Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: Deterioration due to closed case

  1. #1
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Adamstown, MD
    Posts
    120

    Default Deterioration due to closed case

    I'm about to receive via FedEx a 1917 Gibson A4. The pictures in the classifieds made it appear to be in great shape. What I'm concerned about is whether or not I should store it in its case. This might seem a silly issue, but years ago I brought my 1911 F4 to a luthier for some repair and, noting the deterioration of the pickguard and what looked like greenish oxidation (?) on some of the frets close to the sound hole, he said that storing this for long periods in its case (not the original case) meant that some sort of offing chemical was trapped in the case and resulted in the deterioration. Is this a common occurrence? Should I be wary of storing the A4 that's arriving tomorrow in it's case (original case)? Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    High Peak - UK
    Posts
    2,798

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    The greenish oxidisation of the frets alongside the pickguard is typical of gassing celuloid. I had a similar problem with my old ‘76 Ibanez but it’s never been a problem with either of my Gibsons. In my experience, it depends on how long you intend to store it for. If it’s for a few months, I wouldn’t worry. If its for several years, I’d be careful but why are you buying a new mandolin just to keep it in the case? If it’s coming out to be played on a more or less regular basis you should be OK.

  3. The following members say thank you to Ray(T) for this post:


  4. #3
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    2,131

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    Some new cases are known to "outgas," producing volatile chemicals due to the oxidation or curing of materials found inside, like urethane-based foam, certain plasticizers found inside plastics, and some adhesives (epoxies, cements, etc.). Some of these chemicals can smell quite bad, and some are even capable of harming the delicate finish on an instrument. But very old cases, like yours from prior to 1920, no longer outgas any chemicals. These would have volatilized away decades ago!

    Moisture trapped inside a case for a long period, irrespective of whether the case is old or new, can lead to the oxidation of metals (green frets) and so on. It can also lead to the accumulation of mold and mildew, which will smell bad. If the mold and mildew get inside the instrument, too, they will smell bad and can be hard to get rid of (ozone treatment works well, as do UV and sunlight). But these things don't tend to affect the sound.

    Those old Gibson pickguards, made from celluloid (nitrocellulose), however, are notorious for destroying themselves! These things are chemically unstable and slowly disintegrate over time; this is well documented. It has nothing to do with your old case! These things react with oxygen, with human sweat, and with higher storage temperatures. Eventually, they all rot away. Don't blame the case for that.

    I don't think you should be wary of the case at all. Of course, a newer case can probably provide improved protection against damage and the elements. But the pickguard problem is not the fault of the case, and the fret oxidation is either due to moisture or, more likely, to something coming from that old pickguard -- it emits furfural (a toxic aldehyde) and camphene (a monoterpene) as it slowly rots! These are reactive. Replace that old rotting pickguard, I'd advise, and not the case.

  5. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to sblock For This Useful Post:


  6. #4

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    has nothing to do with case. it is from the pickguard outgassing and being confined to the inside of a case for a long time. if the mandolin was hanging on the wall for years, it never would have happened.

    frets will need to be cleaned with sandpaper or replaced if corroded too badly. pickguard needs to be removed from the instrument. it can be stored separate from the instrument, but I wouldn't leave it on. If you require a pickguard you can find another original that hasn't outgassed and it will be fine. Or, you can find a repro.

  7. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Jeff Mando For This Useful Post:


  8. #5

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    if you can find another original that hasn't outgassed and it will be fine. Or, you can find a repro.
    That's going to be a big search, getting worse with time. All plastics deteriorate with time and usually sunlight makes it worse. But I understand museum creators have huge problems trying to preserve early plastics. In my youth I worked with PVC and the best ingredients to help stabilise it were being banned on health grounds. Now the safer replacements are being banned too. In the long term all plastics want to revert to crude oil!

  9. The following members say thank you to JimCh for this post:


  10. #6
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    113

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    Quote Originally Posted by JimCh View Post
    In the long term all plastics want to revert to crude oil!
    At my house we call that "plastic fatigue".

  11. The following members say thank you to Sue Rieter for this post:


  12. #7

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    . All plastics deteriorate with time and usually sunlight makes it worse. But I understand museum creators have huge problems trying to preserve early plastics. In my youth I worked with PVC and the best ingredients to help stabilise it were being banned on health grounds. “

    A few months ago, looking to restore or replace a curled-up nitro one on a bowlback, I did a fair amount of literature search on conservation/reducing flammability of this stuff. Came up basically empty, and replaced with what I think is PVC. I mention that because what’s for sale doesn’t seem to identify the material. What I bought came from China, so I cut off a piece for a flame test. Of course, it came adhesive backed, so there’s further possible issues with stability/damage to an instrument. In the grand scheme, minor concerns.

