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I had the saddle reshaped on my J-35 recently. During the process, my luthier applied lemon oil to the rosewood fretboard. It looked great, but as soon as I got it home I noticed that it had an unpleasant smell. I figured that the smell would go away fairly quickly. But it's been four months and every time I pick the guitar up the stench still hits me. I'm not sure if lemon oil goes bad, or what. I am about ready for a string change, so I am hoping I can clean it up and get rid of the smell. Can anyone suggest a good remedy?

 

Thanks,

Bo

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When you get the strings off, try elbow grease with a very damp tag all Over the fretboard. Let it air dry and try again with a clean damp rag all over again. Let it dry and then try a damp tag with some pledge or endust sprayed into the rag. If that doesn't work maybe brush some baking soda on the fretboard, rub it in with a clean cloth, and after 15 minutes try again with the damp rag and elbow grease,

This is what I would do, but before you take my word, hopefully smarter people weigh in. Maybe even Jeremy Morton. I just didn't want to leave you hanging.

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I had the saddle reshaped on my J-35 recently. During the process, my luthier applied lemon oil to the rosewood fretboard. It looked great, but as soon as I got it home I noticed that it had an unpleasant smell. I figured that the smell would go away fairly quickly. But it's been four months and every time I pick the guitar up the stench still hits me. I'm not sure if lemon oil goes bad, or what. I am about ready for a string change, so I am hoping I can clean it up and get rid of the smell. Can anyone suggest a good remedy?

 

Thanks,

Bo

 

I agree with you...the smell of lemon fret board oil stinks...and it takes a long time to go away. It will go away when temps and humidity levels allow you to leave it out of the case....the case should also be left open because the lemon stench is sopped up and collected by the case making it harder to get rid of the smell. I suppose its like the cologne companies. They don't make anything that doesn't stink so bad it leaves traces in your car, house, car seats, furniture too. YUK to all of it. Many people just love the smell of new guitars...what they don't know is that cologne and stench is added to the glues, the lacquers, even the cases because they think stink sells. It does not. Good luck with getting the disgusting stench from your guitar and case! I hear you!

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I would use naphtha on an old cotton shirt and plenty of elbow grease....if the board looks dry after the naphtha, a drop or two of mineral oil wipe on and then right off.

 

 

I would not use a damp rag. Water is water...probably no harm but no need to wipe it on bare wood. The only time I touch water to wood is when I am raising the grain to fine sand in prep for finishing.

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Well it's not the lemon oil. It may be the specific oil used. I use lemon oil about twice a year with NO smell especially anything foul. Use Naphtha to clean off your fretboard and let it dry. If it truly smells follow the advice above and try to keep it out of the case - if you can do it without jeopardizing your humidity levels.

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Bo, you sure it was lemon oil? I am pretty allergic to most chemical smells, and lemon oil (at least REAL lemon oil) doesn't have much more than if you cut a real lemon peel. Doesn't last either. Sounds more like linseed or similar.

 

Just a guess. Naphtha is the way I'd go. We just had a "Lemon Oil" discussion in another thread the last day or two.

 

Aster

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Thanks for everyone's input. I live in a climate where humidity and temperature are not typically problematic, so the guitar is kept out and is not in its case much of the time. It has not aired out after 4 months. I am not positive that lemon oil was used on it, but that is what the luthier told me. I use lemon oil on my other guitars once or twice a year and it leaves little or no odor. That's why I wondered if lemon oil can spoil or go bad.

 

I must admit that I have an overly sensitive sense of smell. My wife doesn't think the guitar smells bad. But I can smell it from ten feet away and would really like to get rid of the odor.

 

The naphtha solution sounds interesting, but I don't know anything about it and am pretty wary about putting anything on my guitars. I use guitar polish on nitro finishes and lemon oil on bare wood, and that's about as adventurous as I get with chemicals on guitars. Is naphtha a commonly used product for fretboards?

 

I may just try my standard cleanup with 0000 steel wool and a VERY lightly dampened cotton cleaning rag. If that doesn't help, then I'll consider other options.

 

Thanks again for the input. This group is a great resource.

 

Bo

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Thanks for everyone's input. I live in a climate where humidity and temperature are not typically problematic, so the guitar is kept out and is not in its case much of the time. It has not aired out after 4 months. I am not positive that lemon oil was used on it, but that is what the luthier told me. I use lemon oil on my other guitars once or twice a year and it leaves little or no odor. That's why I wondered if lemon oil can spoil or go bad.

 

I must admit that I have an overly sensitive sense of smell. My wife doesn't think the guitar smells bad. But I can smell it from ten feet away and would really like to get rid of the odor.

 

The naptha solution sounds interesting, but I don't know anything about it and am pretty wary about putting anything on my guitars. I use guitar polish on nitro finishes and lemon oil on bare wood, and that's about as adventurous as I get with chemicals on guitars. Is naptha a commonly used product for fretboards?

 

I may just try my standard cleanup with 0000 steel wool and a VERY lightly dampened cotton cleaning rag. If that doesn't help, then I'll consider other options.

 

Thanks again for the input. This group is a great resource.

