Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

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Terry Tibbs
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Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby Terry Tibbs » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:08 pm

Hi all,

I’ve just received my first custom build Kiesel and would like advice on how to maintain the beautiful ebony fretboard.

Should I give it a lite oil fresh out of the gate or wait until my first string change?

I would like to avoid the cracks I’ve experienced on some of my second hand ebony fretboard guitars. What is the proper “break in” for a brand new guitar? I’ve never owned a truely new instrument before.

Thank you

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby gumbynotpokey » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:51 pm

The wood will let you know.

Wipe on a light amount, and watch how fast it soaks in (and how much). You'll know right away if you need a second swipe. And so on. You might as well get to know the wood right now, as you'll be doing this for years to come. :)
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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby Doctor Turn » Wed Jan 03, 2018 6:55 am

Yeah, you can even detune to slack and pull the strings aside, take some lemon oil and swab a thin coating on but let it sit and watch it. Just the area between nut and first fret. Like GNP above sez, see if the board "drinks" it up. If it just sits there, and the board isn't interested it's probably not thirsty and you can just wipe it away.. the previous owner kept it well fed. It probably already has a nice "rich" darkness where the grain is full and strong.

If it's moisture starved, just keep feeding it until what you're left w wiping away is pretty much what you apply. Then it's not "drinking" anymore and it's well oiled. My 1972 HIIN, I swear, that thing drank at least an ounce of oil, maybe 2 ounces, up and down the old Brazillian Rosewood board, until the applications of oil just sat there and weren't absorbed.

The nice thing is (especially w rosewood and other woods where the figure is more visible/pronounced, as opposed to straight black ebony) the treatment will bring out the figure and grain of your board. Whenever I oil the ebony board on my old DC150, the red streak becomes more and more pronounced. When I first bought the guitar the streak was unnoticeable. Now some people ask if it's royal ebony, and this is usually right after it's been oiled. I think it's just the years of exposure to light paling the darkness of the ebony, causing the black areas to get slightly lighter, and the red areas to get slightly more orangey. I've never had any hint of "enhancement" of the ebony, where I cleaned the board and black dye came away. Back then I don't even think "blacker black" ebony was an option, and there was no sense of emergency about the future viability of solid black ebony. You either wanted an ebony board or a maple board (although I'm not sure if Mark did solid koa bodies/necks with ebony boards.. the guitar was maple by default so I think the maple boarded 150's and 200's were just full maple necks, like a strat. No actual maple board like today.. could be wrong).
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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby Dr. Rock » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:23 pm

Ebony can have quite a bit of variation. My early 2000's DC400 has real dark ebony, and doesn't ever seem to dry out. My GH3 has a bit streakier ebony (pic), which has a ghostly grey appearance when it is dry. I usually oil via Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes, more or less each time I change strings. This picture was the factory fresh oil job. I oiled after that, and it got dark, then it took about 2 months to return to this grayish state. This factory state does absorb oil, but it doesn't need it like this.
20170915_135611.jpg
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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby /Y\ » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:09 pm

I'd say yes, oil it, cheap insurance. I always oil a new fret board with tung oil (pure stuff from Stewmac). Tung oil is permanent so you only have to do it once, though it does take a few days to soak in and feel dry to the touch.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby Cynical » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:40 pm

/Y\ wrote:I'd say yes, oil it, cheap insurance. I always oil a new fret board with tung oil (pure stuff from Stewmac). Tung oil is permanent so you only have to do it once, though it does take a few days to soak in and feel dry to the touch.

(Emphasis mine)

!!!!!!

This might be the worst ebony fretboard advice I've ever seen. Do not use tung oil on your ebony board.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby /Y\ » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:54 pm

Hmmm, have you tried it?

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby Doctor Turn » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:55 pm

I've never heard that either, ever.

