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Home : Trade Secrets Archive : Issue 46, For ebony streaks, use black fingerboard stain
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Photo: streaked ebony
A dark and dirty secret!

Did you think ebony
was black?

Me too. But like any other wood, ebony has grain streaks. If you want the dark consistent black you associate with the word ebony, you’ll need to add fingerboard stain. Read on...

Erick Coleman signature Erick Coleman, October 18, 2007
Photo: Erick Coleman
This is a nicely made ebony fingerboard, but it’s streaky. It needs some Grecian Formula: break out the little bottle of black fingerboard stain that Gibson, PRS, and other builders use to get that deep ebony look.

Photo: sanding the fingerboard
Clean the wood with naphtha to remove contaminates that could prevent the stain from taking, then sand it to 600 grit for an extra smooth appearance (clean off the dust before staining).

A glue brush makes a good applicator.
Photo: applying ebony stain
This stuff stains whatever it touches, so I covered my bench in brown paper to protect it from drips. Got your rubber gloves on?
Photo: ebony stain
Remember the edges!
Black Fingerboard Stain


Glue Brushes
Photo: polishing the fingerboard
Wipe off the excess and let the board dry overnight. In the morning, give it a final polish with some 0000 steel wool.
Photo: fingerboard before/after
Here’s a before and after.
Photo: tinted aerosol lacquer
NEW Tinted Aerosol Lacquers
Genuine nitrocellulose guitar lacquer, formulated for controlled spraying and great results.
Now you can create transparent solid colors or vintage style sunbursts without spray equipment!
Photo: two-tone sunburst
Photo: archtop tailpiece
Another job for fingerboard stain: this customer upgraded to a Benedetto tailpiece, and wanted it to match the look of his bridge.
Benedetto Archtop Tailpiece
Photo: ebony stained tailpiece
I stained ’em both, so they’re a perfect match. This works well on peghead veneers, too.

Photo: peghead veneer

Peghead Overlay Veneer
Photo: fingerboard before/after
One more before-and-after:
This maple fingerboard was ruined by Hurricane Katrina. It's ebony black now, and it’s back in action. (I didn't need to mask off the inlays—the stain wiped right off the pearl.)
Erick Coleman signature

Problem-solving products mentioned above:
Photo: Behlen Naphtha Solvent Photo: Black Fingerboard Stain Photo: Nitrile Gloves
Behlen Naphtha Solvent
General purpose cleaner that's useful in all aspects of instrument repair.
Black Fingerboard Stain
Gives streaked ebony fingerboards and bridges a more uniform black appearance, used by major instrument manufacturers
Nitrile Gloves
Tough flexible gloves protect your hands for woodworking and finishing jobs.
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now
Photo: Peghead Overlay Veneers Photo: Benedetto Archtop Tailpiece Photo: Glue Brush
Peghead Overlay Veneers
Ebony, rosewood, and koa overlays for guitars, banjos, archtops, and more.
Benedetto Archtop Tailpiece
Luthier Bob Benedetto's jazz guitar tailpiece, made of finest solid polished ebony for a natural acoustic sound.
Glue Brush
A versatile metal-handled brush that's the right size for routine instrument gluing jobs.
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now

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