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I have a 2 week old Schecter Hellraiser Extreme with Ebony fingerboard. Came with factory Ernie Ball strings.

I noticed the last few times that I've played it (it only has @ 7 total playing hours on it) that my fingertips were black after. It washes off fairly well with soap and water. I have been using GHS Fast-Fret™ string cleaner after every use since I got the guitar.

I figured it was some "stain" from the fretboard being new but them read that ebony boards are untreated! So, I used a white towel and wiped my strings and sure enough it left many black streaks on my towel!

Does anyone know what the heck it is and how I can get it to stop?

--I just now received this rather unhelpful reply from a schecter guitar tech:

"Not all ebony is the same. Some maybe light and require a stain. With that said, every finger board goes through some sort of buffing to clean the fret board, smooth it ou, and make it look glossy. This could simply be a combination of the strings and the fret board."

I'm hoping that I can get a more helpful answer on this board....

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Note that Fast Fret is (mostly?) mineral oil and might act as a mild solvent for the die. Additionally, some of the color might be e.g. nickel oxidation acting as a pigment suspended in the fast-fret solution. In the first case, try a different oil (or refrain from using a treatment) –  horatio Sep 6 '13 at 21:01
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From the way you described your towel experiment, it sounds like there's some oily residue on the strings themselves... could it be the Fast-Fret reacting to the factory strings (or the fingerboard) somehow? I would try removing both of those factors from the equation by putting on a fresh set of your favorite strings and not applying Fast-Fret. –  NReilingh Sep 6 '13 at 21:25
    
Thanks guys for the quick replies. I don't feel comfortable using a strong solvent like lighter fluid on my new guitar (yet) but I will will definetly be discontinuing use of fast fret, and I'm getting stings changed next week too. Will post results if there are any. Thanks again –  TheAxxe Sep 6 '13 at 21:42
    
I'd be taking it back to the supplier, and trying out several other similar instruments - if it's a shop, the guys there will /won't have had similar problems. On a brand new instrument this just shouldn't happen. It reminds me of one of the reasons I never buy new.... –  Tim Sep 7 '13 at 7:57
    
Since discontinuing use of Fast-Fret, the stains have lessened. Not gone, but much less. Will update after a string change. –  TheAxxe Sep 8 '13 at 3:58

2 Answers 2

Only the finest and most expensive ebony is perfectly black. Most examples of ebony have pronounced brown stripes. So in almost all cases, guitar manufacturers put dye on their ebony fretboards to hide the imperfections. The dye they use is the same type used for leather. Here is an example from the Stewart MacDonald company.

It appears that you bought a guitar with a poor quality of dye, or an excessive amount of dye that the manufacturer did not clean off and remove beforehand.

Remove the strings and rub down the fretboard with a paper towel and lighter fluid (as in what is used in cigarette lighters). Make sure you have adequate ventilation and that you are not near any flames or source of electrical sparks. The lighter fluid solvent should remove the excess dye onto the paper towels.

The lighter fluid will evaporate in seconds and you can then put on new strings. If it is real ebony, there is no need to apply an oil dressing to the fingerboard, although some people do this (more on that below).

Sometimes rosewood is dyed to make it look like ebony. But you can tell the difference because rosewood has some visible open pores in the grain, whereas ebony is a very tightly-grained wood without pores.

With rosewood, you can clean it off with lighter fluid, dye it if you wish, and then apply an oil finish like this one from Stewart MacDonald, according to the directions on the bottle. You need to use rubber gloves, have good ventilation, and be careful with the rosewood finishing oil, which is flammable and somewhat toxic. The rosewood finish has to dry and cure for more than 24 hours (during which time it gives off harmful vapors) before you buff it off and replace the strings. It provides a smoother, harder and more glassy finish to the otherwise porous rosewood, and helps prevent the rosewood from drying out and cracking.

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It happens all the time, irrespective of whether the strings are new. The 'dirt' is highly likely to be metal oxides rubbing off onto your fingers from the strings. Phosphor-bronze does it; Nickel and chromium content in strings does it. The rare earth metal content in the strings reacts to certain body chemistry (acidity in sweat) or even humid air which contains dissolved carbon dioxide (making weak carbonic acid) which reacts with them. Playing such strings leaves this residue on your fingers - the harder you play the more oxide rubs off. Try wiping the strings down with a microfibre cloth first to remove any residue already on the strings before playing. If it persists - try lightly oiling the strings to create a barrier (stops the reaction between fingers and strings) or even changing strings. If all else fails, I am told changing diet can even help! Eat more alkaline forming food (veggies) and less grains, sugar and processed foods....but that's another story!

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Good answer, and welcome to the site! –  Alexander Troup Feb 26 at 11:48

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