I was going to re-string my Takamine classical guitar yesterday. I removed the strings, and was about to put new ones on, when I realized how disgusting the heck of my guitar is. There's grime in between where the strings would be. I'm assuming this is the residue of sweat from my fingers, and it's pretty nasty. I'm not putting the new strings on until this thing is clean.
I don't know how to go about doing this, though. I trust TL more than I do a random YouTube video or guide on the internet. I don't want to damage my baby (though I guess I haven't treated her very nicely), and I want her clean. If there is a household cleaner I could use on it, that would be awesome. I'm not a wealthy person. Is there a direction I should clean it (with the grain, against, does this even matter)? Should I use a rag, screen-cleaning cloth, or what?
You get the idea. Thanks in advance!
"I'm gonna keep making drones cause I'm a baller, and ballers make drones." -Snute
Toothbrush with soft hairs with some medicinal alcohol. Or a cloth, or cotton balls with alcohol. Depends how far you wanna go, I've seen some interesting methods like:
"If the fingerboard appears dry, apply boiled linseed oil and wipe dry with new cheese cloth. Boiled linseed oil also will soften grime on the fingerboard for easier removal. Oiling the fingerboard about once a year will prevent cracking from dryness. Otherwise, rub down with clean, dry cheese cloth. (No polish is necessary.) Steel wool is an abrasive. OOOO steel wool is not used on the frets. It will dull the fingerboard and scratch the frets. If steel wool is necessary, mask off the fingerboard, steel wool the frets, and finish with a metal polish. Be sure to remove all polish residue. Frets should shine like chrome with no dents or scratches. Once you've played on highly polished frets, there's no turning back."
"There are so many methods and products in use that much of it comes down to personal preference. However, you must still choose the appropriate method for a given instrument. I will take a different approach with, say, a student guitar that has been neglected and is very dirty (perhaps with corroded frets even) than with a fine antique or new instrument that has only light accumulation. I would say the more aggressive products would include toothbrushes, toothpaste, steel wool (#0000 only to polish frets!) and spirits including alcohol and turpentine. Gentler methods would include a cloth or towel, good 'ol spit (depending on what you've eaten! ), distilled water and oils including lemon oil and olive oil. Some people like to use the super-minty-fresh toothpastes and oils but I don't like them. I like the way the guitar smells the way it is so I try my best NOT to disrupt the lovely aromas. Furthermore, I feel that unless you're doing some serious cleaning on a very dirty fingerboard, toothbrushes and toothpaste are better off left in your mouth. My opinion, of course. If and when I use a paste/brush combo - which is hardly ever, I use super-fine grit natural or organic unflavored paste and a soft or very soft bristle. This makes it easier to control the abrasion level, makes it easy to clean up and doesn't introduce any strange chemicals or smells into or onto the instrument. I tend to tape off the ends of the fingerboards with finer instruments or at the client's request as even the finest-grit toothpaste can scratch a finish.
For a time I used a mixture dubbed 'Leo's Special Sauce' that was passed on from the venerable repairman and luthier Leo Posch in KS. I haven't used it in some time though since I feel it is a bit too aggressive for everyday use. IIRC, it is two parts olive or lemon oil, one part filtered fresh-squeezed lemon juice and one part turpentine. Adjust to taste. I've been using the same bottle of Gibson Fretboard Conditioner (LC-965) for several years now. Leo's Special Sauce is great but only when you get the mixture just right. You have just enough evaporation action going with the turpentine which is something that I miss sometimes with pure oils. I think the Gibson formula has some kind of spirit in it due to its smell but I could be wrong. In any case the level is very low since the Gibson oil doesn't seem to evaporate much at all. As always I go easy with the oils and make sure not to over-saturate the wood. Many overzealous first-timers and eager DIY's drown their fingerboard and then wonder why it gets dirty so fast.
My friends at Sadowsky Guitars swear by Windex for all their fingerboard cleaning duties. I've always felt like it leaves behind some sort of residue since it always feels sticky after applying it. Anyway, in closing I'd like to post the order that I dress the fingerboard. The order in which I do these things has changed over the years and has been a result of experimentation and personal observations. This is the procedure that I follow during about 90% of the setups/dressings that I do.
1. Dampen a cloth with distilled water or tap water - rough side out. 2. Get it under your nail and gently run it in front of and behind each fret, making sure to re-position the towel when it gets loaded with gunk. This is usually enough to lift most crud. if it's stubborn, use a soft bristle toothbrush (sans paste). 3. Wipe down/scrub the area between the frets. 4. Give it another good wipe with a dry cloth - if it gets dirty, keep cleaning. 5. If needed or requested, I perform the fret polishing at this stage. Tape up the fingerboard (and pickup poles if equipped) to protect the wood and finish or use a fingerboard guard to save time and polish using #0000 grade steel wool. If using tape I prefer low-tack tape as it lessens the chance of finish damage at the vulnerable fingerboard edge area and doesn't dehydrate the wood - which oddly enough, seems to occur with some high-strength tapes. 6. Using a *dry* brush, lightly scrub the frets once more to remove any steel wool shavings. 7. Give it another wipe with a dry cloth - again, if it's dirty, keep cleaning. 8. Apply fingerboard oil or conditioner of choice - making sure to add a little at a time to control saturation. 9. After sufficient absorption time, wipe away any excess oil. 10. And then yet another wipe with a clean dry cloth. 11. String up and go!
Depending on the client and the instrument, I may modify the order but this is usually how I do it. I now oil the board only after I polish the frets because I noticed the tendency of the fine steel hairs to become trapped in the residual oils and only made my job harder. Once you finely polish your frets be prepared to do it often if you wish to keep the look. Oxidation seems to occur more rapidly with finely-polished frets. I am too busy playing my guitar to polish them every time I re-string it but I try to do it at least once every six months or just when I notice it needs it and I have the time. Wow..this suddenly turned into a really long post! Sorry! "
Im not a n00b, I just play like one.
King K. Rool Canada. June 29 2011 05:52. Posts 4055