Dirty fingers from new Epiphone Les Paul Modern?

Robert Corrington

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I recently bought an Epiphone Les Paul Modern from Musician’s Friend. Overall, I really like it.

After playing it for a while, I noticed grey dirty finger tips on my fretting hand.

I thought it was coming from the stock strings. So, I put on a new set of Ernie Balls. For good measure, I also wiped down the fretboard, and then applied some PRS Fretboard Conditioner to remove any residue from the old strings (or the build process).

Sure enough, after playing for thirty minutes or so, I noticed dirty finger tips again. What the heck?

The fretboard is made of Ebony. I have a couple of others guitars and basses with Ebony fretboards, but none of them dirty my fingers. Could the source be cheap fret material?

Ideas?

Thanks

-r
 

north east al

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Just some colouration in the factory. Lemon oil clean and over time, the dark fingers become less. My 50s standard made me look like a coal miner for first few weeks.
 

BDW60

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My fingertips were black until the frets got polished (much needed), and the board got cleaned and treated with F1 oil. I don’t know what that sh!t is.
 

Meatwad

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Did any color come off on the rag you cleaned the board with?

I've had a few guitars over the years that did that for a while when they were new.......it was the dye that is used to darken the fingerboard.
 

BDW60

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Did any color come off on the rag you cleaned the board with?

I've had a few guitars over the years that did that for a while when they were new.......it was the dye that is used to darken the fingerboard.
That could be on the ebony, but the laurel boards don’t appear to have been dyed. Most of them are very light colored. Most of the gunk seemed to be on the frets. Polishing compound that never got cleaned up? I dunno.
 

DrBGood

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Had the same on my LP Special P90. Got rid of it once I polished the frets with compound. Nothing to do with the fretboard itself.
 

Cardinalcomb

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Its been happening for a few years from new epis. Its some kind of compound they use over the fretboards and frets. I dont know if its polishing compound or what. Its not stain for the fretboard, i know that. I use oil soap and 0000 steel wool and rub down completely, removing the compound and polishing the frets. Then apply a few rounds of fretboard oil.
 

Robert Corrington

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Did any color come off on the rag you cleaned the board with?
First, I used a clean t-shirt, quickly moving to a new area of the cloth every time I noticed it was getting darker.
Next, I used PRS Fretboard Conditioner. Again, a bunch of color landed on the cloth.
I waited a few minutes to let the conditioner soak in.
Then one more hard rub down to ensure I removed any excess conditioner. Again, some color.
Finally, I changed the strings.
A few minutes after playing, I noticed grey gunk on my finger tips again. <sigh>

I'm starting to think it's the frets. The color is more of a pewter gray than black, the color I imagine Epiphone would put on an Ebony fretboard. Yet another reason why I love stainless steel frets.

I have some new fret rubbers from Crimson Guitars. I'll give them a try.
 

eirinn

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I don't know what that stuff is, I had the same issue and I was sure it was the strings. After a while it stopped anyway, the strings were looking as if they lost their coating.
 

Robert Corrington

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Okay… so I pulled of the strings, wrapped the fret board in painter’s tape, and polished the frets.
First, I used a fret file from StewMac to knock off the square ends of the frets. They weren’t bad, but rougher than I wanted.
Next, I used fret rubbers from Crimson Guitar. I don’t care for them because they leave a mess, similar to steel wool. So, I switched back to my trusty 3M Flexible Polishing Papers 400 to 8000 grit (again from StewMac) and a square foam pad.
Afterwards, I used naphtha to remove ransom spots of tape adhesive from the fretboard. That’s when I noticed some color coming off the fretboard. I think you were right… Epiphone puts some dye on ebony fretboards to make them appear darker. IMHO, it’s totally unnecessary.
Finally, I applied some PRS Fret Conditioner to rehydrate the fretboard after the naphtha.
I think the original dirty fingers came from a combination of fret residue and fretboard dye.
After polishing the frets and cleaning and conditioning the fretboard, the play and feel of this neck is super smooth and without dirty fingers.

After this experience, I’m going to make a plug for Schecter guitars. I’ve owned nearly a dozen Schecters ranging in price from $400 to $1,400. In every case, the fretwork was perfect. And they don’t put dye on their fretboards. The Epiphone Les Paul Modern costs $640. For that price, I expect better fretwork and care for the fretboard. Going forward, I’ll likely buy fewer Epiphones and more Schecters.
 


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