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Ebony fretboard too dry - fret sprout - help/tips needed


crackjunkie

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Hi guys,

 

i need your help:

My Gibson Explorer '76 with ebony fretboard (from mid 1990s) was in its case for a couple of months - i know it is very long time [crying] - too long. (By the way the guitar case itself was stored inside my wardrobe, too). Last weekend i opened up the case:

 

I saw the strings were a little bit rusty and the frets itself are having some green or rusty grunge here and there. [unsure]

 

Side note: Unfortunately my Jackson DK2T was next to the Explorer in its own case - also in the wardrobe - standing there a couple of months. It also had some green grunge on the frets. I could remove it by using steelwool (0000 - finest). Sure i had taped off the body, pickups and the fretboard wood in between the frets before doing it. Now it looks and plays like new. That worked really, really great!

 

Back to the Gibson Explorer problem:

I removed the strings and had a look at the ebony fretboard. The fretboard looked very dry and right next to the frets the wood was ...hmm lets say it looks like "cracked". The last 2, 3 days i oiled the fretboard twice a day with lemon oil (from dunlop). Now it looks and is a loot better already but still far from good/normal. I attach some pictures of the fretboard in its current condition:

 

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I've also read a little bit about fret sproud on the internet:

Some say it goes away after a some days/weeks by just humidifying the instrument (how to do it?);

some say you should use Fret doctor instead of some oils because they say it seals the wood (http://www.beafifer.com/boredoctor.htm)

 

What can i do about it? Any serious help and tips are really welcome!

 

Thanks in advance, crackjunkie

 

(i will never let it in the case that long i swear!

also i will use the 0000 steelwool on the frets on the explorer to make em shiny again - but before that i want to get the fretboard in its normal condition)

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please note that the frets do not stick out at the edge of the fretboard (i think that THIS actually called fret sprout; it is not the case here). i'm talking about the wood right next to the fret - the 1mm left and right next to it (liked marked in red at the second picture). obviously the wood in between the fret shrunk.

 

the frets itself right now do not move when i play on the instrument. however i don't really want to play the explorer until they become loose because of the shrunk fretboard wood.

 

how can i "expand" the wood to grow to its "original" "width"?

humidifying?

oil?

even spray some water at it? (i have to remove the grunge/rust on the frets anyway with steel wool afterwards!)?

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I'm not so sure that your fretboard has shrunk. It looks to me like someone has done a really s#@!%y refret. If that is indeed where your fretboard shrank, I'd say your frets would have actually fallen out or lifted up at the ends, because there isn't much wood holding the fret tangs to begin with, and the marks on either side in total equal almost the width of the fret itself. I have seen fretboards shrink, but usually width-wise, not lengthwise like yours. Therefore, due to the grain direction, I don't think your board has shrunk, but that it was bad fret work, either damage from pulling old frets, or someone using a fret crowning file on the frets and marring the wood.

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I'm not so sure that your fretboard has shrunk. It looks to me like someone has done a really s#@!%y refret. If that is indeed where your fretboard shrank, I'd say your frets would have actually fallen out or lifted up at the ends, because there isn't much wood holding the fret tangs to begin with, and the marks on either side in total equal almost the width of the fret itself. I have seen fretboards shrink, but usually width-wise, not lengthwise like yours. Therefore, due to the grain direction, I don't think your board has shrunk, but that it was bad fret work, either damage from pulling old frets, or someone using a fret crowning file on the frets and marring the wood.

 

unfortunately i have to say that it is in original condition. frets haven't been changed ever - no refret ever. my dad brought the guitar brand new in guitar center (incl. original gibson case) in the USA for me when he was there in the 90s for a business trip. we are living in germany.

 

actually the frets also are not loose. they seem to be "stiff" in the fretboard like (almost) normal (but i can not really judge it). however you can not deny that it is really looking s#@!%y 1mm right next to it. [thumbdn]

 

the humidity in my flat is about 55% all the time - in winter maybe 45% but not less.

 

i really can't say if the fretboard right next to the frets was flawless some years ago (maybe just "ok") but now it is definitely really bad.

 

i just showered with very warm water. the explorer was with me on a chair in the bathroom :blink: . the humidity is about 65-70% there now. i'll let it there another 45 minutes. maybe it humidifies a bit. i read about this tip somewhere else. have to see if this really helps but i doubt it - maybe a little bit.

