Behlen Fingerboard Oil
All good things come to an end. The 18 month loan of Hugh’s mandolin reached an inevitable conclusion. Lavish attention restored his battered and worn mandolin to a memory of factory gleam. Even more hours, summer picking under the old oak tree in Hockessin, returned some dirt and dullness to its finish. Time for spa treatment.
Strings into the rubbish bin. Gentle wipe-down with a hot damp slightly soapy cloth, first the body, then the neck. Extra attention to the fret board. Looking a little dry, methinks. Time for Behlen!
When Mohawk sponsored a banner ad in July 2016, they sent me a box of product to try out (actually, I sent a list of stuff I wanted). Included? Their fancy Behlen Fingerboard Oil. Not just a step up from mineral or boiled linseed oil. Far beyond, it turns out. A crisp hard finish. A Zamboni treatment for my fretboard, without the ice.
First I used it on the ’70s Conrad banjo. Then the Framus cello. And now, full circle, we have arrived at Hugh’s mandolin. The product has proven itself. A professional-quality sealer applied on instruments I own, use, and sell.
An Indonesian-made 1990s Hohner guitar and a 1970s Japanese-made Madeira (by Guild) guitar both received this magic elixir. Fan-TAS-tic results. One’s finger’s literally glide along the fingerboard. Moments ago, my newly returned and beloved 1996 Guild D4 fingerboard was refinished. Tomorrow, with D’Addario Bluegrass Mediums carefully wound, we’ll be flat-picking a lively homecoming!
Luthiers discuss the best treatment to an instruments’ fingerboard with cantankerous zeal. Only among cat food debates will you find more acrimonious opinions. There are generally two old-school options: mineral oil and boiled linseed oil (“BLO”). Almond oil is another, which I classify similar to BLO.
Turning to National Finishes Expert Phillip Pritchard, I ask, “What makes Behlen’s product so good?” Our Fingerboard Oil contains a resin binder that hardens in the wood to give a more permanent finish than a non-curing mineral oil or boiled linseed oil alone. Our product applies and looks like an oil finish but has a crisper feel and doesn’t require the maintenance of a non-drying oil. “What is its base? How does it smell to you?” It contains mineral spirits and has an oily hydrocarbon smell.
Fast curing, crisp finish. Odor? Not really. –editor
Slowly, cello refurbishment inches to completion. With as much time spent correcting my mistakes (learning 57 ways NOT to mix varnish) as with actual progress forward, months have galloped along. Mindful always of Shakespeare’s words: “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well”. I’m learning to back away and contemplate. All good things, however, come to an end.
The top and back, after varnish, I treated with a slurry of wool lube and rottenstone. Experimentation with a fine scratch remover formulated for plastics followed. But what is perfect for nitrocellulose lacquer is not right for varnish. There was a better choice for final polishing.
To internet research I turn. Clues point to North Carolina’s Mohawk Finishing Products. The undisputed expert, Phillip Pritchard, Mohawk Finishing Products Technical Service Representative, is again enlisted. Without hesitation he suggests their own Buffer’s Polish. The product is ordered, shipped, and received.
Upon the cello sides stray marks of top removal, scraping of glue, various blemishes and blisters of a 65 year life, are examined, exfoliated, and finally exit before my eyes. Hand-polishing is not easy work, but with effort comes reward. No need to rush as the cello is so close to completion; half today and half tomorrow. Behlen Buffer’s Polish has a nostalgic smell – reminds me of a bowling alley – maybe a similar polish is used on the hardwood lanes to maintain their gloss?
So with the sides looking ship-shape, I try a little elbow grease on the top. Stunning! I may go ahead and remove the strings/bridge/tailpiece and buff the entire top! And why not? Behlen Fingerboard Oil was shipped with the Buffer’s Polish. This mature cello could use some professional refurbishment of her fingerboard. We’ll keep you updated!