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Fingerboard coating - obligatory or optional


slavne

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For the first time I replaced, shaped and polished my new fingerboard. 

I wonder if ebony  fingerboard might be left as is without coating of any sort, because ebony has its dark color already.  Is it obligatory to put some coating for any purpose? If so, is it a mistake to use a commercial ebony lacquer I have based on alkids, wax, and some unspecified drying agents? 

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20 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

Same as FiddleDoug, the only difference is that I don't use mineral oil but linseed oil, and not during sanding but at the end: put on, left to absorb for some time, and wiped off the surface. The concept is the same: an impregnation with oil to limit the absorption of humidity and sweat.

Like Sora, I use a drying oil, either linseed or tung oil (tung oil is supposed to be more durable). The oil will increase the intensity of the color, and I like the idea of using a drying oil over a mineral oil which may remain liquid just about forever.

Doing a final sanding with the oil will tend to fill the pores with a slurry of ebony particles and oil, making it look more like a denser-type ebony, or more "synthetic plastic-like", which some people prefer. I don't happen to be one of those, so I too apply a drying oil after the sanding is completed.

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15 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Like Sora, I use a drying oil, either linseed or tung oil (tung oil is supposed to be more durable). The oil will increase the intensity of the color, and I like the idea of using a drying oil over a mineral oil which may remain liquid just about forever.

Doing a final sanding with the oil will tend to fill the pores with a slurry of ebony particles and oil, making it look more like a denser-type ebony, or more "synthetic plastic-like", which some people prefer. I don't happen to be one of those, so I too apply a drying oil after the sanding is completed.

How long does this have to dry? 

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30 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

How long does this have to dry? 

I think drying time would depend on how far it penetrates, which could vary with factors like grain orientation and porosity. But it doesn't need to be dry before returning to the customer.

I think the Morel shop used mineral oil, didn't they?

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4 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

How long does this have to dry? 

I addition to the factors Dave mentioned, which I think are the most important in this application, it would also depend on the oil itself - seedstock, growing region, and most critically processing. Ideal oil applied that thinly and buffed off will dry pretty quickly. But as David said, I don't think it's important that it be fully cured before returning to the client for a number of reasons, largely being that oil applied in this way isn't actually a coating - it's more akin to a ground, sitting in the wood (upper few microns) rather than on it.

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On 10/20/2023 at 7:52 AM, David Burgess said:

I think drying time would depend on how far it penetrates, which could vary with factors like grain orientation and porosity. But it doesn't need to be dry before returning to the customer.

I think the Morel shop used mineral oil, didn't they?

I guess we sanded with oil but didn't add anything after. I am a bit paranoid about oil affecting strings and certainly bow hair. I used Fodor polish after sanding with water for a while but stopped after seeing a few cases where some peoples sweat seemed to react with it. I would wonder about linseed oil getting tacky until fully dry but perhaps a thin enough application isn't a problem. Lately I've been sanding to 600 with water and then buffing with my hand. Never tried tung oil but may do so on your recommendation.

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15 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

I guess we sanded with oil but didn't add anything after. I am a bit paranoid about oil affecting strings and certainly bow hair. I used Fodor polish after sanding with water for a while but stopped after seeing a few cases where some peoples sweat seemed to react with it. I would wonder about linseed oil getting tacky until fully dry but perhaps a thin enough application isn't a problem. Lately I've been sanding to 600 with water and then buffing with my hand. Never tried tung oil but may do so on your recommendation.

I think what makes the linseed/tung work, again, is that there is no coat anyway. It's rubbed in, let to sit for a few minutes, and buffed off hard. Nothing left on the surface to touch the strings or hair. It's easy enough to test for yourself on a scrap of ebony or old board. I definitely understand why oil is such a major Boogeyman for so many in the business, but it's not evil when used carefully. 

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2 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

I think what makes the linseed/tung work, again, is that there is no coat anyway. It's rubbed in, let to sit for a few minutes, and buffed off hard. Nothing left on the surface to touch the strings or hair. It's easy enough to test for yourself on a scrap of ebony or old board. I definitely understand why oil is such a major Boogeyman for so many in the business, but it's not evil when used carefully. 

I've been just mechanically buffing the surface of the ebony instead of impregnating it with oil. They hold up just fine. I do the usual dressing and then sand dry from 220 to 400, wetting in between. Then I sand with mineral oil from 400-1200. Then I use Pikal metal polish on the ebony, rubbing hard while building up heat, and it gives it the perfect classy sheen. 

I haven't had anyone complain about the boards that I've done, and I haven't gotten any back that had any issues with moisture or anything. 

I will say that the linseed oil and sanding is ace if you want to get the board to look as slick as possible with the pores filled. 

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4 minutes ago, Nick Allen said:

I've been just mechanically buffing the surface of the ebony instead of impregnating it with oil. They hold up just fine. I do the usual dressing and then sand dry from 220 to 400, wetting in between. Then I sand with mineral oil from 400-1200. Then I use Pikal metal polish on the ebony, rubbing hard while building up heat, and it gives it the perfect classy sheen. 

I haven't had anyone complain about the boards that I've done, and I haven't gotten any back that had any issues with moisture or anything. 

I will say that the linseed oil and sanding is ace if you want to get the board to look as slick as possible with the pores filled. 

That sounds great! I don't think how matters that much as long as the client is happy and no harm is done, and your method sounds as good as any pro methods I've ever heard of.

Prior to the linseed wipe I do something pretty similar to what you've described, using the full set of 3m polishing cloths slightly damped with mineral spirits (rather than oil). I'm not anti mineral oil though. Seems totally fine to me.

So many ways to skin this cat.

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1 minute ago, JacksonMaberry said:

That sounds great! I don't think how matters that much as long as the client is happy and no harm is done, and your method sounds as good as any pro methods I've ever heard of.

Prior to the linseed wipe I do something pretty similar to what you've described, using the full set of 3m polishing cloths slightly damped with mineral spirits (rather than oil). I'm not anti mineral oil though. Seems totally fine to me.

So many ways to skin this cat.

Yerp. As long as the luthier is experienced and has good sensibilities, there are many ways to go about it. I'm not against oil, I just think I can cut it out of the process personally. But I do sometimes use it, though. 

Since mineral oil is a non drying oil, does it just sit in the wood, remaining liquid forever?

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1 minute ago, JacksonMaberry said:

I can't say for sure, but that's my understanding. I'd be interested to learn from someone who knows more about mineral oil.

Hmm. Interesting. I just wipe off as much as possible until there's no more on the towel. 

I wonder if regular water with perhaps some soap would work better?

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2 minutes ago, Nick Allen said:

Hmm. Interesting. I just wipe off as much as possible until there's no more on the towel. 

I wonder if regular water with perhaps some soap would work better?

My gut says that what you're doing (wipe until the towel is clean) is probably fine? Ebony is so dense I don't imagine that much soaks in on non -endgrain surfaces anyway.

I wonder how renwax would be for this, wiped on/buffed off. Haven't tried it.

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8 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

My gut says that what you're doing (wipe until the towel is clean) is probably fine? Ebony is so dense I don't imagine that much soaks in on non -endgrain surfaces anyway.

I wonder how renwax would be for this, wiped on/buffed off. Haven't tried it.

I've tried Renwax. It's mostly fine I guess. It doesn't hurt anything and makes a decent look at the end. 

 

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