 

what oil can be advised for ebony fretboards? what for rosewood?

 

i also just read that lemon oil is not very good for oiling/humidifying. it's main purpose is for cleaning. also it will dry out the wood because of its real ingredients (it has nothing to do with the fruit lemon - it only smells so). is this true that it drys out the wood? should i avoid using it anymore?

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i also just read that lemon oil is not very good for oiling/humidifying. it's main purpose is for cleaning. also it will dry out the wood because of its real ingredients (it has nothing to do with the fruit lemon - it only smells so). is this true that it drys out the wood? should i avoid using it anymore?

 

It's true, the so-called "lemon oil" is about 99% Mineral Oil, with a slight amount of lemon juice to give it the scent. Mineral oil, like most oils, repels moisture. As you said, it's used as a cleaning agent, and as a sealer. I suggest you get a proper humidifier for your guitar case. Please do Not constantly oil the fretboard; it Will dry out more and feel like crap.

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Carolina64 is right : lemon oil is mainly a chemical product. It's good for removing dirt but not so good for the wood.

Buy some Ernie Ball Fretboard cleaner. This product is really wonderful. It really nourish the wood.

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Buy some Ernie Ball Fretboard cleaner. This product is really wonderful. It really nourish the wood.

 

Ernie ball homepage says:

Unique blend of orange, jojoba and linseed oils eliminate dirt and grime off your fretboard in one easy swipe! 

 

i will not use it. some days ago i bought linseed oil but then read that it seals the fretboard. i haven't used it and probably never will. it sounds like if it seals the fretboard even more than lemon oil.

 

http://www.ehow.com/info_8793169_mineral-linseed-oil-ebony-fretboard.html

http://www.beafifer.com/boredoctor.htm

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i read again that lemon oil drys out the wood.

 

as mentioned above i oil'ed the fretboard last week twice a day for a couple of days (2-3). i also remember that i oil'ed the fretboard with dunlop lemon oil the last time when i changed the strings (over a 1 years ago). maybe this could even have been the culprit of the result today. can it be that the treatment with lemon oil last year has dried it out this much?

 

now: is there a way to remove it? should i try to rub it of with wet cotton? how to "undo" last weeks treatment? is there a way or is it too late?

 

(btw: i get more and more the impression that companies just want to sell "maintenance guitar care products" without informing the end user about how to use it the right way or saying what it is really used for. they all just want to sell and make money. this sucks. ...sure i should have investigated all my time about reading about this topic before but i'm pretty confident that there are many more users using it the wrong way (in this case lemon oil). also there is a lot of confusion about this topic on the internet i think.)

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Seriously, your board isn't dried out. If it had shrunk as much as it "appears" in your pictures, the frets would have all easily fallen out. The fret slots are nowhere near as wide as the marks on each side of your frets. Besides, wood shrinks more across the grain than with the grain when it dries out. Take a picture of the side of the fretboard. That will show you (and us) that your fretboard did not shrink enough to cause those marks. It has to be from something else....like someone being hasty or careless with a crowning file. You would have to lemon oil your fretboard VERY frequently to cause any damage. Anyway, PLEASE post a picture of the side of the neck/fretboard so we can see the fret slots. Your guitar is several years old, and if it has ever been taken to a shop for service, or it was bought second hand, then the damage was likely already there when you first got it.

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Ernie ball homepage says:

Unique blend of orange, jojoba and linseed oils eliminate dirt and grime off your fretboard in one easy swipe! 

 

i will not use it. some days ago i bought linseed oil but then read that it seals the fretboard. i haven't used it and probably never will. it sounds like if it seals the fretboard even more than lemon oil.

 

http://www.ehow.com/info_8793169_mineral-linseed-oil-ebony-fretboard.html

http://www.beafifer.com/boredoctor.htm

 

I know nothing about chemistry, but the EB Wonder Wipes works perfectly. One of my guitar had a very dry neck and it solved the problem. I cannot explain why but it worked !

I use the EB Wonder Wipes on all my guitars (quite a lot ;) ) and I never had a problem.

