If you want to keep your guitar in mint condition, then you need to do more than just wipe down the strings every now and then.
Oiled wooden surfaces, (whether it be a table top or a guitar fretboard), needs to be maintained with a little upkeep every six months or so.
This is done by applying a penetrating oil that conditions lumber, revitalises wood grain, and nourishes timber.
Now, there are a range of oils you can use to condition an unfinished fretboard. But what if your choice of oil comes down to deciding between lemon oil vs linseed oil?
Well, let’s start by looking at the key difference between these two wood oil options…
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What Is The Difference Between Fretboard Lemon Oil And Linseed Oil?
There is one key difference between these two products; one of them is a drying oil and the other one is a non-drying oil.
Related Post: Should You Use Fretboard Conditioners Vs Lemon Oil?
Drying oils, (like Linseed oil), are oils that dry and leave behind a hard resin on the surface of wood. These oils are used to finish bare wood and protect it.
Non-drying oils, (like Fretboard lemon oils), are oils that do not dry. And they do not leave a durable resin behind.
Fretboard Lemon Oils Aren’t 100% Lemon
Fretboard Lemon oils are not actually made from pure lemon oil. Lemon’s make up just one small base ingredient in these oil products. Rather, the main ingredient in lemon oil is actually mineral oil. The mineral oil is there to help this blended product soak right into wood. While the lemon oil has been added for its aroma.
Linseed oil, on the other hand, is sourced from flaxseeds. Once the oil has been extracted from flaxseeds, it can be used in its raw form as a wood finish. But, raw linseed oil is incredibly slow-drying (it can take weeks for this stuff to dry and cure).
So, this oil often gets mixed with other chemical ingredients to help speed up the drying process. This fast-drying version of Linseed oil is called Boiled Linseed Oil.
And Can You Seal Wood With Lemon Oil?
First off, let’s clarify what we mean by sealing.
When you seal wood, you are trying to protect it from moisture, bugs, and scratches.
So a decent wood sealer, (like epoxy or polyurethane), works by completely sealing the surface of wood in an almost 100% waterproof heavy-duty coat.
Related Post: What Is The Difference Between Lacquer and Polyurethane?
Drying oil finishes seal wood too, but they do most of their magic underneath the surface. They do this by soaking into wood and coating those wood fibers with hard water-resistant resin. They leave a bit of hard resin on the surface, but that coat isn’t very water-resistant.
Non-drying oils don’t seal wood. However, they too will soak into wood and coat wood fibers with a water-repellent oil. And this, in turn, makes wood more moisture-resistant.
So, back to the original question; will Fretboard Lemon oil seal wood? No, it won’t seal wood. But it will prevent your unfinished fretboard from drying out and cracking.
Is Fretboard Lemon Oil Waterproof? No, they’re not waterproof (in that they do not 100% prevent any water from getting into wood grain).
So, What Are The Best Substitutes For Linseed Oil Or Lemon Oil?
It depends on whether that fretboard is unfinished or finished.
You can use pure food grade mineral oil to condition unfinished fretboards. There’s no need for any fancy fretboard conditioning oils.
But, let’s say you are in the middle of a guitar build. Which oil should you use to apply a sealing finish?
In this instance, you would use Linseed oil to seal and protect that fretboard timber. You could also use Tung oil or Tru-oil too.
Tru-oil will dry fast, and harden into a shiny coat. While Tung oil, will take a long time to dry (if you use the original Pure Tung oil stuff).
But, if you had to choose between the three, Tru-oil is the better option for finishing fretboards.
So To Sum Up…
Linseed is not suitable for fretboard conditioning or finishing. Linseed oil builds up around the frets. And once this stuff hardens, there is little you can do to remove it. Plus, it takes so long to dry and cure, that using it to seal a fretboard is a drag.
Plus, a lot of specialized fretboard lemon oils on the market are basically just mineral oil. So, while you could buy these fancy fretboard oils, you might as well stick to using pure mineral oil instead.