"Hard" oil finish on fretless FINGERBOARD?!?


Master Member
I have been reading through a new book, "Bass Player presents The Fretless Bass." In a section on maintenance, luthier Rick Turner (Alembic, etc.) advocates using either Formby's Tung Oil finish or Birchwood Casey's Tru-Oil Sealer as a finish for fretless bass fingerboards - it's sort of an intermediate step between the plain old bore oil/beeswax-type moisture protection and the harder plasticized, superglue/epoxy/polyurethane finishes. Any experiences with this? I'm quite happy with the tone of D'Addario (flattish) Chromes strings on waxed pau ferro & ebony boards, but who wouldn't like a longer lasting fretboard....

In this book Turner has one decidedly wacky idea about setting your intonation depending on whether you play sharp or flat, rather than setting the intonation RIGHT and learning to PLAY the bugger in tune, so he may have just been in orbit that week.... :icon_scratch:
I used TruOil on a fretless Purpleheart board. I had that Warrior bass for about eight years, and needed to oil it only once after I originally received it

the tone changed ever so slightly with the oil finish - but it wasn't anything you'd be able to pick out in a live or recorded mix ... but it did keep the fingerboard purty

would I used it on a bass where I questioned the owner's ability to keep up the application on a regular basis? no, not unless the person was shooting for the "Roy Buchanan's Telecaster" look on a fretless

all the best,

This is the only reason I moved to Elixer strings, I was not a fan of the maintenance on the finger board.  Since I moved to them I have not had to do any work on it.  I agree with CB, Tru Oil just got killed fast by the strings in my experience, and Formby's sounds like less protection.  Perhaps I am just lazy.  Then again, it is a fretless, and I was not worried about bright sounding strings...

UTSC said:
One viable alternative is to epoxy the fretboard.

I have been considering this for a few of my fretless boards.  I've not found a lot of good, solid instruction on how to go about it, so if anyone has a link they can share I would be interested.  I had seen where people use bartop epoxy, which I think is the thick goo you can buy at A.C. Moore and similar craft suppliers.  I do have a fretless MIM neck to practice on, so I thought I'd do that before subjecting any of my precious Warmoth necks to that treatment...

I have a custom Conklin fretless that just has a hard coat of satin polyurethane sprayed over the board and it is tough as can be.  I use DR Nickles on it and don't see any scratches.  Otherwise I use Elixers on my othre fretless basses, thanks to the suggestion of someone here...

Also, I've been thinking about trying Reranch satin clear nitro on a fretboard, but I don't know how long that would hold up.  At least it would be super easy to fix later...

ognolman said:
One viable alternative is to epoxy the fretboard.

I think this is the bartop epoxy I was talking about, but it only comes in gallon sizes, so it's pretty expensive:


$119 for one gallon.  I doubt I would need 1 cup, for a neck, much less a gallon.

This may sound a little bit ghetto, but surf shops sell surfboard repair kits, a high very high quality two part epoxy that you mix and let cure, you could probably use some of that to do you neck. Its relatively cheap and extremely durable. like 50 bucks or so and its probably just the right amount to do a neck. I'd just set up a low mold to keep it from going over the edges, and let it cure, then just carefully sand and polish.
I used tung oil on my rosewood Fretless ( 20 yr old Jazz bass) . I kept applying coats until it wouldn't take any more , letting them dry and buffing with extra fine steel wool each round ( take the neck off or you'll have fuzz on the pickups)  .  It's held up very well for 10 years now. Even with roundwounds.  I finished an Ash speaker cab that way and it's going strong after 20.