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Seriously, your board isn't dried out. If it had shrunk as much as it "appears" in your pictures, the frets would have all easily fallen out. The fret slots are nowhere near as wide as the marks on each side of your frets. Besides, wood shrinks more across the grain than with the grain when it dries out. Take a picture of the side of the fretboard. That will show you (and us) that your fretboard did not shrink enough to cause those marks.

...

 

this sound reliable. see below for the pictures.

 

...

It has to be from something else....like someone being hasty or careless with a crowning file. You would have to lemon oil your fretboard VERY frequently to cause any damage. Anyway, PLEASE post a picture of the side of the neck/fretboard so we can see the fret slots. Your guitar is several years old, and if it has ever been taken to a shop for service, or it was bought second hand, then the damage was likely already there when you first got it.

 

but from what?

i can assure you that the guitar was bought brand new (it was in 1995 i think) in guitar center in the USA. it has never left my flat. it was never played live. only i played it. no modification was done on it. it has never been lend to somebody else.... i only changed the pickups myself about 3 years ago to have EMGs in it.

 

the frets do not stick out off the fretboard.

 

whatelse:

i can tell you that it did not look that bad 1 or 2 years ago.

 

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this sound reliable. see below for the pictures.

 

 

 

but from what?

i can assure you that the guitar was bought brand new (it was in 1995 i think) in guitar center in the USA. it has never left my flat. it was never played live. only i played it. no modification was done on it. it has never been lend to somebody else.... i only changed the pickups myself about 3 years ago to have EMGs in it.

 

the frets do not stick out off the fretboard.

 

whatelse:

i can tell you that it did not look that bad 1 or 2 years ago.

 

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Well, again, I believe your guitar has suffered a bad repair/setup man. Someone has either done a terrible job refretting the neck, or recrowning the frets after a leveling. The crowning file, if used recklessly and without taping off the board, can rub on the wood beside the frets if the frets are too low. And your frets are a little low, due to I can see they are worn completely flat on the treble side of the neck. Also, if it were refretted, pulling the old frets incorrectly can cause massive chipping of the fretboard, and more so if it were already a little too dry! You could use a refret anyway, so have the the frets removed, the board leveled, and a new fret job done and the marks will be mostly if not completely gone, and your axe will play like butter! :) Or, sell it to me for cheap and I'll do it! LOL :D

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Well, again, I believe your guitar has suffered a bad repair/setup man. Someone has either done a terrible job refretting the neck, or recrowning the frets after a leveling. The crowning file, if used recklessly and without taping off the board, can rub on the wood beside the frets if the frets are too low. And your frets are a little low, due to I can see they are worn completely flat on the treble side of the neck. Also, if it were refretted, pulling the old frets incorrectly can cause massive chipping of the fretboard, and more so if it were already a little too dry! You could use a refret anyway, so have the the frets removed, the board leveled, and a new fret job done and the marks will be mostly if not completely gone, and your axe will play like butter! :) Or, sell it to me for cheap and I'll do it! LOL :D

 

LOL i won't sell it.

 

again: no refret; no recrowning; no anything was done -ever. i never gave the guitar out of my hands. it has never seen a repair or maintenance or music store. it only was sold in Guitar Center where my dad once bought it for me. until then it never left my home.

 

all i did was: re-string it once, twice or 3 or 4 times every 2 years (because i haven't played it much and was too lazy to re-string it more often. i just used some of my other guitars).

polishing it once every 4 years. but i wiping it and the strings off with cotton after every session (as i still do on any of my guitars).

changing the pickups 3 years ago and using lemon oil on the fretboard for the first time.

 

the frets itself are only a little "green" here and there because it has not been played for a long time. it is only some grunge that goes away with 0000 steel wool immediately but just a very few wipes. although i haven't used steel wool on this guitar ever before i can tell this from experience with other guitars.

 

since its existence the guitar hasn't been played too often. i bet a young-youtube-guitar-freak would have played it more often only in the first year than i did in all these years i have it.

 

all frets are still 95%-good. there is almost no wear since stock. they are not worn at all.

 

i really begin to have some doubts. maybe i haven't looked at the fretboard in this detail before and haven't seen that gibson should have sold it as a B-stock guitar (my dad has no clue about guitars, maybe they sold this one to him because of that shitty fretboard quality as brand new - none-b-stock).... but anyway i still think that it did not look that bad 1 or 2 years ago.