I've also never heard of ebony never drying out or not ever needing some form of lubrication. I think, despite what one might think despite the dark appearance of it, if it's truly never been oiled, if you give it a good deep drink of lemon oil, you could apply it multiple times, and when finished it should have a nicer lustre than it had before the application.
Carvin Weaponry:
1985 DC150K (koa) Stereo, M22N/M22SD w/black hardware.
1985 100 Watt X Amp 2 x 12 combo (XV212) upgraded w/ 2 Vintage 30's
...and other gear.

https://soundcloud.com/the_heavy_clouds

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby Cynical » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:01 pm

I'm not saying "don't oil it". I'm saying "don't use tung oil, it's designed as a permanent finish/polish, and that's not what you want on your ebony board". It's not far off from putting a clear coat of paint on your fretboard.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby Doctor Turn » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:04 pm

It would I would imagine create a build up, a gummy layer that'd need to be scraped off or get ginky..
Carvin Weaponry:
1985 DC150K (koa) Stereo, M22N/M22SD w/black hardware.
1985 100 Watt X Amp 2 x 12 combo (XV212) upgraded w/ 2 Vintage 30's
...and other gear.

https://soundcloud.com/the_heavy_clouds

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby /Y\ » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:12 pm

Well, that's never happened on the 5 or so guitars that I've used tung oil on the fretboards.

I can say that the Kiesel tung oil, which you're all likely imagining, is probably not pure tung oil, at least it doesn't feel that way to me. It's more likely a tung oil mix with linseed oil or other drying oil, so it makes much more of a "finish" on the wood surface. Pure tung oil barely cures, so its actually a lot like lemon oil (which is just smelly mineral oil), in that it soaks in and all you feel is the wood. But it does cure slowly, over some months, which makes it more permanent than mineral oil.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby spudmunkey » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:28 pm

Last I heard more than a couple years ago, Carvin used Minwax tung oil finish. The word "finish" means that it's a blend with catalyzes (much like "cocktail" or "drink" following fruitjuice means a blended drink that contains some juice).

With a closed-grained wood as ebony generally is, a tung oil finish will sit on top of the wood, and then just get wiped off. There might be a *little* residual left behind that cures as a finish. Since oil doesn't "dry", per say, but it cures/hardens. Catalyzers typically evaporate leaving behind less of the actual oil content behind, making for quicker "drying" times.

And just like tung oil, I'm sure someone will mention lemon oil instead, but keep in mind that not all lemon oil is the same. Again, furniture style lemon oil typically is designed to build up a finish with waxes/polymers. You don't want pure lemon oil either because it's incredibly acidic and is a primary ingredient in some degreasers and things like Goo Gone type products which would dry out wood. Get a "lemon oil" product specifically designed for guitars which frankly have little actual lemon oil in them, if any. The color and smell are typically added.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby texastoast » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:33 pm

One more vote for tung oil not being used unless you wish to place a finish on the wood. Tung oil is just that, a finish. And before you ask, yes I have tried it. In fact many of my fender maple boards are finished. If I am not mistaken the kiesel maple are also tung oil. At least the two I own are. All of them will put the permanent remark to the test. It does require maintenance and re finishing from time to time. The frets still poke out so I oil over the tung oil. Some how it absorbs because the next day the frets are where they are supposed to be.

Nothing wrong with the advice. Just not traditionally used with ebony. But it can be. Just be sure it is what you want to do. It is a lot of work to remove it.

"lemon oil" is usually just mineral oil. And it does a fine job of protecting moisture gain or loss. So it works fine. I learned Certain bore oils are superior. The actually enter the wood pores better and re hydrate dry wood. Some synthetics and waxes will clog the pores. So lemon oil as a minimum and do your research if you wish to upgrade. I have some secret sauce made for me. A bore oil blend. It is not commercially available. The guy who mad it for me told me about fret doctor. He thought it was one of the best he used that you can buy. He is very qualified. I trust him.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby texastoast » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:47 pm

/Y\ wrote:Well, that's never happened on the 5 or so guitars that I've used tung oil on the fretboards.

