Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

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adamrobertt
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Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by adamrobertt » Tue Jun 23, 2020 6:27 pm

I have a 60th Anniversary Jazzmaster in Fiesta Red. It looks great, and the pau ferro board is actually really nice - beautiful grain. I oiled it with StewMac Fretboard Conditioning Oil, and it darkened a little, but I'm wondering if there's a way to darken it just a little more. I don't really want to dye it, because it has white binding (seems like a recipe for disaster). Does anyone know a non stain based way to darken unfinished wood? Would mineral spirits or something like that darken the wood?

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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by Deed_Poll » Tue Jun 23, 2020 7:22 pm

I would look at using something like potassium permanganate which will chemically oxidise the wood? You would have to read into it and make sure it is suitable for the application of a fretboard without a finish. My main concern colouring a fretboard would be having a stain rub off on your fingers over time, leaving the surface patchy.
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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by jvin248 » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:23 pm

.

There is a process called 'ebonizing' wood using vinegar and rusty nails, but it doesn't go piano black like most people want. Some use India ink or Fiebings Leather dye but those don't go as dark as Minwax 'true black' stain, which is darker than their 'ebony' stain. I've tried all the above and the True Black has been the best performer.

Carefully put it on (after using something to remove the oil you just added), in theory the binding should be ok but best to go slow. Go slow around the fret dots too. Instead of a rag, try a Q-tip to apply with more control. Always test in a small area where it doesn't matter first.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke3LwDApcdo

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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by MatthewK » Wed Jun 24, 2020 5:34 am

I don’t think he wants it black, just more like rosewood. Steel wool in vinegar makes a good darkening solution but the colour has some grey in it.

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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by Larry Mal » Wed Jun 24, 2020 5:59 am

jvin248 wrote:
Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:23 pm
.

There is a process called 'ebonizing' wood using vinegar and rusty nails, but it doesn't go piano black like most people want. Some use India ink or Fiebings Leather dye but those don't go as dark as Minwax 'true black' stain, which is darker than their 'ebony' stain. I've tried all the above and the True Black has been the best performer.

Carefully put it on (after using something to remove the oil you just added), in theory the binding should be ok but best to go slow. Go slow around the fret dots too. Instead of a rag, try a Q-tip to apply with more control. Always test in a small area where it doesn't matter first.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke3LwDApcdo

.
Good advice, thanks. I wonder if it would work on my baked maple neck on my Firebird.

I have pau ferro on my fretless Jazz bass, by the way, I don't find it especially light:

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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by ChrisDesign » Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:26 pm

Enjoy your wood for what it is. Pau Ferro is, in my opinion, as attractive as rosewood. You should, however, look to get the best out of the wood.

I wonder what’s in StewMac Fretboard Conditioning Oil? Dan Erwin says - in his book on electric guitar maintenance - that he uses raw linseed oil. I use that and - unlike Lemon Oil or other fretboard conditioners you can buy - it deepens the wood’s colour and makes the grain look beautiful. It also adds a VERY slight lacquer/ smoothness to the fretboard. This is more playable in my opinion. Remember, Rickenbacher fully lacquer their fretboards, as does/ did Tony Iommi who invited metal!

Try raw linseed oil out. It’s cheap, won’t hurt your neck, and you can always do other things in the future if it doesn’t work enough for you.
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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by adamrobertt » Sat Jun 27, 2020 7:33 am

So I agree - my piece of Pau Ferro actually has some really beautiful grain, and I like the way it feels - reminds me of ebony. My only real issue with it was that it was very light tan/orange, and looked kinda weird with the block and bound neck.

I tried a few things - StewMac Fretboard Conditioning Oil, Howard's Feed n' Wax, and finally Tung Oil.

The StewMac oil is just linseed oil with some drying agents added. It smells really weird and the smell takes forever to go away. I used it on a different guitar like a month ago and it still faintly stinks, kinda fishy. Not a huge fan.

Howard's Feed n' Wax actually worked pretty well and looked really nice, but didn't get quite as dark as I wanted. Smelled good though!

Finally, I used Tung Oil mixed 50/50 with mineral spirits (otherwise the Tung oil basically will never harden) and got much better results. The board still looks like Pau Ferro (obviously), but is a few shades darker than it was at first. Looks almost like a lighter rosewood board than the weird orangey tan color that it originally was. I'll probably leave it this way.

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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by Larry Mal » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:22 am

ChrisDesign wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:26 pm
Enjoy your wood for what it is. Pau Ferro is, in my opinion, as attractive as rosewood. You should, however, look to get the best out of the wood.

I wonder what’s in StewMac Fretboard Conditioning Oil? Dan Erwin says - in his book on electric guitar maintenance - that he uses raw linseed oil. I use that and - unlike Lemon Oil or other fretboard conditioners you can buy - it deepens the wood’s colour and makes the grain look beautiful. It also adds a VERY slight lacquer/ smoothness to the fretboard. This is more playable in my opinion. Remember, Rickenbacher fully lacquer their fretboards, as does/ did Tony Iommi who invited metal!

Try raw linseed oil out. It’s cheap, won’t hurt your neck, and you can always do other things in the future if it doesn’t work enough for you.
Good advice. I use linseed oil on my cutting boards and on truss rod covers for my acoustics, but maybe I should put a coat on my Pau ferro fretless fingerboard also. Might help it last a little longer- I don't care about the color, but having a slight lacquer there could be useful.
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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by mortron » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:34 am

I use F-One oil. All natural, no lemon oils. I once tried lemon oil and it reacted a bit weird, so someone suggested I try the F-One. I'm sure others work as well, but found it applies great, doesn't stay greasy, and gave a richness back to my boards I hadn't seen in some time. Now I am always keen to restring guitars so I can apply some and clean it up.

FWIW If I had the choice it would be rosewood, but my Pao Ferro board P-Bass looks really great when oiled. Not as dark, but it's got a character all of its own. I can live with it just fine.

I would not recommend the vinegar and nails trick, only because I have had very inconsistent results with it, and there are some tricks that need to happen to get perfect results and never considered doing it in situ on a fretted board. One article had a wash (think it was another acid or base - I didn't take Chem) that helped bring the vinegar mix into the wood and turn black proper... It's a reaction. I don't think the frets would like the vinegar either. Not saying it's impossible, just that I would feel more comfortable adding oil instead.

Maybe putting a dye into the oil could get best of both worlds? If you come up with one, you could have yourself a product too haha.

In regards to Linseed Oil, that may be a good way to go... Dan Erlewine has forgotten more than any of us will ever know. I also believe it hardens as it dries, adding more protection as a result than say, Lemon Oil.

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Re: Darkening Pau Ferro Fretboard

Post by PorkyPrimeCut » Sat Jun 27, 2020 2:13 pm

I used leather dye on a plain rosewood board that gave great results ( but it ages neck binding if you have any kind of cracks or scratches that the dye will sink into).
There was no issue with it coming off on my fingers but, over time, the busiest areas of the fretboard have become noticeably lighter. Not that much & it actually looks great. The dye was never strong enough to "wash out" the grain so I've always been able to see the figuring in the wood.

If I could do it again I'd actually try ebonising. I've always wanted to give that a go.
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