Ebony is often the fingerboard material preferred
on better quality instruments. An ebony fingerboard has several advantages
over other materials: It is often chosen for its resistance to wear; it
presents inlays well; and the hardness of the wood contributes to the tone
produced by the instrument.
Caring For An Ebony Fingerboard
April 1, 2000
Ebony also has several disadvantages when
compared to a more resilient material like rosewood. Not only is
ebony more brittle, but it is also less stable and therefore it
tends to both shrink and crack more than other fingerboard materials.
This shrinking is the cause of protruding fret ends and, as is often the
case, dislodged frets or cracks.
Coupled with the proper humidification of
your instrument in the cold, dry months, routine care of an ebony fingerboard
is your best guard against these problems. Our procedure for fingerboard
care also serves to clean the fret board and frets.
After removing the strings, wipe a liberal
amount of lemon oil on the fingerboard and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
The lemon oil will loosen any dirt or grime on the fret board. Next take
a 3" X 4" piece of 3M gray scratchy pad and fold it in half. The
green pads are too coarse and the white pads are a bit fine for this job.
Vigorously rub the fingerboard and frets perpendicular to the length of
the fret board (parallel to the frets).
We now apply a moderate amount of Gibson
fret board conditioner to the fingerboard. Most light machine oils will
work well for this purpose too. Reapply a second coat of oil if it
soaks into the ebony immediately. If there is still a bit on the surface
after a minute or so, we are ready to finish up. With a rag folded into
a ball, vigorously rub parallel to the length of the fret board in order
to remove the excess oil and polish the ebony to a luster.
If your fingerboard always seems to be dry,
you may want to apply a bit of conditioner once a month or so, even if
you decide to skip the cleaning portion of the process.