 

Bo

When you do get the smell taken care of and if you want to oil the fret board Gibson sells a good fret board oil and it's odorless...I use it on my guitars occasionally when the fret board appears dry. FYI
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The lemon oil is not water soluble. The water (on the damp rag) will do nothing to the oil, the water will all be absorbed into the fretboard or evaporate. Naphtha is a tried and true solvent that leaves no trace on bare wood. It is safe with pretty much all finishes including nitro. There are some brands of "lemon oil" that contain hardeners (because it contains other oils like linseed oil). It is probably these solids that are giving off the rancid smell. The water will not remove them, it will be your elbow grease (friction) and the passage of time as the oil soaks in leaving only solids on the surface (no more off-gassing=no more smell). Either way it's probably fine, but if I took a guitar into a shop and they suggested cleaning a fretboard with water (damp cloth), I would not let them work on my guitars. My 2¢ worth...

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The lemon oil is not water soluble. The water (on the damp rag) will do nothing to the oil, the water will all be absorbed into the fretboard or evaporate. Naphtha is a tried and true solvent that leaves no trace on bare wood. It is safe with pretty much all finishes including nitro. There are some brands of "lemon oil" that contain hardeners (because it contains other oils like linseed oil). It is probably these solids that are giving off the rancid smell. The water will not remove them, it will be your elbow grease (friction) and the passage of time as the oil soaks in leaving only solids on the surface (no more off-gassing=no more smell). Either way it's probably fine, but if I took a guitar into a shop and they suggested cleaning a fretboard with water (damp cloth), I would not let them work on my guitars. My 2¢ worth...

 

 

I generally agree with this.

 

Whatever it is on the fretboard that is causing the smell is pretty much sitting on the surface. Rosewood isn't very porous, and it has a distinctive, generally-pleasant smell.

 

Naphtha on a rag is a good way to remove surface contamination, and will hurt neither the bare wood nor the nitro finish, although you shouldn't just slop it all over the guitar willy-nilly. Take something like an old cotton sock, put some naphtha on it, and scrub the board. You will probably be pretty shocked at the stuff that comes off. After that, let it air-dry for a day, and scrub again with naphtha if it still smells. Don't put anything else on the board until you get rid of the smell.

 

I happen to use Planet Waves Hydrate (sparingly) on my fretboards, and I wipe off all the excess. The label doesn't say what it is, other than a "blend of oils and cleaners". It also has the standard "don't drink this stuff, or it will kill you" label.

 

All of these things are really just surface treatments, but they can help. I also use fine bronze wool to clean the frets and boards at most string changes, using the Hydrate as a vehicle unless the board is dirty enough (rare) to need a naphtha cleaning.

 

Many oils will air-harden, but remain tacky enough to attract stuff like dead skin cells. Linseed oil is about the worst in that regard. Since it would take the peels of about 100 lemons to extract an ounce of pure lemon oil, it is apparently often cut with other oils for common uses such as polishes, so what you buy as "lemon oil" could be a bit of lemon oil and a bunch of something else.

 

As a matter of habit, I try to wash my hands before picking up a guitar. It's surprising how grubby your hand can get. Ever have a look at the keys on your keyboard, if you haven't cleaned it recently?

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All organic oils will go rancid over time producing a very foul aroma. Lemon oil is no exception. Gibson Montana used Walnut oil for fretboard treatment for a while until they got a bottle that had turned. Nasty stuff. Good Lemon Oil has a very pleasing aroma. Have your guitar tech check his bottle. It's probably been sitting in his shop for the last 20 years.

 

There are plenty of commercial preps that do a great job and won't go bad. Petroleum products. Gibson has a fine one available. Don't forget to treat the bridge as well as the fretboard.

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Most household type "lemon oil" is mostly mineral oil with a touch of "real" lemon oil. Mineral oil does not go rancid as it is not organic. Every time I change strings I put a touch of mineral oil on a clean rag and do my entire guitar including the fingerboard. The trick is to not use too much. Then I rub it out thoroughly with a dry soft cloth. Mineral oil is inexpensive and can be had at the drug store.

 

For cleaning the old oil off your stinky guitar, naptha should work. Don't make the mistake I did years ago using denatured alcohol which clouded my nitro finish. The clouding eventually when away on it's own but had me pretty freaked.[scared]

 

B)

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Fretboard oils and lemon oils like Old English are just mineral oil with a some aromatics in it. I use mineral oil because it's what you're looking for without the aroma - or the cost.

 

The stink is probably from lindseed oil or teak oil or something similar.

 

Like the others said, if you apply naptha and rub it in a little and let it flash off it may take some of the stinky volatiles with it. Then you can oil it with plain mineral oil if it needs it.

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All organic oils will go rancid over time producing a very foul aroma. Lemon oil is no exception. Gibson Montana used Walnut oil for fretboard treatment for a while until they got a bottle that had turned. Nasty stuff. Good Lemon Oil has a very pleasing aroma. Have your guitar tech check his bottle. It's probably been sitting in his shop for the last 20 years.

 

There are plenty of commercial preps that do a great job and won't go bad. Petroleum products. Gibson has a fine one available. Don't forget to treat the bridge as well as the fretboard.

 

Yeppers. And exercise great care to keep lemon oil off your nitrocellulose finish. It will mar it.

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First thing I suggest is to call the guy who applied the oil and see what he used...and what he suggests regarding the smell. Like others here, I've not had an odor issue with lemon oil. I've been a repair tech for many years, as well as a gunsmith working with exotic woods and various finishes, and I'm not a fan of using anything on a fretboard unless it's extremely dry, or for purely aesthetic reasons to darken a rosewood board, in which case I personally use Fret Doctor or Roche-Thomas Fingerboard Oil very sparingly.

 

In your case, using naptha as suggested won't hurt anything and worth a try. Don't directly soak the fretboard, but instead wet a section of a clean cotton rag with naptha and wipe.

 

Good luck!

 

DC

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