I can say that the Kiesel tung oil, which you're all likely imagining, is probably not pure tung oil, at least it doesn't feel that way to me. It's more likely a tung oil mix with linseed oil or other drying oil, so it makes much more of a "finish" on the wood surface. Pure tung oil barely cures, so its actually a lot like lemon oil (which is just smelly mineral oil), in that it soaks in and all you feel is the wood. But it does cure slowly, over some months, which makes it more permanent than mineral oil.

I will go on a limb and say you have never used actual tung oil. None of us have unless your a real old sailor or Chinese. You can buy it but only a few companies and they do not mention degassing so I am skeptical. It will wrinkle unless de gassed (boiled). That breaks down some of the fatty acids. So stuff is added to make up for it. Tung oil is a generic term and is usually a reference to the finish and not so much the contents. I do not know how they get away with it but the can I have says right on it "Contains no more than 5 % tung oil." All of it is still a finish. Not an oil.
Kinda like orange juice.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby /Y\ » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:06 pm

OK, this is exactly what I use. Says it's pure tung oil.

https://www.amazon.com/Behlen-H3987-Tun ... B0000DD61W

A "drying" oil is an oil with enough unsat along the backbone to cure when it comes in contact with oxygen. It is not meant to indicate drying like, for example, paint dries. Tung oil is fully saturated, or nearly so, which is why it doesn't discolor with age.

I think the Kiesel "tung oil" is probably mixed with a drying oil to give it the ability to build up surface finish. I wouldn't put that on a fretboard, either.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby texastoast » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:28 pm

Yep that is some of the more real than others. And your right on the drying as well. Tung oil is a finish but it is a layer formed by oxidation. Like oxide or magnetite on steel. I guess I used the wrong term.

I guess that what I call pure must mean unprocessed. Perhaps that is a better term. Because non degassed tung oil mixed with cobalt in a form I can not remember is the base of many wrinkle paints. I know things like lanoleic acid and oleic acids will break down in some form when boiled. Even if I cant spell them. So unprocessed tung oil is rare and not used much.

And for that matter when the average joe goes into the store he does not walk out with the same tung oil you use. So yours is rare as well.

There is some paint company with the word milk in it. I cannot remember exactly. but I paid $42 bucks a gallon for theirs. That link you showed is pricey. ley me look if I can google milk paint. Yep found it

https://www.realmilkpaint.com/?gclid=EA ... gJ5FPD_BwE

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby Doctor Turn » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:38 pm

Cynical wrote:I'm not saying "don't oil it". I'm saying "don't use tung oil, it's designed as a permanent finish/polish, and that's not what you want on your ebony board". It's not far off from putting a clear coat of paint on your fretboard.


I was meaning the other guy who said he had an ebony fretboard on an early 400 that never dried out.
Carvin Weaponry:
1985 DC150K (koa) Stereo, M22N/M22SD w/black hardware.
1985 100 Watt X Amp 2 x 12 combo (XV212) upgraded w/ 2 Vintage 30's
...and other gear.

https://soundcloud.com/the_heavy_clouds

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby /Y\ » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:20 pm

Since so many folks seem aghast at using tung oil on an ebony board, I thought I'd post a pic. Over the holidays, I decided to use my Agile AS1000 as a first attempt at re-fretting. After pulling the frets, I radiused to 20", finish sanded, tung oiled, then put in the jumbo EVO gold frets. If I handed you the guitar, you'd never know the FB was tung oiled. Looks like ebony, feels like ebony (not that Agile uses the blackest ebony in the world, but it was only a $400 guitar).

The EVO frets are really nice, smooth but a bit less zingy than the SS in all my other guitars.

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Re: Should I oil my factory fresh ebony fretboard or wait?

Postby DesmoBob » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:59 pm

texastoast wrote:The guy who mad it for me told me about fret doctor. He thought it was one of the best he used that you can buy. He is very qualified. I trust him.

Fret Doctor +1 here. :D


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