Hi folks! Newbie member/builder here.  I have walnut.  100+ board feet, kiln-dried, waiting patiently in the frigid shop.  Last woodworking activity was in 7th grade (50+ years ago).  Am a bit rusty.

Am looking for opinions on finishing necks.  Built a grand total of one.  It's walnut.  W/ walnut fretboard.  Yes, I know, "walnut is too soft for a fretboard."  Too bad.  Until one of these sugar maples falls over, everything's going to be walnut.  I'm intending on finishing the back of the neck with shellac (because we've gone to the Dark Side with antique Singer sewing machines and they need to be refinished with shellac, so...). That's a whole 'nother discussion.

What recommendations do folks have for the fretboard finish?  Of course, because I have no friggin' idea what I'm doing, I fretted the thing before finishing it.  Duh.  I'm pretty sure that wasn't covered that in my 7th grade shop class.  Anyway, I see all manner of ideas out there--tung oil, lemon oil, nitrocellulose explosive spray, varnish, everything but shellac.  I don't care if the fretboard gets grungy or stained.  This ain't an L-5 I'm building here.  But I suspect it could stand just a bit of protection nonetheless.

So, fill or no fill?  Oil or no oil?  Varnish?  Llama spit?  Advice welcome.


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I give my fretboards a very light brushing of Watco Danish oil (natural) with a rag, just to remove that unfinished look. Haven’t had complaints from any customers. I’m sure tung oil, lemon oil will do just as well. 

Thx for the input!  I've been leaning toward oiling it.  Is the Danish oil pretty much tung oil, or something else?  Is it tinted?  This walnut is so dark to start with I'm wanting to avoid anything with stain in it.

Danish oil is made with tung oil or polymerized linseed oil. I started using the natural recently which has no tint. I then don’t have to tape up the neck or fret board to avoid getting  any tinted oil where I don’t want it. After sanding and tack rag wipe down, I wet sand with 400/800/1000 and the neck is smooth as glass.

That sounds exactly what I'm looking for, thanks a million!  Started looking around for suppliers, with luck I can find some in quantities smaller than a gallon.  Not easy finding certain items around here...we're not in the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from here.

Oil finish on all my builds due to allergies
The more coats the harder your surface
If I'm working with a porous wood and need some filler I do a 120 grit sand and put on a couple coats of oil, then do my finish sanding and re-oil
It's a labor of love and a love for the labor

I did the filler bit with the shellac and even added some sawdust.  I think it would work the same way as with the oil.  I rushed it, I'm pretty sure, because I didn't get everything filled all the way..."Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can.  It's seldom found in women, and never in a man." --Mom.  Anyway, at the moment I'm kind of enamored with the shellac and the impatient French Polish job.  Nice thing with the shellac, though, is that I can sand her back down and push more dust into the cells.  Thanks for the input!

I've got a spray lubricant that is mostly lanolin, i wiped it over the inside of a box just to see what it looked like and it brought out the grain nicely.  think i'm going for a more aged look so not sure if i'll do the outside.

Interesting. My wife ran a yarn/spinning/weaving shop, and her response to me when I mentioned this is that lanolin will actually eventually turn rancid unless it has some sort of stabilizers in it.  But it's really more of a wax-like substance, so it should make wood look really good.  But I've smelled rancid sheep fat...makes me rethink its use on my guitars!

I'm now toying with the idea of sewing machine oil on the fretboard. The stuff is also known as "white" mineral oil, and is apparently highly refined enough that it comprises the lighest bunch of petroleum distillates in the oil category.  I've oiled older (read: wrecked) yard sale guitars with straight mineral oil, never seen any downside.

i hadn't heard of that, it does have a damp earthy smell to it out of the can

This stuff works well and is priced right.


You're referring to the oil or the lanolin?  I'm guessing the oil....

I'm going to use boiled linseed oil on my next one, will cut it about 50 percent with mineral spirits. Expect to rub in about three layers. Have done spray poly in the past


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