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Deo Lawson

Shining the fingerboard

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I've seen some instruments with fingerboards so divine you can see your own reflection in between the strings. I assume this isn't possible just by polishing the ebony.
Do some luthiers apply some sort of oil, or perhaps shellac? I want candy-apple gloss on my violins, too!

(I'm trying to get rid of one student-quality violin that may well go quicker if it looks nice and shiny all over.)

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Sand with up to 1500 (at least) grit sandpaper, then apply oil, let dry, buff with 0000 steel wool, then apply paste wax, let dry, and buff out with cloth to mirror finish.

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Who can share what they use to stain FB's that have some brown figure? I have used Fiebings but heard complaints from players about black fingertips. Maybe there is a certain way to apply this stain.

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I "sand" the board through all sandpaper grits up too 600, then dampen it and wait until it is dry, then I sand it with 600 again. Then I buff it up with a rag with some silver polish and a Little mineral oil on it

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31 minutes ago, Michael_Molnar said:

1.  Who can share what they use to stain FB's that have some brown figure?

2. I have used Fiebings but heard complaints from players about black fingertips. Maybe there is a certain way to apply this stain.

1.  I can't say if Fiebings would hide prominent figure/grain lines.

2.  You caught me playing while I was test running three of my fiddles in which two do have recently applied Fiebings, so went to clean fingertips and tried the one that should be dry by now......... and it was, clean fingertips.

So before using Feibings oil dye professional from StewMac I do the following.  Make sure dimensions and scoop/relief are as complete as you feel will work without having to rework them later.  If you used a scraper for shaping that's fine but I feel that smooth scraped surface deters the dye from doing what it's supposed to do.  So starting with 120 or 150gr,  I gently rough the entire board gently using the pink rubber eraser for a sanding block, then finish up with 220 gr..  Moisten with sponge and water, let dry and 220 gr. again.  After drying, if I feel like wetting with water again then I'll do that.  Feel free to use 400 gr. if needed and no need to add anything to the wood before the dye, like I used to do, unnecessary.

When dry, maybe gently knock off some fuzzies,  then apply dye to underneath cove, then sides, then the surface using a q-tip.  Do it again and let board set somewhere for at least 5 days, two weeks would be better.  Then using Craig's suggestion, use a dot of BLO on a rag for a light coat of oil and let that set a few days.  There's no getting around the black fingertips at first or I have not found the way yet.

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1 hour ago, Michael_Molnar said:

Who can share what they use to stain FB's that have some brown figure? I have used Fiebings but heard complaints from players about black fingertips. Maybe there is a certain way to apply this stain.

There are two different versions of Fiebings.  The "Pro" is a little more permanent than the normal stuff.  Back at the firm we used to use it with reasonable success.  There are still some players who's sweat will cause it to bleed.  If you want to avoid it all together, black hair dye is the way to go.  Takes a little more time, and costs more per board than Fiebings.  

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I use India ink followed by mineral oil.

Do all the sanding through the grits first then buff with 0000 steel wool. Then the ink, let dry a day and oil. When applying the ink you have to be careful to not make it streaky. I have had good luck with no finger blackening yet. 

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I use Fiebing’s to stain, followed by a light French polish, on fingerboards that need to be blacker. The shellac seals the dye in so it doesn’t come off later. The sheen can be controlled with steel wool after that if desired. 

I’ve also used India ink successfully. I’ve been told it was what was most commonly used for that purpose in days of yore. 

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A technique I saw from my father who was polishing violin and guitar fingerboards:

You cut a round piece of hard wool felt and you attach it to a drill chuck. 

You rub the felt at a hard soap (used for sharpening).

Then with the drill at low speed you start polish the fingerboard.

This method with wool felt was primarily used at marble polishing.

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19 hours ago, Michael_Molnar said:

Who can share what they use to stain FB's that have some brown figure? I have used Fiebings but heard complaints from players about black fingertips. Maybe there is a certain way to apply this stain.

Black hair dye. The 2 part kind that has to be mixed before applying.

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This new ebony fingerboard I scraped for scoop and sanded with 220/320/400/800/1,000 paper (they were out of 800 when I last stocked up three years ago). Then used MicroSurface buffing pads, 1,500 grit to 12,000 grit. There is no oil or sealer on it, just the wood.

I stopped putting sealer on ebony about a year or so ago. Sometimes finish gets removed and you end up seeing the grain and figuring of the wood.

All of the instruments I work on are student-grade, maybe the nicest being a $1,500 late 19th century German fiddle.

lie-nielsen-ebony-violin-fingerboard-2.jpg

micro-mesh-abrasive-pads-luthier.jpg

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I am always amazed at the detail my luthier puts into making a new fingerboard. He makes a slightly rounded edge and polishes the sides to a shine. 

IMG_4175.JPG

IMG_4177.JPG

 

IMG_4179.JPG

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1 hour ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

You don't want the fingerboard looking shiny

That just highlights the wear marks that the strings leave. Grooves, metal residue, etc.

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On 8/25/2018 at 9:08 PM, Melvin Goldsmith said:

You don't want the fingerboard looking shiny

So I should stop at 600-800 grit? Smooth but slightly matte finish?

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