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Hello, I've been doing some research and getting conflicting information about wood conditioners made from mineral oils or petroleum distillates. These are often used on the fingerboards of guitars that are made of rosewood or ebony and don't have a finish applied. I have heard that mineral oil/petroleum will only coat the surface of the fingerboard and actually seal it over time, making any future application of oils difficult. As such some people recommend using a plant based oil saying it won't seal or clog the wood and will soak deeper into the wood keeping it from drying out. Can anyone confirm if there is any truth to these statements?
 

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I've never applied anything to fingerboards in 50 years of picking.
Very careful work with a cabinet scraper (Lee Valley) will keep the boards clean.

What's recommended in the StewMac luthier's website? Non-drying oil?

Do you use case humidifiers for your instruments? I wish!


Plant based oils might oxidize, go rancid, and appear to dry but really just become sticky dust collectors in the end.



The wood stability may have been dried originally to a moisture content of 10% or less.
Under ambient conditions, you can predict the Equilibrium Moisture Content to be 12% - 15%.
Any oil sealer will strangle the exchange in the wood.


It's cold here, 0F and colder every day. I need to add more than 2 quarts of water per 24hrs,
that's just enough to stop any static electricity and wood should sit ay 10%+ EMC.
 

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There is a lot of different things that could be used for a wood conditioner but I wouldn't use mineral oil. Mineral never really dries. Functionally it would be more like motor oil so it wouldn't be good to finish over. I use a mixture of boiled linseed oil thinned with paint thinner 50/50 and let dry. You could use thin a natural stain. You could thin shellac. You could thin tung oil. You could thin wood glue. You could thin a varnish. The idea is something that would soak into the wood and harden but not completely seal the wood. It takes some tinkering with each product to get the formula right. Too concentrated and the wood won't accept the stain. Too thin and the wood would stain blotchy.
 

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This is expert territory...

Hello, I've been doing some research and getting conflicting information about wood conditioners made from mineral oils or petroleum distillates. These are often used on the fingerboards of guitars that are made of rosewood or ebony and don't have a finish applied. I have heard that mineral oil/petroleum will only coat the surface of the fingerboard and actually seal it over time, making any future application of oils difficult. As such some people recommend using a plant based oil saying it won't seal or clog the wood and will soak deeper into the wood keeping it from drying out. Can anyone confirm if there is any truth to these statements?
Hi Jeff,

First, let me validate, so we are clear. I think you really should vet the advise of several experts (aka Luthier) on this subject, and then consider that advise (perhaps?) before all others.

Second, I strongly suggest considering everything Brian T. offered in the way of advise. I agree fully on every point and will only add a little of my own 2¢ on the subject.

My third portion of validation, I don't play any instruments well (at all!!!LOL) but I have been know at times to make a pretty fine Dulcimer, and some of the best Banjo Head Leather around, among a few other items here and there within the world of the Luthier parlance in the days gone by...

As such, I would always defer to "the makers" advise for a given instrument if you can reach them. The next best thing, is a maker that works with a similar style.

As to oils, I don't recommend any that have mineral oil in them at all...!!!...period.

With that stated, I can share what was told to me...that the sebaceous oils in human skin is often more than enough to achieve the "oiling" that a region of an instrument needs beyond what the maker themselves placed on it...or...recommended placing on it. Some contemporaries do use mineral oil, and I would not counter their advise for..."their instruments." For cleaning, I would (again) follow the creators instructions if possible or a simple detailing once a year.

Finishes on instruments is completely different that anything in woodworking generally. Its a delicate dance between tonal qualities (that can be effected!!!) and other elements of annual maintenance...

Hope that was of some assistance to you quesitons?
 

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I taught wood anatomy to professional luthiers. How 'bout that?
There are 2 licensed tone wood prospectors in my district.


Martin, National, Yamahahahaha come to town. So does an Erickson Sky Crane.
You can't ever mistake the sound for any other machine on earth.


They lift out 1 log at a time. Not 1m^3 in 1,000 is really "tone" wood.


'Scuse me but furniture and fingerboards are not the same.
A #1 raw guitar top here is about $75.00.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the input, really appreciate it. Not going to fret over it so much anymore, but still am a little confused. A couple of you were suggesting staying away from mineral oil (and honestly that's the direction I was leaning towards as well). The stew-mac "lemon oil" is actually mineral oil (says it right in the product description) and almost every fretboard conditioner I've looked at is either mineral oil or petroleum distillates (which from what I understand is a form of mineral oil or made from it or something).

