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Hello!

I wanted to get some advice about maintaining the health of my guitar fretboards.

How often should I be oiling my guitar’s rosewood and ebony fretboards with lemon oil? Once or twice a year?

Furthermore, how do I identify a dry fretboard? Should I use the colour of my fretboard to indicate whether or not it is dry?

Thanks!
 

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Twice a year won't hurt it (in my opinion). That's what I do. I feel it serves as a good general cleaning as well.

I suppose the worst case for realizing a dry fret board is seeing cracks. Don't let it come to that!
 

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As needed, I go every other string change or every string change if it's been a while. You can tell when rosewood needs it because the pores open up. Ebony can be harder to tell. Clean the fretboard first (damp cloth and then 0000 steel wool to remove the grime or you'll just be working it in to those open pores along with the oil; always in the direction of the wood grain).

Also, lemon oil isn't - it's a petroleum product with lemon scent added. Some folks swear by it (that's what e.g. Gibson fretboard oil is - don't buy that, or anything else in a music store, because twice the price for half the amount - go to Home depot or Crappy Tire). It works, but personally, I believe wood wants wood oil - i use Tung becasue I have it around anyway, but linseed is good too.
 
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As needed, I go every other string change or every string change if it's been a while. You can tell when rosewood needs it because the pores open up. Ebony can be harder to tell. Clean the fretboard first (damp cloth and then 0000 steel wool to remove the grime or you'll just be working it in to those open pores along with the oil; always in the direction of the wood grain).

Also, lemon oil isn't - it's a petroleum product with lemon scent added. Some folks swear by it (that's what e.g. Gibson fretboard oil is - don't buy that, or anything else in a music store, because twice the price for half the amount - go to Home depot or Crappy Tire). It works, but personally, I believe wood wants wood oil - i use Tung becasue I have it around anyway, but linseed is good too.
You've sparked some questions:

How do wood pores open? Isn't the wood inert? What opens or closes them?

Isn't Tung oil a finish that forms a layer on wood? Wouldn't that sort of gum up the fretboard?
 

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Oh Boy, this is such an interesting & (contentious) topic, I personally have read hundreds of articles and talked to professional luthiers and still opinions vary. This is just the beginning and already some excellent comments!
 
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I clean every string change.
A fellow forumite sent me a sheet of Gorgomyte.
Cut a 2 x 2" swatch to clean/condition.
I used to do the store bought polish (with a toothbrush)/steel wool (if necessary)/lemon oil.
No more.
 

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You've sparked some questions:

How do wood pores open? Isn't the wood inert? What opens or closes them?
The loss of moisture and commensurate shrinkage. They're not pores per se (as in skin) , but it's what they call them. Rosewood and Mahogany tend to have a tight grain like that, which , when really dry, has the appearance of pores opening up. Lumber is kiln dried so that it doesn't shrink later when the moisture evaporates (and also so the warping can be controlled vs naturally drying out). ... it's like you've never seen a dried out board before.

Isn't Tung oil a finish that forms a layer on wood? Wouldn't that sort of gum up the fretboard?
Only if you use enough coats. I hate this debate because when I argue the virtues of tung oil as a finish they say that it doesn't form enough of a surface finish, and when I say use it as a wood conditioner the same people (not you, thinking of others before) will say exactly what you said.

When applying 1 (2 if reeeeeaally dry) coats of tung oil, the wood soaks it all up (work it in; friction/heat makes it less viscous and easier to absorb; if there's any excess to wipe off you're doing it wrong) then there will be no surface buildup. When finishing something you gotta use, like min 10 coats.

Oh Boy, this is such an interesting & (contentious) topic, I personally have read hundreds of articles and talked to professional luthiers and still opinions vary. This is just the beginning and already some excellent comments!
That's why I didn't say don't use lemon oil, or only use tung oil. I expressed the options and stated my personal preference from experience. I have also talked to a lot of luthiers about this. 12th fret for example uses tung oil on every (non-laquered/maple) setup (or at l.east they used to; haven't been there in a long time).
 

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Oh boy. would love to see the comments on guitar humidification, another great guitar debate topic, perhaps a new thread but I think these topics fall into the "Guitar care" category. close enough!
 

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Personal preference is mineral oil. Clean the fretboard thoroughly first with a damp cloth, then with 0000 steel wool if necessary. Wipe on some oil, let it sit a few minutes, wipe it off. And I mean wipe it off completely--don't leave it wet anywhere. Treatment lasts me at least a year. Look in the drug store for mineral oil. A small bottle will last you about 200 years.
 

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Are you using polymerised tung oil?
IMHO warning.

Yes. There is no point to use pure on anything other than food-safe surfaces (cutting boards; butcher blocks and salad bowls) - it's just more work the rest of the time. You'd just have to prep/thin it; save yourself the trouble. It still does not build up any surface layer with just one coat on a thirsty wood surface. The whole pure thing is a just a baseless recent fad (when it comes to guitar finishing).

That said, if you have pure around anyway, and since we don't want surface buildup in this case (it doesn't as much as polymerized), oiling fretboards would be a good application for it (be prepared for using twice the elbow grease to rub it in though). Just don't go out to buy it special for this purpose; chances are you have an appropriate product already.

One guitar tech I follow on YT uses boiled linseed oil.
That would be my second choice (only because I don't have any on hand for any other reason).
 
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Discussion Starter #16
I clean every string change.
A fellow forumite sent me a sheet of Gorgomyte.
Cut a 2 x 2" swatch to clean/condition.
I used to do the store bought polish (with a toothbrush)/steel wool (if necessary)/lemon oil.
No more.
Is there any risk of a toothbrush scratching my rosewood, or am I fine to scrub away?
 

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Is there any risk of a toothbrush scratching my rosewood, or am I fine to scrub away?
No, there's no risk but unless you've got a bunch of sweaty gunk built up against your frets, a toothbrush isn't of much use.

0000 steel wool works great for getting rid of grime. Buff your fretboard with a piece of it and then polish your frets with Gorgomyte.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
No, there's no risk but unless you've got a bunch of sweaty gunk built up against your frets, a toothbrush isn't of much use.

0000 steel wool works great for getting rid of grime. Buff your fretboard with a piece of it and then polish your frets with Gorgomyte.
Ive just been cleaning with a cloth dampened with water, then conditioning the board with lemon oil.

Ill check out steel wool.
 

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Ive just been cleaning with a cloth dampened with water, then conditioning the board with lemon oil.

Ill check out steel wool.
Just make sure it's the 0000 steel wool. It's great for buffing frets too.

Be aware of the steel dust residue being magnetically attracted to the pickups. Just cover the pickups with a cloth. I also use a paint brush to swish the steel dust away when I'm done buffing the fretboard and frets.
 
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