Re-discovering an old friend

Back in the seventies, almost everyone with any woodworking ability whatsoever, dove into the business of stringed instrument construction.  I was one of the many.  Some joined the luthiers movement because they saw it as high art.  Others felt it was an instant path to fame and riches.  As I was a player of traditional Irish music, I jumped in so I could build the unusal instruments that I could not find or could not afford to purchase if found.  The long and short of it is that I built a number of very nice instruments, all sold for a fraction of their cost, made several new friends and learned some very valuable lessons.  One of the best lessons was Fiebings.

Fiebings, for those of you not familiar with it, is an aniline leather dye.  So why was a shoe dye a well learned lesson.  Well, it’s very concentrated, coats quickly and completely, dries fast, is incredibly permanent and is inexpensive.  Could it get any better than that?  Yes, it’s available in small towns across the USA, wherever there’s a shoe repair shop.

We used Fiebings to dye fretboards and bridge blanks.  When we couldn’t afford or find ebony, we could use bubinga, hard maple and other tough species to create a beautiful component that was as good, or perhaps better, than ones made from ebony.

For reasons I can’t remember, I sort of forgot about this great product.  But I’ve always been a fan of permanent black finishes.  I’ve tried a lot of ebonizing methods, several of them can be found while reading through this blog.  But not long ago a friend mentioned that he had “ebonized” some things using Fiebings.  So I rand down to the shoe repair and picked myself up a bottle of standard black.  (They also produce a new line of Professional oil/dyes, in many beautiful colors.)  Goes on easy (but wear gloves and old clothes or an apron), and produces a beautiful, deep black matte finish.  Buff it, then top coat as you like.  Believe me for quick, simple, effective and repeatable results, Fiebings is tough to beat.

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3 Comments on “Re-discovering an old friend”

  1. Dustin Says:

    Where did you source yours locally: Mancinos?

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      The Red Wing shoe store on Conant Street in Maumee. They have a substantial repair business as well as selling new workshoes. I’ve got to believe that Mancino’s is also a possible source.


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