Staining a fretboard?

Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by mbkri, Sep 15, 2016.

  1. mbkri

    mbkri Country Gent

    Sep 22, 2012
    Chicago
    my son wants to stain the rosewood fretboard on his black 5120 to give it a darker, ebony look. Im worried that adding any kind of liquid dye might raise the grain and, more significantly, might cause frets to loosen or raise.
    Anyone have experience or advice on staining a fretboard?
     
  2. Sarah93003

    Sarah93003 Friend of Fred

    I know it is a common practice. I would go to a place that caters to the woodworking crowd and see what they have and recommend. I think the water based ones would be fine. As a professional however.
     
  3. Tinman46

    Tinman46 Country Gent

    Dec 19, 2011
    Nope
    Stewmac sells a water based black stain made specially for fretboards. I've never used it but it may be worth a look.
     
  4. DW_Dillinger

    DW_Dillinger Country Gent

    Ive used the stew mac india ink and it works well. I wouldnt worry about the frets but the binding would concern me (ive never used it on a bound fretboard).
     
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  5. Sarah93003

    Sarah93003 Friend of Fred

    Excellent point! I would mask the binding as well as the thumbnail markers. I think they are porous enough to take a stain.
     
    DHart likes this.
  6. mbkri

    mbkri Country Gent

    Sep 22, 2012
    Chicago
    Yes, excellent point. We can use rubber masking fluid on the thumbnail markers to protect them. I shall look at the Stewmac stuff. Thanks everyone
     
  7. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    London...ish
    Black leather dye.
     
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  8. mbkri

    mbkri Country Gent

    Sep 22, 2012
    Chicago
    Really? Im intrigued. Is there an advantage to a wood dye? Have you done this Marlin?
     
  9. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Gretschified

    Age:
    55
    Oct 18, 2015
    Germany
    I am a little timid.
    I do fear the spillover effect of such (in my eye unnecessary) modifications.
    I would not want to spoil the binding, the fretboard inlay or make the fretboard sticky.

    I would not recommend to mess with it.
     
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  10. R.S.Fraser Sr.

    R.S.Fraser Sr. Electromatic

    94
    May 10, 2010
    canada
    I would have suggested the same - most leather dyes are aniline with alcohol.
    Alcohol will not raise the grain.

    But your fret markers would still be in danger.
     
    DHart likes this.
  11. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    London...ish
    My white corvette has a baby poo brown fretboard.

    Wire wool the fretboard, and clean. Mask the nut, neck markers, (and, if you like ....fretmarkers).

    Apply a coat of black leather dye. Let it dry. Wire wool, and repeat.

    Do this at least 4 times.

    Your finger tips will dye black for a week or so, but it will settle, and look as cook as hell. :)
     
  12. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    London...ish
    My white corvette has a baby poo brown fretboard.

    Wire wool the fretboard, and clean. Mask the nut, neck markers, (and, if you like ....fretmarkers).

    Apply a coat of black leather dye. Let it dry. Wire wool, and repeat.

    Do this at least 4 times.

    Your finger tips will dye black for a week or so, but it will settle, and look as cook as hell. :)
     
  13. Bill

    Bill Country Gent

    Oct 16, 2012
    Cambs, UK
    I've done several and come up with a way that doesn't end up with dye on your fingers after. Clean the board, really thoroughly. Thinners, lighter fuel etc. Till the cloths/paper towels aren't coloured from the board. Dye it. Any spirit-based dye, they're all similar - pigment in a suspension, there's no magic. I've used common furniture dyes, leather dyes, and one from a guitar parts place. It doesn't take long to dry, an hour should be fine if it's not laid on overly thick.

    Then a very thin wipe with linseed oil (Danish would also do). Wipe it on thinly, you don't need or want a ton of it on there. Leave it a day. That'll be fine if it was thin enough. That thin oil coat seals in the dye and stops pigment smearing on fingers, and it only takes a very thin wipe to do it.
    But it leaves the board feeling a bit waxy. So then a coat of lemon oil. Again not tons but enough to wet it. Leave that to sit for a couple of hours and buff it lightly with a cloth. It brings back the normal feel to the board. May need doing a couple of times if the linseed was a bit heavy, as I found.

    I don't worry much about dye getting on plastic markers, but I try to brush around them, real pearl needs care though. You can wipe it off plastic ones mostly, last resort is cloth very slightly dampened in spirit or thinners. With dots you can 'spin' a finger wrapped in cloth.

    It sometimes rides up the fret a bit but scrapes off easily with a thumbnail pulled along it, or cloth with the nail making it fit tight to the fret.

    I mix up dyes to get colours, again it doesn't matter who made it or sold it for what purpose, so long as they're spirit-based.

    But with rosewood I don't go for full black because the wood isn't as tight-grained as real ebony and doesn't look right to me (I did it once), and it needs a lot of dye or brown shows through in the light. Mostly I even up streaky boards or darken pale ones, so I mix up black & browns.
    Here's a couple but no 'before' shots, top two were streaky & uneven, dark at one side kind of thing. The Gretsch was just a bit light. Basically what I like is a natural look-

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  14. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    London...ish
    The master has spoken. Pay homage..!!!!!
     
  15. Bill

    Bill Country Gent

    Oct 16, 2012
    Cambs, UK
    LOL! I've just been through the discovery trail... I like a low-budget guitar but they often have such dodgy fretboard wood..
     
  16. mbkri

    mbkri Country Gent

    Sep 22, 2012
    Chicago
    Bill this is fantastic. Thanks for sharing so much knowledge and ecperence! And cutting the brown with some black is a great idea. I do that in my inkwork as an artist. Brings a warmth and livliness to the darkness
     
    Bill likes this.
  17. MotorCentaur

    MotorCentaur Synchromatic

    557
    May 11, 2016
    Seattle
    I circumvent entirely by only buying guitars with ebony fretboards.
    Good luck though, sounds like Bill has the sage advice of first hand experience.
     
    mbkri likes this.
  18. Bill

    Bill Country Gent

    Oct 16, 2012
    Cambs, UK
    Hope it helps Bri! It's hard work to me brushing round the inlays and evening up streaky boards but as you're an artist you'll be a dab hand at that... (should show us some works I reckon!)
    One last thing, wipe the frets after doing the linseed. First time round I didn't , they scraped clean no problem though.
     
  19. mbkri

    mbkri Country Gent

    Sep 22, 2012
    Chicago
    image.jpeg
    heres one i did This summer up in Wisconsin using black and sepua mixed for some of the letter rails
     
  20. Bill

    Bill Country Gent

    Oct 16, 2012
    Cambs, UK
    Nice work... :)
     
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