I think I will try Music Nomad's F-ONE oil for now as it's the only fretboard conditioner I've seen not using mineral oils.
 

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...I think I will try Music Nomad's F-ONE oil for now as it's the only fretboard conditioner I've seen not using mineral oils...
Hi Jeff,

I want to apologize if my post was confusing to you...

My bias toward "mineral oil" on wood is "mine alone." I don't care for many of the mineral oil products used on wood, but my main dislike is for the forms on "cutting boards" and that is because of taste...more than anything else.

Your instrument maker/creator would be my "go to" first, but as stated Brian T. is the only actual expert on this post thread (thus far) that should really be listened to and checked in with on this topic. He actually plays instruments, and as you can tell from his post has a level of expertise others (me included) simply...do not have!!!...on this subject.

I'm not sure of Brian's views of "Nomad's F-ONE oil?" Its a natural oil (which I typically like and promote) yet in this case, there are other very important mitigating conditions that must be considered, as the acoustical tone of you instrument could be affected!

Good Luck, and I hope you are less confused and I apologize again if I contributed to it in any way!!!
 

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Perhaps it's sheer laziness, but I've never put anything on my fingerboards. I'd bet a donut that Noman's F-one oil is mineral oil based.
 

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Nomad's F-One Oil...100% natural

Perhaps it's sheer laziness, but I've never put anything on my fingerboards. I'd bet a donut that Noman's F-one oil is mineral oil based.
Below is from the web site...

I think that is why the OP selected it...???...Like many of us, they don't care for mineral oil and would rather use a more traditional and/or natural oils.

However, if an instrument maker has a strong recommendation and/or preference for a given finish (beyond what they applied themselves) to use on their instrument , then that is the one I would use...mineral oil or otherwise.

Or, I would follow the recommendations of someone like Braid T. for a given instrument after consulting with them...If they said no to F-One and yes mineral oil blends...then that is what I personally would use...

On the few instruments I have been part of creating (or creating completely on my own) I used only natural traditional oils. I don't treat fret-boards and rely on the natural sebaceous oils in the players skin to naturally treat the wood as they use the instrument. If the wood "dries out" (???) from neglect, I would use the original finish if that was truly necessary. I've never had it happen?

Cleaning was done with warm distilled white vinegar and pure distilled spring water (50/50) with a soft felt rag...nothing more...

Nomad's Website: said:
F-ONE gives wood its life back. F-ONE is formulated using a complex mixture of the finest ultra refined tree and seed oils to clean, condition & protect your fretboard/fingerboard. 100% free of any lemon oil extracts, waxes, petroleum distillates, silicone, and water. We chose not to use any lemon oil because it contains d-limonene, which is a strong solvent that is used to remove paint and glue. In addition, we believe the high acidity levels of lemon oil can dry out the fretboard over time and require more frequent fretboard care. F-ONE leaves your fretboard looking new, playing great and feeling smooth, never sticky or tacky. Our revolutionary formula penetrates & conditions the wood to dry fast and give it a new look for months. We use 100% naturally produced oils and is safe on all unfinished rosewood, ebony and maple fretboards. F-ONE oil is preferred by some of the most respected repair shops in the world...F-ONE is a registered trademark of Big Rock Innovations LLC, all rights reserved...
 

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I've always depended upon advice from formally trained luthiers.
StewMac has been a supplier for a few years now.

Brownell's has wood finishing supplies for Circassian walnut that might set you back $25,000 per piece.


I'm not on a first name basis with more than 6 different luthiers.

They don't make a living building fine furniture.
#7 builds symphony-grade French horns, he's no help at all.



A Gibson-sponsored musician that I took lessons from said to do nothing except cleaning.
 

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HA! It's the gunstock walnut. Nightmare burl to me.

Without knowing for certain, I'll say you could still mess it up with the wrong finish.


Up here, it's just the decorator cedar logs that Pioneer puts on the front of your $25,000,000 log home.
They cough up $30,000 to $80,000 per log.



I asked a guy about guitar fingerboards. He builds necks for Fender.
 
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