The Care & Feeding of Froggy Bottom Guitars
Part III: Cleaning and Protecting Fingerboards and Bridges
Given an intact finish, the outside of the guitar is reasonably well protected and, with a sound hole cover humidifier in dry environments, will stabilize the interior raw surfaces of the instruments.
But, humidifying the inside of the body of the guitar, however, isn’t going to help protect the fingerboard or the bridge, which are unfinished.
Ebony is very slow to dry and to absorb humidity. But, in extremely dry conditions (and in the absence of a modicum of care), fingerboards and bridges have been known to crack. A light rubbing with a light, natural oil has long been recommended for the maintenance of fingerboards and bridges, but care should be taken to choose a product without waxes, synthetics, silicones, or solvents.
“There are any number of light, natural oils that you could use: olive oil, peanut oil, canola or walnut oil… A small amount is applied with a soft cloth, allowed to sit for a few minutes and then all excess is rubbed off.
“At home, I apply a little with my fingertip, let it sit for a few minutes and then rub it off with paper towels. I’ll tend to the fingerboard and bridge every time I change strings. But, as you may have guessed, I don’t change them that often. I think a few times each year is enough. /p>
“If you find you want to polish up the board, you can use the finest Scotch Brite pad or 0000 steel wool before applying a light coat of a natural oil. (Be sure to blow off the steel wool fibers completely before applying anything.)
“You want a light, organic oil with no silicone, no abrasives, no wax and no acids.”
A routine, light oiling will help stabilize these raw wood components on the outside of the instrument against changing environments, and can make the guitar play nicely, and may help prevent oxidation of the frets themselves.
Cleaning and Caring For A Frog
A soft, lightly dampened cotton cloth (think old, clean t-shirt) can be used to clean the finished body and neck of a guitar. If you have a really grimy guitar that needs more attention, you may use 3M™ Imperial™ Hand Glaze (3M Part #05990). It is essential that this is done with a very soft cotton cloth and that every bit of the residue of the product is removed with a second clean soft cloth.
Over time, the finishes on all guitars are going to ‘check’ – from normal use and/or temperature changes small cracks will appear, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the specific instrument, how its been cared for and its finish.
On a micro level, these checks break the outer seal the finish provides for the guitar. Introducing water into those checks is not going to do the wood or finish of your guitar any good. Similarly overzealous polishing with a compound can compromise and complicate the instrument’s longevity.
Remember that, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Easy does it with the polishing and water. A little common sense and respect for the expertise and care taken in creating the instrument will maximize its potential. [NOTE: http://3mcollision.com/products/buffing-and-polishing/glazes/3m-imperial-hand-glaze-05990.html “Imperial Hand Glaze is recommended for use by hand to increase surface gloss and to clean up spatter or residue after machine polishing all types of refinish or factory applied automotive paints. Warning: To minimize the possibility of staining, do not apply in direct sunlight or onto a hot surface.”]