how to dye a guitar fretboard

How To Dye A Guitar Fretboard: Dying Guitar Fingerboards

When it comes to purchasing guitars, it also comes with maintenance, upgrades, and customization. Sometimes, you have to upgrade your pickups, replace your strings, adjust your truss rod, repaint your guitar, or even dye your guitar fretboard.

For a guitar player to know how to dye a guitar fretboard is a great asset. It allows you to inexpensively improve the aesthetics of your guitar if you can do it on your own, and you can clean your fretboard, as dirty fretboards can hamper your technique in your tone.

When it comes to guitar fretboards, three kinds of wood are widely used for making it; Maple, Rosewood, and Ebony.

A maple fretboard is a very dense and strong wood with smaller pores and tighter grain. It usually has a glossy or satin finish that can feel a little too sticky or unnatural for some players. You do not need to have a regular conditioning schedule for your maple fretboard.

Maple fretboards can have a range of almost white color to a more yellowish shade with a golden hue. Unfortunately, maple does take on a dirty appearance due to its lighter color, finger oils, and grime working its way into the wood.

The rosewood fretboards have an oily nature, which also means that it does not require a finish. Many guitar players prefer this fretboard due to its natural feel. Its drawback is that because of usually being unfinished, it will occasionally need to be conditioned. Others use guitar-specific lemon oil to keep their fingerboards in good condition.

For the rosewood fretboard’s aesthetics, it is not quite as dark as ebony, as it usually takes on a rich, dark chocolate shade; however, lighter shades of brown are also common.

Because of the very tight grains and natural oils in an ebony fretboard, it does not require a finish, and this gives a very slick, fast-playing quality that many guitar players like. It would be best if you conditioned an ebony fretboard for every six months and should be careful not to oversaturate the wood with oil as this can actually damage it.

For its aesthetics, ebony fretboards can range from a lighter brown with dark streaks to deep black, often with yellowish, brown, or reddish lines.

To define what is a dye, it is a substance used to impart color to textiles, paper, leather, and other materials such that the coloring is not readily altered by washing, heat, light, or other factors to which the material is likely to be exposed.

So, when you are going to dye any of the wood mentioned that your guitar fretboard uses, you should expect that the result of the color will be darker than before.

How do you stain a fingerboard on a guitar?

To stain the fingerboard on your guitar, you need to remove it first from the guitar.

Use 200 grit sandpaper and lightly sand the fingerboard. You should avoid damaging your frets or making your fingerboard uneven. Light sanding will cause the wood to be more receptive to the stain. 

Once you are done sanding, wipe down the neck using a solvent that effectively thins and blends well into the oil-based stain. Wear latex gloves in order to prevent leaving any fingerprints on the surfaces you want to stain.

After wiping the solvent, you should tape up the neck as preparation for staining. You can use a 2-inch painter’s tape to mask the areas of the neck that you do not want to stain. It is recommended that you cover the majority of the neck to prevent stray dye marks from appearing on the neck.

Use any wood stain products to stain your fingerboard and use a foam brush in applying it to the fingerboard. Lay the stain on the fretboard, the nut, and the dots, and leave it alone for at least ten minutes. The longer you leave the stain on the fretboard, the darker the finish will be.

After leaving the stain on the fretboard for a substantial amount of time for it to soak, use a pair of latex gloves and a piece of cloth to rub off all the remaining dye. After rubbing off, put the neck down for a few minutes, and clean it again with another piece of cloth. You repeat this step until the cloth comes up clean.

If you are not satisfied with the darkness of your fingerboard yet, you can apply more stain and wait for another ten to thirty minutes, then wipe it off again. Once it is dry, you can now remove the tape. You will notice that there will be some stain that has a bleed in the tape, you can easily clean it using the solvent and some towel.

Let the fingerboard dry for about eight hours, or even for the whole night would be better. If you want to clean some dots or nuts, wait until this drying phase is finished. This will be the last step on how to stain a fingerboard on a guitar, and your fingerboard now has a nice deep dark finish.

Can you dye a rosewood fretboard?

Yes, you can dye a rosewood fretboard. You can follow the aforementioned method, but it is highly recommended to use a dye specifically for rosewood to have a darker finish as it already has a dark finish.

All in all, knowing how to dye a guitar fretboard is a great skill that guitar players must learn if they want to customize their guitars on their own, as it will be costly for them to let other people do this job.

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