding here.
 

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Naptha (white gas, camp stove fuel, coleman fuel, lighter fluid...all the same thing) is probably the safest "strong" cleaner you can use and is safe with any finish. It evaporates quickly so there is very little that gets absorbed into raw wood if it does get on it.
The first "cleaner" I always try is just a clean rag damped with water. For a bit stronger a mild cleaner like Simple Green, or Murphy's Oil Soap is a pretty safe bet. I use the Naptha to spot clean where needed. Yes, it will take the oils away that you have conditioned your fret board with.....but you are going to retreat it while you're at it anyway, aren't you? I have seen Dave (Dave's world of Fun Stuff) use oven cleaner. It is really harsh and you don't want it on there for more than a couple of seconds, but it works and I would trust Dave's judgement on it. I have never personally done it.
I try to stay away from steel wool on instruments. There is no need for it with the variety of Scotch Brite type products out there. Just too much of a chance of the residue getting on magnetic parts and into controls and such, plus the slivers can be a pain ( little bits of it seems to get everywhere). I will use it, on occasion, on a metal part that is off of the instrument, but still prefer Scotch Brite.
 

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@Jim DaddyO , thanks for clarifying. I guess as long as you oil or condition your board after using Naptha it's all good. You can use Naptha on Poly as well? I've read a few different responses here and there on that. I understand it may thin the Poly finish with the possibility of ruining it at some point. Truth of the matter is always hard to put together in today's Internetcentric community.
 

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@Jim DaddyO , thanks for clarifying. I guess as long as you oil or condition your board after using Naptha it's all good. You can use Naptha on Poly as well? I've read a few different responses here and there on that. Truth of the matter is always hard to put together in today's Internetcentric community.
Sure. As long as it is cured, which it should be. Of course, if you put the whole body in a barrel of it and let it sit overnight all bets are off.....lol.
 

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I used to use lemon stuff but I think I've reacted to it (sneezy) over time. So I just used a generic brand baby oil for the last 3-4 years as a stop-gap and haven't tried anything else since. I will try the Almond oil ! Thanks folks.
 
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