 

i will try some linseed oil now and re-string it finally. (it still plays, frets are not loose, it just seems to be an optical flaw).

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You are out of your mind crackjunkie! Look at how flat your fret tops are! You have no fret left!!! You say that guitar was never played much? Not by you, but someone played the s%$#t out of it. The pictures you posted clearly show how badly worn your frets are. Oil the fretboard till the end of time if you want to, but that will not fix this issue. the guitar may have been purchased from a Guitar Center, but it had to have been used. Surely someone else on here has eyes and can see how badly worn your frets are? I'm sticking with the likely culprit....being the guitar was used when you got it and it has been subject to a crappy fret dressing at best, and a botched refret at worst. The issue with your guitar is not Gibson's fault. Someone (not you) has played the ever-living-s#!t out of it and traded it in to GC, who then sold it to your poppa.

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I agree with strat-o-steve. I never looked at the images, but it looks like someone coated your board in something. What's the gunk on the fretwire? Anyway, the point of lemon and linseed oil is to seal the wood from air. If you have a healthy, humid, fingerboards, you want to protect it from drying out.

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You are out of your mind crackjunkie! Look at how flat your fret tops are! You have no fret left!!! You say that guitar was never played much? Not by you, but someone played the s%$#t out of it. The pictures you posted clearly show how badly worn your frets are. Oil the fretboard till the end of time if you want to, but that will not fix this issue. the guitar may have been purchased from a Guitar Center, but it had to have been used. Surely someone else on here has eyes and can see how badly worn your frets are? I'm sticking with the likely culprit....being the guitar was used when you got it and it has been subject to a crappy fret dressing at best, and a botched refret at worst. The issue with your guitar is not Gibson's fault. Someone (not you) has played the ever-living-s#!t out of it and traded it in to GC, who then sold it to your poppa.

 

i must admit that the frets look like this on the pictures but it is really giving you the wrong impression. the frets are dull and there is some grunge on it (because i haven't played it for months/years). also the flashlight of my camera exaggerates it so they really look worn. i want to use 0000 steel wool gently on it later today. then i take some new pictures.

 

btw i do not want to blame anyone for it.

 

i'm 101% sure that it was brand new back then.

 

yeah it has been some time....

one very last thing that comes to my mind - it could have been maybe that i had put WD-40 on cotton and polished the frets just a little bit, 3 years ago. a very, very thin layer of it could have covered the fretboard nearby the frets. over time it could have dissolved the wood. how does this sound? what do you think? can this be? is WD-40 that aggressive over time for the wood that it dissolves it? [unsure]

 

another thing that i realized. there are some very few tiny spots on the entire fretboard where the wood is likely dissolved - like it is nearby the frets.

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after using steel wool 0000 and using linseed oil

 

some of the images with the camera's flashlight are making the frets look dull and old

 

i found some bad images of the fretboard 3-4 years ago. it seems the fretboard next to the frets were in the same condition back then.

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Well, after cleaning it up, it looks better. How's it feel? if it feels and plays well, then you're good.

 

Looking at the pics, I wonder if the grain of the wood where your fingers can touch has smoothed out over time with a conglomeration of finger oil, dirt, etc... on either side of the fret, there would be none since you can't really touch that part with your fingers while playing. Also, guitars are buffed/polished with the grain of the wood, so it's possible that was a buffing wheel that gave you that look.

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A couple of thoughts:

 

I totally agree that something mechanical happened to your fretboard; it really does look like the frets were replaced/dressed by an unskilled person, damaging the board in the process.

 

Just because it was bought "new" at Guitar Center doesn't mean it was new. That company is notorious for selling slightly used or damaged guitars to unsuspecting customers. It could have easily been the original condition that now looks worse because of drying. Car dealers do this as well when they have slightly damaged new cars on the lot; they repaint the areas and still sell them as new cars.

 

Are you sure this is Ebony? It looks to me like the fretboard was dyed/stained on top to look darker, a common practice to make Rosewood look like Ebony (I have an Ibanez with "Ebonized" fingerboard). If that's the case, the stain goes into the damaged area, which makes me believe it was done after the botched fret job, perhaps to cover up other damage.

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