  13. The following members say thank you to Richard500 for this post:


  14. #8

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    I should add that many of the modern "made in Canada" cases give off a very strong glue smell even years after they are purchased, annoying for sure, but nothing to do with the outgassing of old plastics.

  15. The following members say thank you to Jeff Mando for this post:


  16. #9
    Registered User TheMandoKit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Milwaukee, WI
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    Celluloid is notorious for decomposing if not stored properly, and if it was not properly cured, even if properly stored. Unfortunately, it's not something that you can tell until it actually starts to decompose. Fountain pens were made of the stuff in the 1920s through the 1930s, and many of them have decomposed over the years. More recently, high-priced fountain pens have been made from modern production celluloid, and some of those have done the same thing. Don't ask me how I know.

    Not keeping celluloid in an airtight container can help, but improperly cured celluloid will still decompose, just more slowly.
    Kit
    Guitars, Mandos, Violins, Dulcimers, Cats

  17. The following members say thank you to TheMandoKit for this post:


  18. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    DeKalb, IL
    Posts
    3,503

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    I have here what was my father's first guitar. As near as I can find out, it's a fairly rare pre-1940's Regal archtop with the "rope" purfling. Purling is wood. Everything is original (not for long). The tuner buttons have crumbled, as usual. But the pickguard is fine. It's tortoise shell pattern. I assume it's celluloid although I haven't checked with solvent. It's been sitting in its chipboard cheap case its whole life. In no air conditioning. I wonder if the cheap chipboard case seals so poorly that the gassing off didn't harm stuff.

  19. The following members say thank you to Dale Ludewig for this post:


  20. #11

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    This mandolin had not been played for years when I bought it- as is patently obvious. The deteriorating pickguard had burned the top of the mandolin a little, and can just be seen below the hole and led to rusting of the pickguard bracket- but that was the only damage. My luthier made an exact copy- including the beading and double thickness on the straight edge underneath- an exact replica.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Ward's mando body.jpg 
Views:	50 
Size:	299.0 KB 
ID:	186661 Click image for larger version. 

Name:	image.png 
Views:	47 
Size:	1.25 MB 
ID:	186662

  21. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to NickR For This Useful Post:


  22. #12
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Adamstown, MD
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    Thanks for all of this 100% useful information. I received the 1917 A4 this afternoon via FedEx and I have to say that I've never seen an A4 in finer condition or played one that sounded as wonderful. The pickguard is in as good shape as the rest of the instrument and I want to keep it that way ... so, that means that while it will rest in its case, the case will remain open until I move it -- and I'll move it a lot because this is one great instrument!

    Again, I appreciate all of the advice. I'll keep my distance from high priced fountain pens!

  23. #13
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    2,131

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    I'm glad to hear that you really like your newly acquired 1917 A4!

    If the pickguard on it has not deteriorated in over a century, then that's great -- it is probably stable. Not all pickguards from that period are. That said, I think you have drawn an entirely wrong conclusion from the advice offered earlier! Celluloid deterioration is NOT caused by having an open or closed case. It will happen either way. It is caused by an unstable, early plastic material made from combining nitric acid with celluose fibers. If the original material composition was not just right, or if the storage temperature was too high, it will deteriorate.

    At this point, leaving your case open with the mandolin inside will do nothing beneficial. It will only result in getting more dust on your instrument, and inside the case, and protecting the instrument much less well. You should feel free to keep the case closed with the instrument inside it.

  24. #14

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    At this point, leaving your case open with the mandolin inside will do nothing beneficial.
    Completely agree about the deterioration, but the OP also mentioned discolouration of the frets close to a disintegrating pickguard. If as you imply, a degrading pickguard gives off nitric acid fumes, that would give that sort of effect. Do you think one should also keep a regular eye on the pickguard, and if it shows signs of succumbing to anno domini then remove it and store separately?

  25. #15
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Adamstown, MD
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: Deterioration due to closed case

    sblock, thanks for the clarification. If the pickguard hasn't deteriorated before now, you say, we can take for granted that it is stable. If deterioration due to "not just right" original material is inevitable and would certainly have happened long before now, in or out of the case, it would make sense to assume it isn't going to happen to this 103 year old pickguard. Thanks. That eases my mind and clarifies the whole issue for me. I will, however, as JimCh suggests, keep an eye on it ...

    Thanks very much.

  26. The following members say thank you to Joe Bartl for this post:

    sblock 

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •